Requiem for the Clintons


I swear to God for a moment there tonight at the Pepsi Center, as the rockin' pre-speech montage to Hillary was showing on the video screens ("Are You Gonna Go My Way?" Inspired!) … my eyes welled up with something suspiciously close to a non-crocodile tear.

I've never hated Hillary–at least until this year, anyway–but I've also never understood for one second why anyone found her to be an especially smart or interesting human being. As in most things political, this has put me squarely in some micro-minority, of the studiously Hillary-indifferent.

And so it was with some surprise that I found myself borderline weepy at seeing pictures of lil' Hill juxtaposed with Tom Petty's "American Girl." After 16 years of a power couple who really did shape these United States, providing essential flavors and colors of the decade I love most, there was the poignant feeling that, senatorial job or no, the Clinton Era was finally coming to a close. Not a sad thing, surely, but kind of moving, in some cry-during-the-Oscars-when-they-show-the-dead-people kind of way. 

But then, thank God, Hillary started talking.

Consider the just monstrous condescension of this passage:

When the polls have closed, and the ads are finally off the air, it comes down to you—the American people, your lives, and your children's futures. […]

You taught me so much, you made me laugh, and … you even made me cry. You allowed me to become part of your lives. And you became part of mine.

Is there a word in the English language for massive egocentrism cloaked in paeans to you, the little people? Can we just call it Hillarity or Hillderdash from now on? Whatever the diagnosis, telltale symptoms include serial anecdotes of the single mother Iraqi soldier eating dog food because of the pharmaceutical windfalls, and exaggerated tales whose sole purpose is to remind us that She was listening, and She cared.

Hillary wants to "make college affordable again," since we, uh, have a higher-ed system that's the envy of the world, precisely because it offers so many community colleges and low-cost (and/or hyper-specialized) options that create a universe of opportunity and variety far removed from the also-envied quality of our elite schools. She wants to "make our government an instrument of the public good, not of private plunder," but what the hell does that even mean, aside from no-bid contracts in conflict zones? Does it count as "private plunder" when public sector unions twist the arm of labor-dependent government officials, such as representatives from a certain party that's having a political convention this week? When millionaire farming companies get still more federal subsidies–keeping the global impoverished down in the process–is that, too, "private plunder" in Hillary's world? Somehow I think not.

Let us consider this paragraph:

We need to elect Barack Obama because we need a President who understands that America can't compete in a global economy by padding the pockets of energy speculators, while ignoring the workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. We need a president who understands that we can't solve the problems of global warming by giving windfall profits to the oil companies while ignoring opportunities to invest in new technologies that will build a green economy.

THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT "GIVE" WINDFALL PROFITS" TO OIL COMPANIES. Confusion or obfuscation over such a point is, shall we say, troubling, in our era of Late Capitalism.

Routine disclaimer: I am not the target audience for this stuff. Tonight, Hillary forcefully rallied her puzzled PUMAs, skillfully invoked Harriet Tubman as an American-aspirational story, and put the finishing touches on an evening that drilled home a few points that will likely do the Democrats good in November: John McCain is a rich old out-of-touch fool who wants to be Bush II, Democrats are the party that puts the "middle" in class, and Barack Obama is going to magically extrude "five million green jobs" from out his arse.

On all counts, such stuff should be successful. But Hillary's cloying, self-important, it-takes-a-government speech is one rich reminder that the Clinton Era, whatever its various non-low points, has drawn to a merciful close. Though I'm pretty sure Bill, god bless him, still hasn't gotten the memo.