WASHINGTON — Bill Clinton may not be the worst president America has had, but surely he is the worst person to be president. There is reason to believe that he is a rapist ("You better get some ice on that," Juanita Broaddrick says he told her concerning her bit lip) and that he bombed a country to distract attention from legal difficulties arising from his glandular life. Furthermore, the bargain that he and his wife call a marriage refutes the axiom that opposites attract. Rather, she, as much as he, incarnates Clintonism.
"To understand her you have to understand him" is the thesis of "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," Peggy Noonan's slender, scalding book — a broadside, as such polemics were called when Tom Paine and Emile Zola penned them. It answers with a resounding "No!" the question of whether the passions swirling around New York's Senate race are disproportionate.
Noonan, a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and now a Wall Street Journal columnist, calls Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy an act of "mad boomer selfishness and narcissism," shocking even in a Clinton. Noonan concedes that there is something admirable in Hillary Clinton's "toughness." But a Noonan compliment has a sting in its tail: "Never has the admirable been so fully wedded to the appalling, never in modern American political history has such tenacity and determination been marshaled to achieve such puny purpose: the mere continuance of Them."
There is an almost magnificent banality to Hillary Clinton's campaign. ("Our children are our future." "Governments must put children first." "Every time we pay tribute to art, particularly to art in a public place, we know it will cause a lot of thoughts to be thought and words to be spoken and ideas to be sparked.") But the banality echoes the utter emptiness of what she calls her life of "public service."
The service includes being a rainmaker for a remarkably dodgy Little Rock law firm, representing interests in front of regulators appointed by her husband. Her "public service" does not include any public accomplishment other than making a baroque (600 people in 38 subgroups, operating in illegal secrecy) debacle of health-care reform.
Noonan's diagnosis of Hillary Clinton's emptiness (of everything but staggering self-importance) accords with Elizabeth Kolbert's unenthralled report in The New Yorker ("Running on Empathy," Feb. 7) in which Kolbert says Hillary Clinton's "listening tour" of New York state "tried to elevate nodding into a kind of political philosophy." Her candidacy, Kolbert writes, is based on "the quality of her concern, the heartfeltness of her convictions, and the depth of her feelings." By basing her campaign on an attitude ("sincerity"), she reduces questions of policy to questions of her disposition.
Noonan's book is not "balanced" and does not contain fresh facts. But it is no more imbalanced than "Common Sense" or "J'accuse," and her worthy purpose is to distill the meaning of the acid rain of facts about the Clintons' behavior with which we have been deluged.
Today Hillary Clinton, who put Chelsea's nanny on the Arkansas payroll as a security guard, is chiseling taxpayers by her use of government planes for campaigning.
Will it — Clintonism — ever end? As the song says, it's up to you, New York.
Washington Post Writers Group