You've come a long way, baby. Once upon a time our first ladies didn't smoke in public. Now the president calls the New York Post to defend his Senate candidate wife by explaining that while Hillary Clinton may swear like a longshoreman, she doesn't use ethnic slurs.
The allegation, emerging in Jerry Oppenheimer's new book, is that in 1974, when her future husband had just lost an election in Arkansas, Hillary Clinton called campaign worker Paul Fray a "Jew bastard." One understands Hillary Clinton flying twice around her cage backwards over this loss. She had abandoned Washington, the Ivy League and the Black Panthers to take up with a bumpkin who was enough of a hoser to succeed in politics. The hicks outsmarted the Rhodes scholar and his Wellesley valedictorian girlfriend.
The Clintons are sweating a 26-year-old story, something that should be child's play for the masters of spin.
They struggle with the likes of Fray, another one of those Arkansan Clintonian hanger-ons. Fray fits the Clinton friend profile of shady activity coupled with or caused by their teetering near bankruptcy. Susan McDougal, James McDougal, Webb Hubbell, all friends of Bill whose vibes tell most of us "pyramid scheme," were embraced and used by the Clintons.
Despite a quarter of a century in politics and associations with the Fricks and Fracks of fraud, the Clintons have yet to learn one of the great and timeless lessons of morality: Never trust the people you cheat with. Everyone from Gennifer Flowers to Jim McDougal sang like canaries. But the Clintons dodge each bullet by using their credentials, views and achievements to discredit marginal souls who expended sweat and filthy lucre for the Clintons' financial and political advancement. The Clintons sacrifice others on the altar of achievement.
Despite the wicked joy I find in seeing "Saint" Hillary struggle with the baggage of an ethnic slur against a group whose support she needs to win in New York, I must be philosophically consistent. It is a dangerous practice to regulate speech by drumming folks from society for their words.
Hillary Clinton now copes with the inane totalitarian standard she has long imposed on others and whines over the arbitrariness of politically correct language as a measure of sincerity, worthiness, political leanings and fate. It's pure heck when the tables are turned. How odd to hear the Clinton hacks on the MSNBC argument shows saying, "But some of her best friends are Jewish."
While it means that I must defend her, a proposition I find nearly as objectionable as my annual mammogram, I reiterate my consistent views on PC language. This silliness is as wrong for her as it was for John Rocker. This defense comes knowing that she is probably lying in her denial. This defense comes knowing that Barbara Bush or Nancy Reagan facing the same charge would have no leftist defenders.
There is, however, a caveat to my defense. Actions do speak louder than words. Conservatives who defend Hillary Clinton are too gracious. Her actions are consistent with the slur. She chaired the New World Foundation when it gave a $15,000 grant to Grassroots International, a group with ties to the PLO. Her view that a Palestinian state was inevitable (retracted when she began her Senate run) was not a slip of the tongue. Such a thought, when Palestinians teach that the Holocaust never happened, is morally offensive. Her hug and peck on the cheek of Suha Arafat (Yasir Arafat's wife) following Mrs. Arafat's bizarre accusations in a tirade against Israel was inexcusable. Embracing someone who just defamed Israel? Is it any wonder Hillary's Bill is an ineffective mediator? The portfolio fits the accusation. Her thoughtless actions reflect a lack of respect. Some of her best friends may be Jewish, but she is no friend to the Jew.
She now squirms under the left-invented test of PC. Let her experience the feelings of injustice the language test creates. More important, let her explain actions that bespeak the truth of that hostile slur. Then let our first lady clean up her longshoreman language. Dolly, Eleanor and Martha would have wanted it that way. So would Jackie, between puffs.
Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Her e-mail address is email@example.com