Maureen Dowd is back on her game.
Dowd was always at her best when writing about the Clintons. She was never taken in by the down-home aw-shucks thoroughly-modern I-feel-your-pain routine that they successfully sold to the nation.
One might say that liberal-leaning columnists, terrified by the distinct possibility that Hillary will lead the Democratic Party to ignominious defeat, are trying to open the door for another candidate, any candidate.
But, Dowd has been consistent, so she is clearly not a part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.
In her column today Dowd posts an open letter to the Clintons:
It has come to our attention while observing your machinations during your attempted restoration that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our democracy: The importance of preserving historical records and the ill-advised gluttony of an American feminist icon wallowing in regressive Middle Eastern states’ payola.
Several other columnists, among them Ron Fournier of National Journal, have suggested that the Clinton shakedown of Middle Eastern states will ultimately be a bigger scandal than the emails.
For her part Dowd is contemptuous of Hillary. As in this description:
If you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, are willing to cite your mother’s funeral to get sympathy for ill-advisedly deleting 30,000 emails, it just makes us want to sigh: O.K., just take it. If you want it that bad, go ahead and be president and leave us in peace. (Or war, if you have your hawkish way.) You’re still idling on the runway, but we’re already jet-lagged. It’s all so drearily familiar that I know we’re only moments away from James Carville writing a column in David Brock’s Media Matters, headlined, “In Private, Hillary’s Really a Hoot.”
Even though Dowd would be delighted to see a woman become president, she fears that a Hillary presidency would exact too high a moral price.
In her words:
What is the trade-off that will be exacted by the Chappaqua Republic for that yearned-for moment? When the Rogue State of Bill began demonizing Monica Lewinsky as a troubled stalker, you knew you could count on the complicity of feminists and Democratic women in Congress. Bill’s female cabinet members and feminist supporters had no choice but to accept the unappetizing quid pro quo: The Clintons would give women progressive public policies as long as the women didn’t assail Bill for his regressive private behavior with women.
Now you, Hillary, are following the same disheartening “We’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse” pattern. You started the “Guernica” press conference defending your indefensible droit du seigneur over your State Department emails by referring to women’s rights and denouncing the letter to Iran from Republican senators as “out of step with the best traditions of American leadership.”
The Clintons make themselves essential by demonizing their opposition. Here Dowd asks the right question, a question that I have often raised.
When the nation elevates the Clintons, what does it do to its moral being? People emulate their betters. They will always want to emulate the man or woman who occupies the highest office in the land. And that means, they emulate what they known, whether good or bad.
What example do the Clintons set and what happens to a nation that emulates it:
Because you assume that if it’s good for the Clintons, it’s good for the world, you’re always tangling up government policy with your own needs, desires, deceptions, marital bargains and gremlins.
Instead of raising us up by behaving like exemplary, sterling people, you bring us down to your own level, a place of blurred lines and fungible ethics and sleazy associates. Your family’s foundation gobbles tens of millions from Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes, whose unspoken message is: “We’re going to give you money to go improve the world. Now leave us alone to go persecute women.”
When it comes to Hillary, Dowd does not restrain herself:
Hillary, your syndrome is less mortal, more regal, a matter of “What Is Hillary Owed?” Ronald Reagan seemed like an ancient king, as one aide put it, gliding across the landscape. You seem like an annoyed queen, radiating irritation at anyone who tries to hold you accountable. You’re less rhetorically talented than Bill but more controlling, so it’s harder for you to navigate out of tough spots.
Lest you imagine that Dowd has suddenly had an ephphany about the Clinton, the New York Times tweeted her August 19, 1998 column, written in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. To her credit Dowd has always seen the Clinton problem clearly.
When Dowd looked into the media’s discourse about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal she saw the heavy hand of the therapy culture:
We are deep into psychobabble.
Do we have closure, healing, catharsis? Are Bill and Hillary Clinton still in denial? Is the First Lady an enabler? Is her anger at Kenneth Starr and the press simply transference? Through confrontation, has the President broken his pattern of recovery and loss, of compulsive, addictive, destructive behavior?
Are we ready to give our bad boy in the White House a hug?
President Clinton is the Grand Canyon of need. He can never stay focused for long on running the country and the world because it gets in the way of his favorite pastime, a warped little mind game called ''How Much Do You Love Me?''
The wild-child President enjoys dipping into his dark side – ‘’Saturday Night Clinton,’’ Dick Morris calls it – and engaging in the sort of hooliganism that requires everyone around him to make soul-wrenching compromises.
Dowd and some sensible feminists were chagrined to see that Bill Clinton had turned so many feminists into “risible hypocrites.” Doubtless they fell for Clinton’s boyish charm:
He turned feminists who fought so hard against Clarence Thomas and Bob Packwood into risible hypocrites. He would give them progressive public policies for women if they defended him on regressive private behavior with women.
Women in Congress who had stuck with Mr. Clinton through his seven months of living dangerously were furious about Monica yesterday. ''It's the grossest kind of infidelity,'' one told me, ''just sheer constant physical relief and satisfaction, really using in the crudest way somebody who was obviously extraordinarily gullible and obviously madly in love with him, somebody who would have done anything for him, and doing this in the Oval Office. I'm having a very hard time with it. I don't want to be an enabler.''
Dowd was no less kind toward Hillary:
The President gave his loyal, accomplished wife a choice between the two roles she most dreads: victim or liar. Either this superbrainy lawyer and strategist did not know her husband was lying, making our most modern First Lady a dupe in the oldest story in the world. Or she did know, meaning that she lied when she defended him on the ''Today'' show.
What is the Clinton strategy? How far are they willing to go to save themselves and their political viability? Do they care about the example they are setting for America and the world? Do you think that America will be more or less respected around the world under a Hillary presidency?
Dowd was disgusted for having to answer such questions:
The Clintons attack Mr. Starr to deflect attention from the President's immoral behavior. They appeal to decent American impulses -- we do not like lynch mobs, we do not like hate-mongering, we do not like women who rat out girl friends, we do not like Big Brother peeking through bedroom windows. The Clintons elicit our public-spirited impulses and use them for their private political gain.
But the choices they ask us to make are false ones.
You can think the notion of impeachment is ludicrous and still think that Mr. Clinton has acted with monstrous selfishness.
You can think Mr. Starr's investigation has been scary and still believe that a President should tell Americans the truth at the first opportunity, not the last.
You can think Linda Tripp rides on a broomstick and still believe that a President should not ask an intern to service him.
By expecting others to sacrifice so much to preserve his political viability, Mr. Clinton has killed something worthy and important in public life.
Which moral virtue has Bill Clinton killed? Nothing less than the notion of the benevolent leader, the leader who does what is best for the nation, regardless of what is good for him.