Read of the Day: The Hillary Paradox

Andrew Ferguson, the witty and insightful senior editor of the Weekly Standard, has done one of those jobs Americans don’t want to do: he has re-read a shelf’s worth of admiring biographies of Hillary Clinton. The result is a wonderful and revealing article titled, “The Hillary Paradox,” a phenomenon that puzzles only her admirers.

The Hillary Paradox consists of two perceptions that are irreconcilable. The first is that Hillary Clinton is a person of uncommon decency, compassionate and deeply committed to justice. The second is that many of her actions over many years are the work of a person who couldn’t possibly be uncommonly decent. How could someone with a wonderful reputation so often behave disreputably?

Given the fact that Hillary proposes to put together a winning coalition of voters, addressing this paradox, or contradiction, is an important strategic consideration.

Ferguson takes those of us who have been following Hillary and her husband since they first burst on the national scene on a trip down memory lane, made very illuminating by his marshaling of facts that often emerged over the course of years, to explain various scandals dealt with by the Clintons. He also identifies the characteristics of Hillary’s approach to overcoming inconvenient truths:

The typical Clinton scandal follows a pattern, as the biographies show. Husband or wife commits a shabby indiscretion. Bill will snap the garters of an employee, for instance, or Hillary will befriend unsavory characters in a scheme to make easy money. Except for Bill’s admitted perjury before a federal judge in the Lewinsky scandal, the Clintons are rarely shown to have violated a law. So, whatever the indiscretion, it is probably legal. But it is mean. And its uncovering could threaten the idea that the couple has no motives beyond “uplifting the American people,” in Bill’s phrase.

The indiscretion lies there, out of sight, for weeks or months or years. Then someone finds out about it. Panic ensues. Staff is enlisted to ensure that outsiders believe the indiscretion either didn’t occur or was the work of functionaries. The indiscretion inflates into a scandal when this effort fails. The functionaries, and usually the Clintons themselves, resort to misdirection, bogus legalism, and shifting narratives so complicated that most observers grow bored, then exhausted, then distracted by something else. 

Ferguson applies the model of the Hillary playbook to a variety of scandals – Travelgate, Whitewater, bimbo eruptions, the cattle futures bonanza – and supplies plenty of detail on the viciousness of the tactics, as well as the deniability that is always baked in.

There is nothing quite as useful as knowing the enemy’s playbook when preparing for battle. Ferguson has got Hillary’s number. And now that Washington Free Beacon has refreshed our memory about Donna Shala’s 1993 insight that Hillary is paranoid (listen here), the chance to play Hillary in the forthcoming election battle is there for any GOP nominee with the wit and wile to pick up on the opportunity.

Andrew Ferguson, the witty and insightful senior editor of the Weekly Standard, has done one of those jobs Americans don’t want to do: he has re-read a shelf’s worth of admiring biographies of Hillary Clinton. The result is a wonderful and revealing article titled, “The Hillary Paradox,” a phenomenon that puzzles only her admirers.

The Hillary Paradox consists of two perceptions that are irreconcilable. The first is that Hillary Clinton is a person of uncommon decency, compassionate and deeply committed to justice. The second is that many of her actions over many years are the work of a person who couldn’t possibly be uncommonly decent. How could someone with a wonderful reputation so often behave disreputably?

Given the fact that Hillary proposes to put together a winning coalition of voters, addressing this paradox, or contradiction, is an important strategic consideration.

Ferguson takes those of us who have been following Hillary and her husband since they first burst on the national scene on a trip down memory lane, made very illuminating by his marshaling of facts that often emerged over the course of years, to explain various scandals dealt with by the Clintons. He also identifies the characteristics of Hillary’s approach to overcoming inconvenient truths:

The typical Clinton scandal follows a pattern, as the biographies show. Husband or wife commits a shabby indiscretion. Bill will snap the garters of an employee, for instance, or Hillary will befriend unsavory characters in a scheme to make easy money. Except for Bill’s admitted perjury before a federal judge in the Lewinsky scandal, the Clintons are rarely shown to have violated a law. So, whatever the indiscretion, it is probably legal. But it is mean. And its uncovering could threaten the idea that the couple has no motives beyond “uplifting the American people,” in Bill’s phrase.

The indiscretion lies there, out of sight, for weeks or months or years. Then someone finds out about it. Panic ensues. Staff is enlisted to ensure that outsiders believe the indiscretion either didn’t occur or was the work of functionaries. The indiscretion inflates into a scandal when this effort fails. The functionaries, and usually the Clintons themselves, resort to misdirection, bogus legalism, and shifting narratives so complicated that most observers grow bored, then exhausted, then distracted by something else. 

Ferguson applies the model of the Hillary playbook to a variety of scandals – Travelgate, Whitewater, bimbo eruptions, the cattle futures bonanza – and supplies plenty of detail on the viciousness of the tactics, as well as the deniability that is always baked in.

There is nothing quite as useful as knowing the enemy’s playbook when preparing for battle. Ferguson has got Hillary’s number. And now that Washington Free Beacon has refreshed our memory about Donna Shala’s 1993 insight that Hillary is paranoid (listen here), the chance to play Hillary in the forthcoming election battle is there for any GOP nominee with the wit and wile to pick up on the opportunity.