Friday, September 12, 2014

It’s Not a Cakewalk Anymore, Hillary…

Ernest Hemingway, not a person inclined to internalize, often asserted the solution to writers block was uncomplicated: ‘Sit in the damn chair and start typing.’ Mr. Gripes, though, approaches his own formidable resistances from a more fanciful place – a personal certitude that the Writing Gods will eventually provide gorgeous material.

And, yes, over the past two decades, the Gods have delivered, as if on a silver platter, the miracle of the duopoly of Bill and Hillary Clinton, with a recent third-wheel addition, Chelsea, as well. For Mr. Gripes, the Grand Farce of the Clintons over the years has been akin to a diamond-encrusted gift at Christmas – voila, Mr. Gripes’ writers block vanishes.

In this scribbling, leaving Bill and Chelsea aside, we’ll concentrate on Hillary:

Consider her exalted circumstances just eight months ago: a woman whose approval ratings hovered around 75%, there was no other public figure close to her in terms of popularity, or garnered as much respect or prestige for her stints as a New York senator and Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Perhaps more importantly, there was a sense of inevitability and rolling-stone momentum that would lead directly to the Presidency. Her husband Bill, First Lady in waiting, most likely had already selected the color of the drapes and matching pillow cases for the White House bedroom.

On top of all that, her newly written autobiography, ‘Hard Choices’ , had recently been published, for which she would travel around the country appearing at book stores and radio stations, basking in an outpouring of gratitude and reverence from fans.  In a style reminiscent of a Roman general garlanded with flowered necklaces on his return home after another successful campaign, Ms. Clinton would emerge triumphant and even more popular from her cross-country book tour. She was going to be unstoppable.

Didn’t quite happen like that. 

Her 755-page tome was basically a complete flop – one of those eyes-won’t-stay-open-without-a-toothpick doorstop bores. Touted as a flint-steeled analysis of her travails and successes as Secretary of State, critics immediately revealed the book to be the opposite: fearful of antagonizing potential backers and voters, pulling all her punches, she served readers a huge bowlful of bland, tasteless porridge -- and the book died on the vine. In the first month, it was reported a measly 162,000 copies were sold; this was after bookstores were shipped millions. The publisher, who paid Hillary a $14 million [!!] advance, took one hell of a financial beating – imagine how many heads rolled afterwards.

And, then, out on the tour, things only got worse…much worse. In response to a question about her net worth, Ms. Clinton asserted she and her husband were ‘flat broke’ the day they left the White House. 

Kaboom! From that very moment, all the momentum evaporated; the Hillary balloon collapsed in a shuttering fall, reminiscent of the Von Hindenburg dirigible plummeting to earth, in flames. Or, if I may mix my metaphors, as one professional basketball player summed up his team’s atrocious play: ‘the ship be sinking.’

She had made a classic mistake: sure, America is not a particularly punitive nation; after all, Americans – all of us – know that politicians lie and lie all the time; it’s in their DNA, almost, and we begrudgingly accept it. But, we also know ex-Presidents, if not rich when they leave office, become human ATMs immediately, and can become very, very wealthy, without much heaving lifting. People are screwy about money, especially their own, and will not tolerate hearing about impoverishment from anyone who is manifestly and supremely well-off. That particular lie makes citizens very angry– and, in her off-the-cuff remarks, Hillary had unleashed some real fury. 

Here’s why she shouldn’t have never complained about her family’s financial fortunes:  immediately after exiting DC, she and Bill moved into the very affluent community of Chappaqua, New York, residing in a $1.7 million house that she and her husband bought, with a $350,000 down payment; she at the same time purchased a seven-room townhouse in Georgetown for $2.8 million, having to come up with $855,000 cash to secure that additional mortgage. Let’s also remind ourselves that Bill Clinton was making millions within months of leaving office, presently presumed to have a net worth of $100 million dollars – and he’s not exactly breaking rocks in some quarry, but talking for an hour at $250,000 a pop all over the world – a cushy gig we’d all love to have.

And how did Hillary deal with the barrage of invective tossed her way after her blunder? ‘We were in debt. We struggled to piece together resources to mortgage two houses. Just like regular folks.  It was not easy.’ It’s that ‘just like regular folks’ comment that absolutely enraged Mr. Gripes, himself usually an admirer of hers. Just imagine how others, not firm supporters to begin with, feel now about her.  The White House no longer looms large just across the street; it’s far away on a hazy horizon, and it’s going to be a long, nasty, vicious fight for the next year and a half.

This ‘dead-broke’ debacle highlights a rather discordant fact about Ms. Clinton: she is not a facile nor adroit politician – I’d say, in fact, she’s a very mediocre, klutzy one. Look at her history: despite being an overwhelming favorite to secure the Democratic nomination in 2011, she was clobbered by a veritable greenhorn and a far superior tactician, Barack Obama.
Ms. Clinton’s husband, despite a long ‘rap sheet’ of incidents demonstrating appalling behavior toward women, just marched on, impervious to all the accusations. Hillary, Mr. Gripes asserts, is much more sensitive to criticism, and not quick or adept on her feet responding to questions thrown at her, a prerequisite of every skilled politician. Worse, again unlike her husband, she has a bit of a ‘tin ear’ when it comes to really understanding her American constituency. Americans, collectively, can be idealistic, grandiose, infantile, apathetic, ignorant, generous, incensed at the abuse thrown at us by the rest of the world, and proud as hell to be Americans [most of the time]. The attuned politician picks up, as if by osmosis, this eclectic American psyche, and operates accordingly. I’m afraid that Hillary Clinton may be tone deaf.

Mr. Gripes is sure of one thing: Fox News and the Republican attack dogs are going to have a field day next year. Even if she prevails, Hillary is going to endure one hell of a beating.

Jim Israel
Mr. Gripes
September 12, 2014