Hillary Rodham Clinton, a United States senator carefully fanning the media firestorm over her $8 million memoir to kindle a possible presidential candidacy, could hardly have less in common with Marzieh Babakhani, an Iranian refugee who died in Paris this week after setting herself ablaze to protest France's massive crackdown on an Iranian opposition group headquartered in France. But then I came across that most remarkable bit about Mrs. Clinton's best-selling memoir, Living History (Simon & Schuster, 2003). It made me realize that there is a point of comparison in the respective media coverage of these two persons that makes a small but significant point about our ailing political culture.
Truth be told, this most remarkable bit about Hillary doesn't actually fall between her book's covers; it is instead a Clinton comment -- or, rather, a Clinton no-comment -- on a question about the book that came her way from the very middle of the mainstream media, The Washington Post. After asking Mrs. Clinton to discuss some of the high-rev political commentary in some of the high-rev political parts of the memoir, the Post dutifully relayed to its readers that the New York senator "declined to be interviewed about the political content of her book."
She declined to be interviewed about the political content of the book, did she? Columnists Jonah Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan have already picked up on this colossal crust -- the former ascribing Madame's declining "to be interviewed, etc.," to a cynical strategy calculated to maintain poll-boosting victim status. Now that I've caught on, I think this little story is well worth highlighting all over again. What we've got here is a U.S. Senator who writes a book to launch a probable presidential candidacy while claiming the near-divine right of first ladies (and criminal suspects) to remain silent. As Mr. Goldberg put it on National Review Online, "She denies that she's merely a wife, and yet when it comes time to market herself she refuses to be anything else." Not that those snarling pit bulls of the media would ever, ever let Hillary Clinton get away with running on a platform of, say, having "wanted to wring his neck." Or would they? Judging by the tenor of Mrs. Clinton's infomercials -- I mean interviews -- the answer is a tail-wagging yes.