"I think she's one of the most fascinating women of our time and this world," confessed Bob Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC, as part of his announcement that his network is making a miniseries about Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Diane Lane in the starring role.
Words are funny things. For instance, G.K. Chesterton once remarked that that the word "good" has many uses: "For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of 500 yards, I should call him a good shot but not necessarily a good man."
So it is, I suppose, with the word "fascinating." Given the perpetual soap opera revolving around the Clintons, I can understand the fascination with Mrs. Clinton. But while a soap opera can make for a compelling spectacle, that doesn't mean every character in it is compelling in his or her own right.
Quick: Can you think of a single truly interesting thing Hillary Clinton has ever said?
Before you answer, let me narrow the terms. Wildly implausible statements about how she parlayed pocket change into $100,000 in the commodities markets simply by reading the Wall Street Journal don't count. Neither do her explanations of how her Whitewater billing records miraculously appeared out of thin air in the most secure building in America. Nor do her explanations of how and why she stuck by her husband.
What I mean is: Have you ever heard her speak, as a politician in her own right, and been wowed by her eloquence or floored by her insights or even particularly impressed by her raw political skill?
I'm hard-pressed to think of any examples. I suppose her famous dismissal of any interest in how, on her watch, four Americans were murdered by terrorists -- "What difference, at this point, does it make?!" -- could count as fascinating in its brazen indifference and staggering cynicism. But c'mon.
The simple fact, by my lights at least, is that Hillary Clinton is not a compelling personality in her own right. Even Bill Clinton's harshest critics have to concede that he was a masterful politician, a jazz impresario mixing deep insights, policy minutiae and folksy cornpone peppered with compelling half-truths and daring outright lies. Barack Obama isn't nearly as gifted as Bill was on the stump or in the backrooms, but the man has political talent. Hillary's a very solid policy wonk, but the only thing that makes her a rock star is that people keep calling her one.