By coincidence two parallel fictions ran simultaneously in my household Sunday night. In the kitchen I caught snippets of Hillary Clinton and Barbara Walters musing over the New York senator's new book, while my male associates gathered in another room to indulge their apparently insatiable appetite for "The Godfather."
Dazzling performances all `round on a theme that's nearly become an American leitmotif: denial.
Hillary, whose $8 million memoir "Living History" hit bookstores Monday, is telling Walters how she felt on the morning of Aug. 15, 1998, when Bill woke her up to confess his affair with that woman, Monica Lewinsky:
"I was just beside myself with anger and disappointment," she says, surely confusing that memory with the time the tooth fairy left her a dime instead of a quarter.
Around the corner in the testosterone den, Diane Keaton is facing down Al Pacino with teary eyes, begging her husband to tell her whether he ordered the assassination of his sister Connie's husband. Just this once, Pacino says, he'll let her pry into his business.
"Michael, is it true?" she pleads. Summoning his best basilisk imitation, Pacino says, "No."
What's clear in this brilliantly directed moment is that Keaton knows Pacino is lying, but gratefully embraces him anyway. She leaves the room and watches as Pacino's disciples stoop to kiss his ring and the door closes on truth. By her denial, she has become complicit in his corruption.
Keaton's denial, like Hillary's, is critical to her marriage and to her survival. In the end, of course, Keaton lacks the rapacious ambition of Hillary and acts -by terminating her next pregnancy -to end the cycle of her husband's violence and her own denial. Her conscience won't permit her to play along any more.
Conveniently, Hillary has no such conscience stalking her heart's arctic landscape. She, after all, worships at the same altar as her husband. Denial was necessary to her marriage, yes, but more important, it has been necessary to her own dauntless pursuit of power. As she denied her husband's serial sexual abuses, she also denied her own role as enabler.
Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Monica Lewinsky? A vast right-wing conspiracy.
Now a U.S. senator and one of the highest-paid "writers" in book history, Hillary denies her denial and puts on a fake face of golly-gee, "I'm just a regular gal trying to make the sucker float," to match the plasticized facade of her interviewer. Boredom or Botox? You decide.
From Vince Foster's suicide to that gosh-awful health-care debacle to all those bad women, jiminy, what a mess. Clearly we must move on, put it all behind us, and forge ahead toward a future of growing old together. But let's not move on toooooo fast. First let's pause to autograph a few books, endorse a few checks and hold a spit-salted finger to the political winds.
For waiting in line and plunking down $28, Hillary readers get exactly what? Not much more than an expansion of untruths added to what they already knew to be false. In her book and in interviews, which all seem to derive from the same script, Hillary insists:
She has no intention of running for president. Not true.
She had no idea her husband was a sexual predator. Not true.
She wanted "to wring Bill's neck." Say what?
A mom wants to wring her 10-year-old son's neck when he tracks mud through her freshly mopped kitchen. When a grown woman finds out her husband has become intimate with the help, she wants to invite Lorena Bobbitt to din-din and forget to put the cleaver in the dishwasher.
There is about Hillary Clinton a frightening inevitability that ought to send shivers down the spines of those who still have them. Like her husband, she is able to hold a steady gaze and seduce her audience with false virtue even as she dissembles.
Of course Hillary Clinton intends to run for president -and is running even as readers consume the book she hired three others to write. Of course she knew what kind of man she was married to and was an accomplice to his distortions and cover-ups.
And of course Hillary Clinton -the un-Tammy Wynette who once told a nation she didn't bake cookies and wasn't a stand-by-your-man kind of woman -would bake a 12-tiered wedding cake and stand by the devil if that's what it takes to fulfill her destiny as First Woman.
That, in fact, is what's true.