Miss Hillary's new book surely will make it on The New York Times' best seller list. The only suspense left is whether it will be placed on the fiction or non-fiction list. This decision will be an early test of the NYT's new commitment to truth. (They could regain all their lost credibility in one bound, if they went with the fiction list.) Admittedly, a Diogenesian search for an honest person would rarely lead to the author of a memoir -- a curious hybrid form of writing in which various historical figures appear in a light favorable to the author. But even by the dubious standards of the memoirist, anything by Bill or Hillary Clinton is utterly useless as a search for truth. Perhaps Hillary should have borrowed her title from Oscar Levant's book, The Memoirs of an Amnesiac. That is, at least, a more benign explanation for a truthless memoir.
Whether Miss Hillary is a natural born liar or whether she learned it at the foot of the master, may be an interesting topic for a Ph.D. thesis someday. But, clearly, not only do she and her husband not have a reputation for truthfulness, they don't seem to have the capacity for it. I haven't actually read her book yet (I may spend money like water, but I have my limits). However, from various publicly available quotes out of the book it is obvious that she has not veered anywhere near the truth. Miss Hillary recounts my favorite of her lies when she tells of how she told her lawyer in August 1998, when he warned her that there may be something to this Monica business: "My husband may have his faults, but he has never lied to me."
Making the dangerous assumption that she is honestly recounting this detail in her book, one reaches the bizarre conclusion that even under attorney/client privilege, she lied to her lawyer about her trust in her husband's honesty. After all, her statement is about as plausible as saying Adolph Hitler may have had his faults, but he always loved and admired Jewish people. "Bill Clinton never lied to me" is one of those statements that polygraph operators could use as a benchmark of a certain lie. The only other explanation for such a statement is imbecility. While Miss Hillary is hardly as smart as her publicity agents have loudly proclaimed, she is clearly no imbecile. It is always a mistake for politicians to brag about their big brains. When cornered, they have no out. Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and W. Bush wisely left their intelligence in doubt. Thus Reagan was permitted to sleep through the Iran-Contra scandal, Eisenhower was given a pass when he said meaningless things at press conferences. Bush holds in reserve a get-out-of-jail-free card. But the Clintons -- self-proclaimed geniuses -- have no defense against the charge of cunning mendacity. So, who's the fool?
But here's a tip when assessing the meaning in Clinton statements: Not only do they lie for expedient purposes, even when they tell the truth, it is not for the truth of the matter stated. They are equally calculating whether lying or telling the truth. For instance, in the Barbara Walters free media publicity event, Miss Hillary seemed to boldly differ with her husband on the matter of amending the Constitution to permit a third presidential term. For 24 hours cable news shows were clucking about her stepping out on her own and breaking with her husband -- the only human on the planet in the last half century who has mentioned changing the 22nd Amendment to provide for a third presidential term. First of all, Mr. Bill didn't say it as a serious matter (he knows it is a political impossibility), but because he needed a publicity fix. And Miss Hillary didn't publicly disagree with him because she disagreed with him -- but because she wanted to be seen to be publicly disagreeing with him. She thinks it's good for her hideous image. And, after all, this is the rare issue that no voters or Democratic party interests care about. It's a freebie.
This book is just one more round in the game of three-card monte that the Clintons have been successfully playing in this town for the last dozen years. You can't really blame them for fleecing such willing suckers who give them the power and money for which they have always yearned. Of course, as St. Thomas More said, if honor were profitable, everybody would be honorable. The Clintons, however, rationalize their disreputable behavior by claiming, in Mr. Bill's phrase, that "character is a journey, not a destination." Apparently, both Clintons are taking that journey on a Streetcar Named Desire.