I’m quite looking forward to Hillary Clinton being president of the United States. I think she will probably run, I think she will probably win, and I think she’ll be at least a good and maybe a great president. What I’m not particularly looking forward to is the process by which she’ll have to get there. Just in the past few days here,Maureen Dowd and Richard Cohen have laid before us in the form of two recent and silly columns little reminders of the prejudice against Clinton within a certain slice of the liberal chattering class, a prejudice that will swell predictably as she passes the various posts that stand between her and the nomination and, finally, election. Fortunately, these chatterers are less and less relevant every election. Clinton should welcome their animus. It can only help her.
I have observed many strange things in my years of tilling these fields, but surely nothing stranger than the way the arbiters of conventional wisdom in America have viewed the Clintons. It’s a deep and weird Baby Boomer psychodrama that I can summarize as follows: when the Clintons first hit the national scene, they were doing so at the same time that strivers of their generation were starting to displace the old graybeards in the news business. Tim Russert took over Meet the Press in 1991. Dowd got her column in 1995. The ’60s generation was taking over. Things were going to be different. Here was a cohort, after all, that grew up thinking that it could, and would, change the world. And now one of their own was president! We would witness the dawn of a new era of authenticity, to use a big ’60s word, and the Clintons would lead it.
Soon enough, though, the Boomer generation turned out to be no more authentic than any other—indeed quite less authentic, or at least less admirable, than the greatest generation, whom Tom Brokaw limned between hard covers the same year the world learned the name Monica Lewinsky. Though the Boomer journalists began to turn on the Clintons before the Lewinsky scandal, that really sealed it. Obviously, there were good reasons for any human being to consider what Bill Clinton did there to be unacceptable. But there was a self-regarding quality to many Boomer journalists’ scribblings (and on-air musings—the cable nets were taking off around this time) about the whole mess, as if the Clintons had somehow done this to them. Chris Matthews—oh, if you could have heard him in those days going on and on and on about the Clintons, and about Al Gore too (Matthews has even said that he voted for George W. Bush in 2000).
I served my time inside the walls of this abattoir as Hillary first sought her New York Senate seat in 1999 and 2000, a race I covered closely. My God, the hatred of Hillary one heard then! Especially among white Boomer women. At one event in early 2000, I ran into the journalist Jim Traub. We were chatting about this matter, and he said he’d spoken to a shrink friend of his who was aghast at the number of women who were plopping themselves down on his couch and—well, as Jim said to me: “Can you imagine, these women spending $165 an hour to talk aboutHillary?”
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