Reading her mind and speaking in her voice: This morning, the New York Times published three letters about Hillary Clinton’s recent interview, the one about foreign affairs.
Three is not a large number. Under the circumstance, it’s striking to us that the Times chose to publish the following tribute to the practice of playing with dolls.
We’ll do a bit of highlighting:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (8/13/14): It appears to me that Hillary Clinton’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, which Frank Bruni wrote about in “Hillary, Barbed and Bellicose” (column, Aug. 12), reveals a political calculation intended to advance Mrs. Clinton’s quest for the presidency.She may have come to that conclusion? That’s true, although she may have come to some other conclusion instead! Or she may not have come to any such conclusion! Is it possible that Clinton is simply saying what she thinks?
Her book “Hard Choices” did not receive the reception she had expected, so it was time to write a sequel, and the Atlantic interview was the first chapter.
Her remarks also seem to me to pander to every constituency that may be less than enamored with certain of President Obama’s foreign policy decisions and whose support she seeks. She may also have come to the conclusion that either the president is not going to give her his unfettered support or his support is detrimental to her political ambitions.
JOHN A. V—
Laurel, N.Y., Aug. 12, 2014
This letter traffics in motive and in nothing else. It appears to the writer that Clinton’s interview was a reaction to disappointing sales of her recent book.
To him, her remarks “seem to pander” to a wide array of constituencies.
From its first words, that whole letter is built around acts of mind-reading. It appears to the reader that Clinton’s interview—which he seems to have read a column about—reveals a certain political calculation.
Has the letter writer read the whole interview, or has he only read Bruni’s column about it? He doesn’t say, but in all three paragraphs, he feels he knows why various things were said.
According to the letter writer, Clinton may have come to the conclusion that Obama’s support may not help her. That’s possible, of course, since everything is.
That said, could the interview be a simple record of what Clinton actually thinks? The letter writer never considers that possibility. You see, the writer is playing with dolls. He’s holding up his Clinton doll and telling us what it is thinking.
We don’t know why a major newspaper would publish a letter like that—a letter which is entirely based on serial speculations about motivations.
In fairness, though, playing with dolls is the standard language of modern political discourse. On the facing page in this morning’s Times, Maureen Dowd engages in the same conduct concerning the same interview.
Dowd starts with a bowdlerized passage about Michael Kelly, her now-deceased childhood friend. The history there isn’t pretty.
People whose judgment we respect told us, back in 1999, that Kelly was a perfectly decent, soft-spoken fellow in private. In public, though, he was one of the craziest of all Clinton/Gore-haters.
Below, you see him in the fall of 2002, playing with his Gore doll. His piece appeared in the Washington Post, where he was a regular columnist.
(This is the only link to the piece we can find.)
What was Gore’s sin on this occasion? Disgracefully, he had given a major speech warning against a war in Iraq! You’ll note that this column was largely concerned with Gore’s horrific motives:
KELLY (9/25/02): Look Who's Playing PoliticsYou'll note that the Gore doll was still a gigantic liar, and was still condescending. The children had invented these stories about their Gore dolls in 1999.
Distasteful as it may be, some notice should be paid to the speech that the formerly important Al Gore delivered Monday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
This speech, an attack on the Bush policy on Iraq, was Gore's big effort to distinguish himself from the Democratic pack in advance of another possible presidential run. It served: It distinguished Gore, now and forever, as someone who cannot be considered a responsible aspirant to power. Politics are allowed in politics, but there are limits, and there is a pale, and Gore has now shown himself to be ignorant of those limits, and he has now placed himself beyond that pale.
Gore's speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts—bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.
Gore had dared to give good advice. In reaction, Dowd’s childhood friend took his Gore doll out of its box and began to explain what it was actually thinking.
According to Kelly, Gore had only given this speech to enable his next run for the White House—a run which never occurred. A few weeks later, the exalted Frank Rich wrote the same disgraceful column, though it brought him no disgrace.
Rich continued abusing his Gore doll until it won the Nobel Peace Prize. (At that point, he flipped.) Kelly went off to the glorious war in Iraq, where he became the first journalist killed.
People like Kelly, Rich and Dowd have been playing with dolls for a very long time. Their writing comes to us live and direct from the world of the six-year-old child.
Within the guild which pays their fees, such work is regarded as fine. Truth to tell, it’s the only way our major elites currently know how to reason.
Maureen Dowd is playing with dolls in today’s column too. In response to that same interview, she took out her Hillary doll, offering bullshit like this:
DOWD (8/13/14): Hillary booed the president, who has been boosting her at the expense of his own vice president, and said that, as secretary of state, she had wanted to do more to help the Syrian rebels. She said that Obama’s “failure” in Syria led to the rise of ISIS and sniped about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”Did Clinton actually “boo the president” in that interview? To judge that question, you have to read the interview.
Saying you can’t live by slogans is rich, coming from someone whose husband’s presidency was built on “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Very few people have. Do you think Dowd has read it?
The stupidity of the passage we’ve posted is rather standard for Dowd. It contains a helpful one-word “quotation.” It offers a moronic reference to a campaign slogan from 1992.
If you can’t see how dumb that sort of thing is, you may be in the habit of playing with favorite dolls too.
What did Clinton actually say in that interview? If she actually runs for president, such matters will be well worth exploring. To state the obvious, there’s nothing wrong with exploring these topics right now.
Along the way, you’ll see many people playing with dolls. First sign of that practice on cable this week?
The quick reference to “triangulation!”