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No One Left to Lie to:
The most vocal critics of Bill Clinton's presidency tend to be conservatives--think, for example, of William J. Bennett's The Death of Outrage--but there are those on the Left who are fed up with Clinton as well. Among them is journalist Christopher Hitchens (most prominently associated with The Nation and Vanity Fair), who has produced a slim but vehement volume outlining how "Clinton's private vileness meshes exactly with his brutal and opportunistic public style." No One Left to Lie To is the story of a man who took the Democratic presidential nomination and, having achieved office, began enacting welfare reform and anticrime legislation that surpassed the ambitions of all but the most ideologically loyal Republicans--and routinely plundered the GOP platform for other policy ideas as well.
Hitchens is particularly damning on Clinton's tendency to resort to divisive racial politics when it suits his purposes, as when, in the course of the 1992 presidential campaign, he refused to lift a finger to save a mentally retarded African American from state execution so he could appear tough on crime, then shortly afterwards hijacked a Rainbow Coalition conference to criticize rap artist Sister Souljah for the benefit of the attendant press. When he needs the black vote, though, Clinton will allow himself to be trumpeted as the most racially sensitive president in American history--if not, in Toni Morrison's memorably ludicrous phrase, "our first black president." Furthermore, the man who once connived his way out of the draft has become a chief executive so willing to use military air strikes as a means of foreign policy that, in the author's view, the United States is now a "potential banana republic."
Of course, there is plenty of vitriol directed at Clinton's conduct with regard to Monica Lewinsky (the woman with whom he admitted, under duress, to having had an "inappropriate relationship" consisting of multiple incidences of oral sex) and Kathleen Willey (who alleges that the leader of the free world merely fondled her breasts and forced her to touch--albeit shielded under some layers of clothing--his tumescent penis). In Hitchens's view, however, the sexual controversies are only the most prominent aspect of Clinton's shameful character, a moral condition that must be considered in toto. The book is short, with an argument that runs only about a hundred pages, but that's still more than enough room for Hitchens to serve up a comprehensive, blistering indictment suffused throughout by his dark wit. He sums up the failure of those fixated on Clinton's adultery to fully investigate his cronyism and financial shenanigans: "It's not the lipstick traces, stupid," Hitchens warns, "it's the Revlon Connection." --Ron Hogan [via]