A Clinton-loathing friend of mine from New England is going gaga over George W. Bush, even though?or perhaps because?she doesn't know the first thing about him. "Let's get rid of the hicks!" she says. "Bring back the ruling class!" One doesn't know quite how to break it to her, but as population and power move southward and westward, the hicks and the ruling class are getting harder and harder to tell apart. Both the Clintons and Bushes are pretty good examples of this new blueblood-redneck alliance. That Hillary Clinton is a model of our rube ruling class became apparent when the New York Post revealed that she had gone house-shopping last week and fallen in love with a new-ish 17-acre, $3.8 million property in Westchester. It has 10,000 square feet, squash and tennis courts, an indoor pool and a place to land the helicopter. It's a measure of her yearning for the wide open spaces of Hick Heaven that Hillary is set on this latifundium. And its beside the point that she doesn't need it and certainly can't afford it, the high point of her earning career being the $100,000 bribe she got from cattle-futures trader Red Bone 20 years ago.
Get it? Hillary doesn't want to live in the city, close to the theater and restaurants and bookstores. She doesn't like the wild, Northeastern landscapes of the Adirondacks or the pastoral life of upstate dairyland. No?she is looking for the way of living in New York that will be most like living in the nicer neighborhoods of Dallas and Houston. The kind of place where people roll up your circular drive in Jaguars, with their 10-gallon hats and their trophy wives, and say, "Ha, li'l lady! Ha yew? Whatta latta land yew gat!"
Hillary, an immigrant to the hick state of mind, has embraced it with a vengeance. Nancy Reagan may have bought new china for the White House, but you need china in the White House. Hillary changed the White House even more radically by, first, banning smoking, and, second, commissioning a renovation from Kaki Hockersmith, one of the most celebrated interior decorators in all of Little Rock. The resulting gold-tassel-and-knotty-pine look was described by one of my snider and more stylish friends as "Dan'l Boone Revival." How anyone from Chicago's upper middle class could willingly adopt the culture of her husband's hog-farming Arkansas backers, with their five-month-old fortunes, will be a mystery to most New Yorkers. But that's just because they're from New York, and Hillary?as you're likely to be reminded again?is not. They Deserve Each Other After a week of watching the press dance around the totem pole at George W. Bush's fundraising potlatch, you almost had to feel sorry for the other Republican candidates. Almost. Last Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission released its second-quarter campaign-finance stats showing that in four months of "exploring" a run for president, W. had raised more money than the entire Chinese army has earned in salaries since the 1949 revolution. He raised roughly twice what Al Gore did, and Gore's take?in a Sammy Sosa-esque way?would have demolished the existing fundraising records if Bush hadn't been around. But just when one was about to feel pity for the laggards, Liddy Dole went on the Today show to announce her candidacy. Or, rather, she announced that she was going to announce her candidacy next fall. Since we already know she is running for president, this was above and beyond the call of workaday electioneering baloney. It was double electioneering baloney: summoning us to attention?twice?to tell us something we already know. Then, visiting New Hampshire that day, she sought to explain why she was running for president in the first place. "We're so blessed in this country," she said, "and this is a way to give back."
Do you believe that? That she doesn't really want to be president but that she's doing it for us? It was a remark of such upchuck-inducing contempt for the intelligence of her listeners that one was tempted to go back over her earlier speeches and translate them into what Mrs. Dole really meant. But I couldn't find them, so I contented myself with a similar translation of Lisa Myers' introduction on Today: "Elizabeth Dole," Myers began, "has been a quiet pioneer for women since she was a girl growing up in Salisbury, North Carolina. An overachiever [bitch] who loved to talk [yenta], a beauty queen [ditz] who graduated with honors from Duke University [brownnose], a gracious Southerner [hick] who dared to fight her way [bitch, again] into Harvard Law School [snot] long before it was fashionable."
Sorry?that's where Myers lost me. When is this time she's thinking of when Harvard Law School was unfashionable? Patriot Games Patriotism waxes and wanes, but one thing seems to remain constant in postwar America: the idea that there was some kind of Golden Age of Patriotism in the recent past. Fox News Channel rolled out an old Fourth of July chestnut over the long weekend, asking its viewers whether they thought America was more or less patriotic today than 25 years ago. Sixteen percent said more, 74 percent said less and six percent said it was about the same. We're obviously in the presence of a poll whose main function is to show how mistaken or mendacious people can be?like the ones showing that 85 percent of Americans consider themselves above-average drivers, or the ones taken the day after a 30-percent-turnout election in which 75 percent of the respondents claim to have voted. Because 25 years ago, patriotism was at an historic ebb. It was a year after the Paris accords that put an humiliating end to the Vietnam War and a year before the even more humiliating evacuation of Saigon.
The attitude toward the flag was indicative: People used to patch their jeans and old furniture with it, blow their noses in flag handkerchiefs, and you'd see it set on fire everywhere. I remember watching on tv as Cubs centerfielder Rick Monday snatched up a flag that two protesters were trying to burn on the warning track. For one news cycle, Monday was a national hero, and precisely because, at the time, people thought rescuing the flag a weird thing to bother to do. It was kind of archaic, chivalric and show-offy, more typical of the Golden Age of American Patriotism, which people described as having been?oh, say, 25 years before then. Kosovo Corner America, of course, is considerably more patriotic than it was 25 years ago. It is even getting a bit too patriotic for my tastes?that is, if patriotism is to blame for the wholesale lack of skepticism about Bill Clinton's wilding spree in Kosovo. Through a sneaky elision, the President has laid claim to use the American military machine while holding himself accountable only to "humanity"?a meaningless constituency. He has set a very dangerous precedent. The President never made it clear in whose name he was destroying Serbia: in America's or humanity's. If America's, then the President should have been upfront about his mission civilisatrice in Southeastern Europe, and admitted that we are embarked on a long-term imperial role there. This, however, would have left the President accountable to Congress. But the President clearly believes he is not accountable to the American public, since Congress refused to support his war and the President kept on bombing.
To whom, then, is he accountable? The President claims to act in the service of a new constituency?"humanity." But since humanity isn't really a constituency, the President isn't really accountable to anyone. Unless we take "humanity" to mean "the international community." In that case, (a) exhortations that we support "our" troops and "our" President are little more than hypocritical bullying. If it's Humanity's air force that's bombing Kosovo and not ours, then our obligation to support the President's silly project is no more and no less than that of any Bangladeshi or Ghanaian. And (b) American attempts to laugh away war-crimes charges against the President and his advisers become intellectually groundless. If it is truly the "international community" that gave moral sanction to our war, then that community's tribunals have standing to decide whether our war was conducted decently or criminally.
But whoa! whoa! At that point, the President skulks back to his position as leader of America, not Humanity. Dissent from "supporting our troops" is caricatured as unpatriotic; and the idea of trying an American president for war crimes is offered up to the traditionally contemptuous judgment the American people have for international organizations and tribunals. In effect, the President is hiding behind the principle of sovereign immunity no less brazenly than Gen. Pinochet. Or Slobodan Milosevic, for that matter.
The opportunities for hypocrisy and double-dealing are limitless. Take the huge protests in the Serbian town of Cacak last week. Afterward, Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced, "I suspect there is going to be a level of criticism that will continue to escalate." That's a nudge-nudge, wink-wink reference to the CIA project to destabilize Milosevic that was uncovered by the Washington Times last week. Two thoughts: First, that's a heck of a "dictatorship" that allows 10,000 anti-regime protesters to assemble on a weekday afternoon. Second, how are we serving our stated goal of "stability" in Europe by using the CIA to topple a democratically elected government? (You don't hear much about democracy from the Saviors of Humanity anymore, the way you used to back when we were bringing the democratically elected psychopath Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power in Haiti.) If Milosevic is such a genocidal monster that it was worth killing thousands of civilians to break his hold on Kosovo, then why is that conscienceless wonder Jamie Rubin now wandering the Balkans like some kind of Henry Cabot Lodge de nos jours?and warning the government of Montenegro that they must not break away from Milosevic's Serbia?
Or take the Chinese embassy bombing, an American solo effort in which the NATO allies played no part, and for which the United States has not yet given a satisfactory explanation. (The Chinese embassy was built on an empty lot, and the "old CIA maps" that allegedly made our bombers think there was a strategic building on the site show no building at all there.) The New York Times reports that two of the "journalists" killed inside the embassy were actually spies, and later reports claim the two were helping the Serbians anticipate NATO air attacks. Kosovo triumphalists crow that we've called China's bluff. They shouldn't. True, it looks like Clinton the President of Humanity actually helped "Humankind" by killing those Chinese technicians. But it also looks like Clinton the President of the United States of America has been caught in a very big lie for which we will likely pay a very big price.