Reading Somerby's latest dissection of the work of Creeping Dowdie Amy Chozick sparks an epiphany. The real target of the decades-long sleazefest directed at Bill Clinton's alleged sexcapades has not been Bill, but Hillary.
Of course, the accurately described Vast Right-wing Conspiracy wanted to damage his presidency. Of course, it wanted to damage him. But the reality was and is that accusations of an active sex drive don't hurt male celebrities, even if they're married. As Bill's consistently high poll numbers showed, the vast majority of people didn't care if he was a Big Dawg. If anything, they liked it.
What many also liked, however, was the spectacle of Hillary the Humiliated. That was the secret sauce, the beating heart of this soap opera's endless run. If you injected the audience for this crap with truth serum, what you'd hear is that their dearest wish has been to see the bitch taken down a whole bunch of pegs. You see this even today, in critiques of her as "cold" and "superior," vs. his galactic charm.
The hatred for Hillary was always deeper and more visceral than whatever hatred there was for Bill. In fact, it's kind of equal-and-opposite. The more fun he is, the more disgusting she. I mean, what about her sexuality? World's biggest lesbo, right? Wish we could see those videos!
And this misogyny is, now as ever, widely distributed across the political spectrum. It's certainly present on the front and op-ed pages of the NY Times. I think Sally Quinn's shrink could probably tell us, if doctor-patient privilege were waived, that the oft-brooted "Bubba resentment" was really a euphemism for fear and loathing of Hillary. "These aren't our crowd" was really saying "Who does she think she is?"
When Hillary teared up in New Hampshire in 2008, all of this was behind it. This entire, tragic, fraught complex of personal, emotional, political realities -- which she has fought her way through for 40 years -- hit her. She saw no escape from it -- either in public (the campaign where she was supposed to look tough and leaderly) or at home (where not only the infidelity, but the Chris Matthews/Keith Olbermann/Drudge/et al. horror-movie delight in her humiliation found their source). In that moment, she was spontaneously turning to the women having lunch with her, total strangers, and crying out her pain and exhaustion. And lo and behold, they heard her, and loved her. As did the women of America.
She took enormous strength from that, strapped back on her battle gear, and headed back into the fray. She discovered that she could be who she really is in public in a way she never could in private, and would be embraced, protected, loved. That moment carried her through the '08 campaign, and had the DNC, Howard Dean and Donna Brazile not put their finger on the scale, she would have been president for the past eight years.
But they did, and she wasn't. And understandably, when the cameras were turned off on that drama, she didn't stick with that moment-after self. She went back to her long-established comfort zone of wonkery and toughness and intellect. Equally understandably, she hasn't opened herself up emotionally since -- because she hasn't had to. I doubt this campaign will require her to.
Still, she knows. In her heart, she knows which demons were really in the studio control room for this show all these years. It's not just the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy. It's the Vast Sexist Leer-acy. They still want to take her down a peg. They're still itching for that porno snuff film.
When Hillary Clinton is sworn in as President -- 364 days from today -- the surge of feeling will not only be joy and liberation, but deep schaudenfreude. And, of course, the soap opera will be renewed for another season.