After reading an excerpt from our new book "Whitewash" at National Review Online, the Hillary lovers are fighting back. In his "Horse's Mouth" blog at Talking Points Memo, liberal blogger Greg Sargent accuses us of "amusing mendacity" for taking former Time reporter (and gushing Hillary fan) Margaret Carlson out of context. We wrote in the book (and the NRO excerpt):
They have shamelessly served as cheerleaders for Mrs. Clinton from the moment she emerged on the national scene in 1992, with Time’s Margaret Carlson describing her as "an amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa, and Oliver Wendell Holmes."
Sargent asserted: "Wow -- did Margaret Carlson really describe Hillary in such gushing and cringe-worthy terms? Well, no, as it turns out. No, she didn't. The original article Carlson wrote is still online," and he used a larger quote:
Friends of Hillary Clinton would have you believe she is an amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa and Oliver Wendell Holmes. She gets up before dawn, even on weekends, and before her first cup of coffee discusses educational reform. She then hops into her fuel-efficient car with her perfectly behaved daughter for a day of good works.
Fortunately, Hillary Clinton, the latest wife to be challenged to fit perfectly into the ill-defined role of political spouse, is more interesting than that.
This leads Sargent to boast: "As you can see, Carlson was actually mocking Hillary supporters for presenting her in such glowing terms. But Bozell and Graham cheerfully told National Review's readers that Carlson herself had presented her in these terms. Even more amusingly, they held this up as proof of the media's liberal bias. I know, I know, this is just garden variety wingnut mendacity. Standard fare. Low-hanging fruit. Still, it was definitely worth a quick laugh."
Before we even address the entirety of the article, let’s just address the two paragraphs in question. Margaret didn’t quote some friend asserting Hillary was a saint of the Calcutta slums, a mythical cake-baking icon, and a historic jurist. She wrote that herself. As we wrote, she described Hillary that way, and we think it's emblematic of the pro-Hillary media goo. Was it a toasted marshmallow of a literary flourish striking the note that her friends are intensely loyal to Hillary and brag on her? Yes. The "Friends say" in Hillary stories are always gushing, ridiculously positive. (Would Hillary the control freak assign them to talk to reporters if they did otherwise?) But Margaret then says Hillary is "more interesting" than merely being a perfect wife, mother, lawyer, and lover of the downtrodden. Margaret's protesting that it's unfair that everyone expects candidate spouses to fit some male-chauvinist mold. Isn’t that text in isolation an awfully positive introduction to the country for Hillary?
Let’s put aside for a moment the point that Hillary doesn’t come anywhere close to Betty Crocker (she wouldn’t be caught dead making Bill’s dinner every night, when there are servants for that), or that she may think she loves the poor like Mother Teresa did, but Mother Teresa wasn’t a fan of the abortion industry, and Mother Teresa never made a mysterious 100 grand in a month on the cattle-futures market. Sargent’s point actually evaporates as you read on. Let’s pick up precisely where Sargent left off in the Carlson article, and see if anyone thinks this isn’t a cheerleading article:
At her home, Christmas Eve dinner for longtime friends and family was more potluck than Bon Appetit: it consisted of chili and black beans supplemented by leftovers from an official dinner. She plays pinochle and Pictionary with such vigor that friends have to remind her they're only games. She succumbs to yuppie overdoting on her daughter, 11. "There is Chelsea standing on a chair singing Angels We Have Heard on High at the top of her voice, and Hillary runs for a camera," says a friend, Diane Blair, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas.
The former Hillary Rodham grew up in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb, where her father owned a textile company. She earned every Girl Scout badge, pulled a wagonful of sports equipment to her job at the park every summer, was elected president of her high school class and earned so many honors that her parents recall "being slightly uncomfortable at her graduation." She organized circuses and amateur sports tournaments to raise money for migrant workers. "Mothers in the neighborhood were amazed at how they couldn't get their boys to do much, but Hillary had them all running around," says her mother.
By now, it's become clear that Margaret sounds exactly like the "gushing and cringe-worthy" Hillary friends that get sent out to spin the media. She never needed to be spun. After the obligatory official Clintons-meet-cute, Bill-talks-to-her-about-Arkansas-watermelons story – Carlson resumed the cotton candy-making as Hillary left Washington after working to impeach Nixon:
When that job ended in 1974, she decided to see whether she could adjust to life in flyover country. Like Doc Hollywood, she discovered small-town life was O.K.: "I liked people tapping me on the shoulder at the grocery store and saying, 'Aren't you that lady professor at the law school?' " She and Clinton got married in 1975, and Hillary kept her maiden name. But Clinton lost a bid for a second term as Governor, in part because voters resented a feminist living at the Governor's mansion yet refusing to use his name. "I gave it up," she says. "It meant more to them than it did to me." [Which is why she picked the "Rodham" right back up at Bill's inauguration?]
She hasn't given up much else, demonstrating that while men put together careers, women put together lives. "I am pursuing the goals I always envisioned, perhaps with more success here," she says. Twice named one of the top 100 lawyers in the U.S. by the National Law Journal, Hillary Clinton is now a top-dollar litigator at the old-line Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, earning about three times her husband's $35,000 salary. She serves on 17 civic and corporate boards, hardly ever missing a softball game or school play.
And it ended with a plea for everyone to just ignore Gennifer Flowers, since the Clinton marriage is too loving and yet mysterious for anyone to judge:
With her marriage being held up to the light for cracks, Hillary Clinton wonders how much of her intimate life a political spouse has to offer up. "My marriage is solid, full of love and friendship," she says, "but it's too profound to talk about glibly." In recent years, political reporters have come to think themselves as qualified to analyze a marriage as they are to sort out the deficit. But of course a marriage is infinitely more complicated. "Maybe this time the candidate and the press will get it right," Hillary says. "The public can learn enough to know whether a candidate is a decent person without having to pick you apart so much that there is nothing left at the end."
If Greg Sargent thinks after all this that Margaret Carlson’s intent in this article was to mock Hillary and her friends, or that using one-sentence shorthand for this gooey article is out of context, then he should try reading everything Margaret wrote on Hillary for Time magazine in those early years. Perhaps he should read our whole "Whitewash" book. Or call Margaret up and ask her if she felt like Hillary was her feminist "mascot." That’s what she said. That’s also in the book. "Mendacity" it is not.