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HIGH ON HILLARY As a 2002 GOP candidate for the state legislature, I am not supposed to admit this, but I don’t hate the Clintons. Never have, probably never will. I tend to reserve animosity strong enough to be called hatred for really nasty people. Armed robbers who take lives. Robber barons like Kenneth Lay and Bernie Ebbers who ruin lives. But the Clintons? Nah, I just can’t get exercised over Bill’s libido and Hillary’s ambition. Just garden-variety excesses that have far more impact on the Clintons than on the body politic, despite Ken Starr’s claims to the contrary. With the release of Hillary’s book last week, I have had to hear the expected criticism from my conservative friends about her real motives in writing the book. Real motives? How about a $2.5 million advance against an $8 million book contract? I consider myself a private person, but if Simon & Schuster offered me that kind of dough to reveal my deepest secrets, I’d be faxing my psychiatrist’s report by the end of the day. Except for diehard Clinton fans, I suspect the only real interest most of us have in reading Hillary’s tome is to find out how much she made Bill pay for the Monica thing. And who can blame her? If my spouse were caught fooling around and his transgressions splashed across the front pages of the domestic press, I’d want his paramour to look more like Catherine Zeta-Jones and less like the very ordinary Ms. Lewinsky. Finding out your mate is frolicking in the favors of another would be hard enough to take, but at least one could understand falling for the physical charms of the extraordinary Zeta-Jones. Given a similar situation with Pierce Brosnan as the object of my temptation, I’m not sure I could have resisted, either. But Monica? Think about it: Mick Jagger cavorts with supermodels, but the Leader of the Free World, more handsome and intelligent and by all accounts more charming than Jagger, squanders his political legacy with a young woman that can charitably be called "attractive." Don’t get it, probably never will. But to the point of Senator Clinton’s book and the juicy parts--is Hillary’s account of being awakened by her husband trotting out his tearful truths believable? Could she really not have known? Is their marriage merely an arrangement between two politically ambitious people who need each other? Clinton-haters of course, suggest that every word of her autobiography is carefully chosen to defend herself and her husband, and to redeem their marriage in the eyes of the public with an eye to future elective office. And that the Clintons have no marriage in any but the politically expedient sense. Perhaps so. But I was struck by something as I saw Hillary interviewed with the footage rolling of the Clintons walking to the helicopter in August, 1998. A wife who has made a bargain with her devil of a spouse does not behave as a wounded woman. Her feelings do not compel her to put their child between them so as not to have to touch him. Think Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline in Dave, when she enters the White House beaming and holding her husband’s hand for the benefit of the press, then immediately drops it once out of camera range. Now that’s an arrangement. Would the public have been happier if Hillary had behaved as peevishly as Princess Diana when she discovered that her Prince was charming Camilla? Would Americans have preferred watching a betrayed wife weep on camera while discussing her periods of bulimic self-loathing? When I think of "arrangements" I can think of no connubial contract that meets the criteria better than the one between Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles. It was politics, not love that made her selection as Cinderella possible. Without her bloodline, fecundity and lack of a past, Lady Diana would have been just another minor royal on the roster of Burke’s Peerage. But we excused Diana’s behavior and the self-pitying interviews that ensued because she was prettier and more feminine and less intelligent than Hillary. And that, ultimately is Hillary’s real crime. That she chose catering to her career over catering dinner parties. That she preferred perusing policy papers over paging through Vogue. That she would rather sit at a Cabinet table than stand at the kitchen cabinet. And yet when she stands by her man, she is accused of being calculating. Virginia Slims had a slogan in the seventies: "You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby." But progress apparently accrues to some women but not to others. Martha Stewart, for example, personifies ambition but couldn’t hold a marriage together yet she is lionized because she can whip up a batch of pastry cream. Hillary, on the other hand, no more or less ambitious than the doyenne of domesticity, decided for better or worse to honor her vows but is villified because she is more familiar with a balance sheet than a cookie sheet. Enjoy the eight million, Hillary and to hell with your critics--let ‘em eat torte.

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