HILLARY, WE HARDLY BELIEVED YE!
“And you know what infuriated me is that he’s so
damned pleased with himself. Talk of a cat swallowing a canary.
And d’you know what he said to me when he’d finished?
He looked at me with those innocent eyes of his and said: ‘You know,
Father, I can’t help thinking there was something wrong about the advice
you gave me. You said, don’t gamble; well, I did, and I made a packet;
you said, don’t lend money; well, I did, and I got it back;
and you said, don’t have anything to do with women;
well, I did, and I made six thousand francs on the deal.’”
“Well, Henry, if I were you, I wouldn’t worry,” said the lawyer.
“My belief is that your boy’s born lucky, and in the long run
that’s better than to be born clever or rich.”
W. Somerset Maugham, “The Facts of Life,” from The Mixture as Before, c. 1933.
As you all know, I am a very old man. When Maugham was in his eighties and being lionized as one of England’s most outstanding 20th Century writers, he observed that to be considered the greatest writer of your generation, it is a good idea to try to outlive your contemporaries. So we strive on.
Even at my age, watching Hillary’s testimony for all five hours, before Senate and House Committees, yesterday, I never nodded off even once. Her luckiest moment came when Herr Doktor Senator Rand Paul (R.- Kentucky) averred that had he been President, upon learning that she had not read (or otherwise learned of) requests from our Ambassador to Libya for more security at Benghazi, he would have relieved her of her post. In the tradition of the precept, “physician, heal thyself,” we and the Senate need to know this: If Dr. Paul raised his own medication, would he stop thinking of himself as President of these United States? In his exchange with the fifty-seventh Secretary of State, he exposed not only a lack of graciousness, and grandiosity de trop; but more important to his self-evidenced ambition, he displayed a singular dearth of gravitas.
Still, he had a point. I was incredulous to learn that during the months preceding the massacre at Benghazi (on the anniversary of 9/11!), Mrs. Clinton had never been apprised of the need and application for greater protection for workers at that American outpost in Eastern Libya. Since the days of Richard M. Nixon, I have heard of the concept of “plausible deniability,” but to me this was not it.
Mrs. Clinton’s denial was not plausible because it does not agree with the way things work in the real world. Mrs. Clinton supposedly had a close, personal working relationship with the late Ambassador. Had they never discussed the dangers of roving, heavily armed gangs (upgraded to “militias,” in the lingo of America’s continued imperialist longings) especially in Eastern Libya? Pardon my French, but I must spell this out: would failing to inform Mrs. Clinton of the porous security dangerous to Americans have comported with the universal bureaucratic tenet known as: gird thy donkey (c. y. a.)?
In the world of business, they call a passing on a decision that creates considerable career exposure, “delegating upward.” Inside the Beltway, and especially at “Foggy Bottom,” they say, “that is above my pay grade.” Was it within anyone’s pay grade, beneath the rank of Cabinet Member, to have had in hand the Ambassador’s plea for greater security and to have turned it down, without consulting the nation’s high profile “foreign minister?” I am aware of the fact that the ARB, headed by the former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, cleared Mrs. Clinton; on the other hand, it is also clear that Mrs. Clinton was never personally interviewed – and her testimony before Congress was not under oath.
We then get to the general reputation of Mrs. Clinton for truth telling. The subject may be unsavory, but after all, I am a lawyer. Mrs. Clinton always maintained that until the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, she was unaware of her husband’s extra-marital proclivities. She even wrote a book saying the same thing. Frankly, I didn’t believe her then, and I don’t believe her now. What ties these two occurrences together, it seems to me, one involving her own spouse and the other involving a man she called a dear friend, is a characterological coldness that reinforces her ambition.
However, I am biased. As a New York Senator, Mrs. Clinton voted for the Congressional resolution that authorized George W. Bush to re-invade Iraq. In that regard, she said she never read the classified briefing materials provided by the White House to Members of Congress, which gave at least a few intrepid colleagues a basis for understanding the fragmentary nature (hence, unreliability) of the contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. So they voted “no.” Then Senator Clinton said she had talked to former Clinton Administration officials, but she never revealed who they were. The universal opinion consensus was that she deemed her “yes” vote to be a precondition to looking strong enough to qualify for the Presidential Sweepstakes.
Although that vote ultimately backfired because everyone knew that then State Senator Obama had opposed the Iraq War, Mrs. Clinton, as Secretary of State, has persisted in her view of an imperialist United States, now shifting attention to Africa. Just when the President was making nice to the “peace nicks,” in his Second Inaugural Address, by abjuring perpetual war, along comes Mrs. Clinton to act as a front, once again, for the military-industrial complex and their putative African opportunism.
As I said, I am getting too old for this. But in my capacity as septuagenarian, I must remind you that the remote memory is the last to go. Yes, it is true that I cannot remember what Betty White had for breakfast, yesterday. On the other hand, I do recall how American military adventurism has often commenced with the promise of cooperation and coordination with local armed forces (often not yet existent or untrained and ill-equipped). Then we train them. Then we supplant them. Then we shoulder the burden ourselves. Then we engage American civilians by entering into no-bid contracts (which Mrs. Clinton clearly advocated for the State Department, yesterday), then we begin nation building in places where people have no sense of nationhood and no experience with self-government, then, drained of more hundreds of billions of dollars, the loss of thousands of American lives, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of local civilians, and the strengthening of the very Jihadists we are supposed to be defeating, we grope our way out, infinitely poorer and only infinitesimally wiser. As Bertolt Brecht once observed in another context, “It always begins with reason.”
America: watch out. The man on the white horse whose advent we have all been fearing or anticipating could turn out to be a woman. And what we should really expect is what John Keats (1795-1821) apprehended:
I saw pale kings, and princes, too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate attorney in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.