‘What More Do You Need?’

There’s an anecdote Hillary Clinton tells about the frenzied run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, campaigning with Joe Biden in his swing-state-set hometown. She noticed a woman staring at her—with more intensity than even Hillary Clinton is used to being stared at by members of the public. The woman finally approached her. She’d been staring at Clinton, she explained, out of confusion. “I’d heard you’d gained 130 pounds!”

It was a Kinsley gaffe made not by the politician, but about her: Many people, after all, will believe pretty much anything about the former first lady/senator/secretary of state/presidential candidate. In her, the demands of American celebrity and the dynamics of American politics have mingled to blend into an extremely targeted form of magical thinking. Whatever Hillary Clinton might do, a hefty chunk of people will assume its nefariousness. Whatever she might say, a significant portion of the populace will simply assume she is lying: Lady Macbeth, in the age of alternative facts. Is her marriage a sham? Is she sick with a chronic disease? Did she kill Vince Foster? Is she, just under those perfectly pressed pantsuits, hiding the scales of a reptile?

“I’m a Rorschach test,” Clinton said of herself, during the 2008 presidential primaries, and she was correct. The trouble, for all involved, is that she is also a human, with the moral and emotional freight the designation implies. Clinton may be a vessel for this moment’s internet-fueled iteration of the paranoid style; she feels them, though, those accusations flung in her direction. Once, when Clinton was the first lady, a staffer read aloud from a magazine story that repeated one of the moment’s trendy rumors: that Hillary had had sex with a colleague. Hearing it, the Post’s Marc Fisher reported—or, rather, mishearing it—“Clinton’s eyes filled with tears.” She asked the staffer, “It really says I had sex with a collie?”

Every politician’s story will fuse the mundane and the mythic. Each will involve a strategic blend of fact and fiction. Each will rely on performances that a dubious and tenacious public will attempt to decode. Clinton’s story, however, has involved such things in decidedly disproportionate amounts. It is one more thing that, in this strange American moment, threatens to become unmoored from reality.

This idea, illusion chafing against reality, is one of the themes of What Happened, the new book Clinton

Source:: The Atlantic – Culture

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