Maureen Dowd : “Big Dog” Bill Is “7-Diamond Influence Peddler”

Monday, April 14, 2008

The boys are holding her back.  And the worst part is, they’re her own boys.  Fresh from pushing the preposterous Mark Penn to the rear of her leaky boat, Hillary has to deal with Bill making waves again.  He spent the week taking the fun out of dysfunction, putting the “I” in id, and getting flaky just when Hillary has to be flawless.  In a mystifying burst of nuttiness, right in time for the Sunday talk shows, Bill twice dredged up Hillary’s rococo story about sniper fire in Bosnia.  He defended his wife on confusing her facts by confusing his facts — a disconcerting reminder about what climbing back on a presidency-built-for-two would be like…..He’s absolutely crazed, and not just because he feels that he never got the sort of incandescent press coverage that Obama gets — except maybe when he and Al Gore were on that bus, hailed as “Heartthrobs of the Heartland.”  Bill is also crazed about the ineluctable fact that he isn’t Obama.  “He can’t compute that he’s not the new kid on the block,” said a former Clinton adviser.  “It’s about his mortality — and immortality.  He needs her to win because if she doesn’t become president, he goes down as a minor president.  If she wins, it’s the Adamses and the Roosevelts and the Clintons.”  But he knows it’s going down the drain, and that Obama is the hot new thing and they’re the establishment retreads…..Bill’s horse whisperer, Doug Sosnik, a former White House aide who was dispatched to keep him calm and play Hearts and Oh Hell with him, has been out of the country recently.  His other personable aide, Matt McKenna, left to manage Hillary’s Montana campaign.  The Big Dog was unguarded.  Hillary started telling her tall tale about Bosnia as early as January and continued until her Iraq speech on March 17 at George Washington University.  Bill mistakenly asserted that she had told the story only once, at 11 p.m. when she was tired, and “immediately” admitted her mistake.  “And, oh, they acted like she was practically Mata Hari, you know? Just making up all this stuff,” he said, adding: “And you would’ve thought, you know, that she’d robbed a bank the way they all carried on about this.”  Given her 3 a.m. ads — (that has got to be her hedge fund manager on the phone) — it was not very flattering for Bill to rant on and suggest that her 60-year-old brain was fuzzy…..

Just as Mark Penn got Hillary into trouble with a conflict of interest on the Colombia free trade agreement, so did her husband.  “In the trade deal, your husband received $800,000 for four speaking engagements essentially for the trade deal or by a group that supports the trade deal,” a reporter said to Hillary in Pennsylvania.  “You’ve given your money to your campaign. Is that a conflict of interest?”  Hillary responded with that mirthless don’t-go-there laugh.  “I mean,” she said dismissively, “and how many angels dance on the head of a pin?”  But the dubious deals of her husband, a seven-diamond influence peddler, do provide an unsavory contrast with some of the candidate’s positions.  The larger point of last week’s imbroglio about Bosnia is that Hillary’s stretcher offers an interesting insight into her thinking.  After the health care disaster, she retreated into traditional first lady duties, teas and hospital openings, traveling around the world on good-will missions…..But after she got knocked back as co-president, Hillary felt trapped in the East Wing, ineffectual and marginalized, which is probably why she felt the need to retroactively add some heft to her travelogue in Bosnia and Ireland.  You can’t go from being a self-loathing first lady to self-aggrandizing about being first lady.

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