Skip to comments.Why the clintons would have failed utterly even if they weren't opportunistic rapist thugs
Posted on 05/28/2003 8:40:58 AM PDT by Mia T
And why the missus deserves no less than half the credit
Achieving leadership in any area demands the ability to reach good decisions promptly. What is the essence of success on the battlefield? It is to make instant decisions on the basis of best available information, then act on that decision. And be right about that decision, because lives are on the line and will be lost if you are wrong.
Congressman Billybob Sez: Memorial Day 2033
Can the President Think? (SELECTED EXCERPTS)
By Edith Efron
Writing a decade and a half apart, both tell us in unmistakable terms that the South has thrown up yet another of its emotionally gifted demagogues--those eloquent politicians who intuitively exploit the hopes and fears of mobs, who win their love and legitimize their hatreds. The new eloquent southerner--his style adapted to the small screen, his charged emotions unfailingly politically correct--is sitting in the White House.
In Shadows of Hope, Sam Smith gives his reasons for doubting Clinton's sincerity: "Clinton often seems a political Don Juan, whose serial affairs with economic and social programs share only the transitory passion he exhibits on their behalf."
Smith is right. The programs, the "issues," are America's obligatory means of political courtship. But for a Sun King, these are means to his end. And his only real end is seduction. That is what Clinton stands for.
Sam Smith's language tells the reader that he is aware of this. Newsweek's Joe Klein, in "The Politics of Promiscuity," (May 9, 1994) seems for an instant to have suspected it. Christopher Hitchens of The Nation has been in a cold rage about it. These men have strikingly different political views. The realization that Clinton is most fundamentally a political seduction machine is not dependent on ideology but on sensibility, and on the intelligence to look past his liberal-altruistic language and to question Clinton's personal values.
Finally, also raising questions about Clinton's psychology are the pillars of establishment journalism and the academic students of the presidency. These are extremely intelligent and judicious people who acknowledge no signs of a Sun King's presence and who judge Clinton by the standards set by the great American presidents. They are concerned with psychological issues pertaining to Clinton's mind, above all to his cognitive competence.
On June 7, 1994, Bob Woodward was interviewed on C-SPAN about The Agenda. The discussion moved to Hillary Clinton, and Woodward said in emphatic tones, "I'd go so far as to say she's a part of Bill Clinton's brain."
That is both the most extreme and the most accurate description of Hillary Clinton that anyone has yet offered. It is the only reason for which Hillary Clinton is a significant American figure. She has been flattered by the feminist movement, which, like New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, imagines her to have a "great mind." She has been abused by certain conservatives who, like Richard Nixon, believe that such an intelligent, self-assertive woman turns her husband into a "wimp." Both those characterizations miss the mark. Hillary is a bright woman lawyer of the kind one sees by the dozens on CNN and C-SPAN, only they have earned their positions while she has married hers. Her actual importance lies in one realm alone. She is known to be a prop to her husband's mind, and her husband is president of the United States.
To an inordinate degree Hillary Clinton thinks for Bill Clinton.
Specifically, she is Bill Clinton's access to the laws of logic, without which no thinking is possible. Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic has discussed Clinton's blindness to logic on a number of occasions. On February 1, 1993, he wrote, "The most disturbing quality about Clinton "is his indifference to contradiction. Not excluding the political middle by not excluding the logical middle, that appears to be Clinton's strategy. And so he can hold in his mind simultaneously, and sincerely, notions that cannot really be held together." And, again in the July 19-26, 1993 issue: "He lives without the law of contradiction."
Hillary Clinton provides Clinton with certain narrow logical skills of which he is singularly bereft. This does not imply that she is Aristotle, any more than a seeing-eye dog is a cartographer. It implies only that as compared to Clinton, the blazing Bubba, Mrs. Clinton is on speaking terms with logic, and he cannot function without her.
Some White House reporters have gradually discovered this dependence. Initially they saw Hillary as a helpful adjunct to presidential decision making. Just after the election, Eleanor Clift and Mark Miller said in Newsweek, "Hillary is Bill's Daytimer, the gentle lash who keeps him focused, who doesn't mind making decisions and refereeing disputes when Clinton would rather stall." This description is a bit too soft. Take out the "gentle" and the "doesn't mind," and you have a clearer picture of a Hillary who keeps Bill's mind focused, who makes his decisions, and who resolves his conflicts.
Six months later, in late June 1993, at the peak of the Clintons' bizarre succession of political catastrophes, Eleanor Clift returned to Hillary to answer the question, "Has health care kept her from helping Bill?" Clift's answer was an unequivocal yes: "[Many staffers] blame Clinton's inability to make up his mind on any number of issues--from Bosnia to the BTU tax--on Hillary's distance from the Oval Office. Clinton's decision to delegate health care to his wife disrupted the delicate balance between the couple. Because Hillary has a real job, she cannot devote the time she once did to her husband's problems. And he has suffered as a result."
And nine months later, in March 1994 as the sex and money scandals were exploding over the Clintons' heads.... Gibbs cited people close to the Clintons as the source for a crisp description of the essence of Bill Clinton's dependency on Hillary....
That is undoubtedly true. But it cannot be the whole truth. One can readily purchase brains, logic, and focus in the marketplace. One does not have to marry them. For Clinton, a wife with brains, logic, and focus serves a deeper need. In a particular and important way, Bill Clinton is cognitively disabled.
There is nothing obvious about that disability, although its superficial manifestations strike many people immediately: If one concentrates on what Clinton says, not on his facial expressions and the motions of his poetic hands, one discovers that he is a phenomenal bore. He is so monumentally boring that thoughtful people feel compelled to discuss it.
That is the clue to Clinton's cognitive disability. There is only one thing that will produce this detail-saturated effect, enlivened by no thinking or creative impulse, and that is the memorization one frantically engages in before an exam if one is the bright kind who studies for As.
Is Clinton a memorizer? Yes, indeed he is. And a very unusual one, the type who could get a job in the circus as a Hans the Talking Horse. He has a photographic memory, and witnesses to that skill come from every period of his life....
But this skill is more than a complicated parlor trick. It has played an important role in Clinton's intellectual life. Clinton has always been extremely bright, a good student and a voracious reader. But his memory has greatly supplemented, amplified, and very often substituted for an intellectual life. His memory is a theme that runs throughout people's conversations about him....
Finally, Charles Allen and Jonathan Portis in The Comeback Kid describe the Clinton of the presidential campaign: "Clinton became known as a 'policy wonk,' a politician who could spout data and statistics nonstop, a man with a quick answer for every question. Members of the national press were amazed at his ability to formulate answers to complicated questions, seemingly without thinking."
It is not "seemingly" without thinking. Very often, it is actually without thinking. Clinton can memorize as he breathes. But he finds thinking--analysis, evaluation, reaching conclusions--intensely difficult.
And that is the essence of Bill Clinton's cognitive disability, and the reason for his dependence on his wife.
In The Agenda, Woodward shows that dependence in action. ...
It is true that Hillary Clinton helps Bill Clinton in his presidential decision-making process. It is true that he needs her brains, her logic, and her focus. But any formulation that makes her sound like hired help fails to reckon with the frequency with which Clinton is incapacitated. Hillary Clinton compensates for that helpless state. She is to Clinton's mind what a pacemaker is to a heart. She is, as Woodward says, a part of Bill Clinton's brain. And she has been so for every millisecond of his political life.
THE FIRST CONFLICT
For some 15 years Clinton has been saying, over and over again, to people who have repeated it over and over again, that his problem is that he does "too much, too fast." Simultaneously, he has been ceaselessly reported to be an astoundingly slow worker who takes months to make a decision. Both cannot be true. And both are not true. ...
A small part of Clinton's incoherent description pertains to his doing "too much, too fast." The rest, if one strips away the murky verbiage, is an earnest description of Clinton's difficulty in thinking. His mind races, ideas rush in on him with great speed; he fails to distinguish between having an idea and taking an action, between thinking and doing; he gets lost in details, so he cannot retain his abstract purposes; and he has great difficulty in reaching conclusions or making decisions. He even avoids using such terms: He talks of "cutting it" or of "working things out." This is not the analysis of a thinker or of one who thinks about thinking. It is the Clinton subconscious blurting out his difficulties as he experiences them from within.
Woodward's Agenda--this book is to date the greatest psychological study of Bill Clinton--portrays Clinton's helpless, conflicted muddle over and over again. But in one part, there is a short, efficient description. Political consultant Stan Greenberg traveled to Arkansas to meet the young governor who might seek the Democratic party's nomination for president. He found Clinton torn by conflict over announcing his candidacy:
"[Clinton] set August as a personal deadline for a final decision, but the deadline slipped ... He appeared locked in a perpetual debate and argument with himself and with dozens of friends and advisors. His thinking never seemed to go in a straight line. He was unable to bring his deliberations to any resolution. Greenberg was horrified at the process. It bordered on chaos."
Greenberg is clearly describing from the outside what Bill Clinton described to Arsenio Hall from the inside....
Clinton's mind races perpetually while it simultaneously maneuvers itself into a catatonic motionlessness.
"Too Much, Too Fast"
Right after he was elected governor for the first time and before he had even moved into his office, says Oakley, Clinton made a curious pledge to the electorate. It was reported by the Associated Press and she summarizes it as follows: "He said he planned to take a judicious approach to governing and to try not to do everything at once."
Neither the AP nor Oakley thought to ask Clinton why the impossible notion of doing everything at once had even occurred to him and why he would "try" not to do this impossible thing. Would the impossible thing happen anyway if he did not "try"?
.... But the primary purpose of the enormous agenda was to create the illusion of immense achievement through nonstop activity. Clinton scheduled matters, says Oakley, so that he could launch one initiative a week and keep his name in the headlines. Many, if not most, of those achievements never materialized....
And there began the regime of Clinton I, which was for many months thereafter to lurch around in drunken confusion, because the man who could do everything at once and could know everything at once had just arrived from a tiny, almost-feudal state that he could govern with a Rolodex of 100 names, and had no idea what it meant to be president of the United States of America.
Any idea that a human being feels compelled to repeat robotically for at least 15 years means something important to that person. But what "too much, too fast" means is not what Clinton says it means. And there is no evidence that he knows what it means. It is clearly a defense of some kind. But a defense against what?
It may become clearer if we turn now to the Clinton who cannot resolve conflicts, the Clinton who is blocked, the Clinton who gets paralyzed while trying to think. What the racing, speeding Clinton cannot tell us, perhaps the paralyzed Clinton will.
"I Can't Move"
The Clinton who "can't move" is, of course, Clinton the potential Democratic party nominee who revealed to political consultant Stan Greenberg that he couldn't "think in a straight line," and couldn't resolve conflicts or reach conclusions. It is Clinton the presidential candidate who told Arsenio Hall that he had these strange thinking problems he was "working on"--that he often couldn't "see the forest for the trees"; that he often didn't know when to "cut it" and when to go on trying to "work things out"; and who revealed to Arsenio that he didn't differentiate between thinking, saying, and doing "things."
Why there was no uproar among American journalists after Clinton's confession to Arsenio Hall, I do not know, since I personally fell off the couch when I heard it. But it is only fair to say that it was difficult to understand on the fly. Clinton's use of language reveals a determination to conceal the operations of his mind in a cloud of squid ink. By his fifth month in office, however, there was widespread awareness that something was the matter with Clinton's decision-making process. The New York Times developed a fixation on his lack of "focus." Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham, who counts things that annoy him, reported that in the month of May the words Clinton and focus appeared in The New York Times 102 times.
In the May 31, 1993 issue, The New Republic published an analysis of Clinton's decision making. The editors were trying to account for Clinton's paralysis and, interestingly, contradicted Clinton's claim that it was due to "too much, too fast":
"The incorrigible Eugene McCarthy put it best, in a recent trip to these offices. The Clinton administration is turning out to be all gerunds; there are no nouns or verbs. Everything is process: happening, formulating, consulting, negotiating, evolving ... [T]he only moment when the president actually seemed to do something that had a beginning, a middle, and an end was his signing of the executive orders liberalizing abortion. And what a long time ago that seems ...
"It is not that he has tried to do too much, as he [has] somewhat lamely claimed. Far from it ... It is that he has failed to find a distinction between constructing a policy and implementing it. It is one long, seamless process of negotiation--intellectual and political--in which there seems to be no firm stopping place."
The New Republic had discovered that Clinton could not distinguish between thinking and doing and could not resolve his deliberations.
It was not, however, until one year later, in the publications I read regularly, that someone almost reached Stan Greenberg's horrifying conclusion. On May 17, 1994, Richard Cohen wrote in The Washington Post that Clinton left "the unmistakable impression of a president who cannot state a goal and then simply march to it." Cohen was still a bit unsure of his own discovery that Clinton could not think purposefully.
In the year in between, journalists zeroed in on Clinton's inability to reach a final decision--his last-minute "flip-flopping."
* In early June, Clinton again felt impelled to defend himself from the charge of indecisiveness. But this time he got someone else to do it for him. Who better than legal counselor Lloyd Cutler? So there was Cutler, who had been privately "exasperated" by Clinton's indecisiveness, explaining publicly in a long op-ed piece in The Washington Post that the president had not been indecisive at all, that, on the contrary, he had been wonderfully decisive.
And again a whole raft of foreign-policy issues provoked the same press charges of Clinton's indecisiveness: Bosnia had turned into Somalia had turned into Haiti, with Clinton changing his mind every hour on the hour.
Now the national press, too, realized that it was deja vu all over again.
In June 1994, Woodward's Agenda appeared with a shocking passage in it. Leon Panetta, writes Woodward, had been told by campaign aides that Clinton was "deadly slow to make decisions." And then George Stephanopoulos told Panetta something far more troubling: "The worst thing about him," said Stephanopoulos, "is that he never makes a decision." Never? There it sits on page 86 of The Agenda. Never.
Finally, in July 1994, Michael Kelly in The New York Times Magazine wrote: "[I]t is no longer surprising to hear the president spoken of with open and dismissive contempt. In mainstream journalism, and even more so in popular entertainment, President Clinton is routinely depicted in the most unflattering terms: a liar, a fraud, a chronically indecisive man ... "
So why am I telling you what you already know? Because you don't already know it. You know a concept, "indecisive." And you know a false implication, that indecisiveness is a self-contained phenomenon, that it is like an epileptic seizure--a powerful but limited mental event which suddenly knocks Clinton out at the end of the decision-making process. But it doesn't start at the end, it starts at the beginning. And it is not a decision-making process, it is a decision-killing process. It has six component parts. At one time or another every one of them has been described, but only Woodward has integrated most of them, and that was not his primary purpose. I'll list them, elaborating on components described only by Woodward:
1. Clinton possesses a perfectionism that interferes with the completion of his projects because his standards are never met. ...
2. Clinton is preoccupied with details to the extent that the major point of his activity is lost. This is precisely what Clinton means when he says he often can't "see the forest for the trees." ....
So long as reporters admired Clinton's grasp of details, so long as they described him as "loving" the details, they did not recognize that his preoccupation with details is an epistemologically morbid attribute and assumed that the paralysis comes later on. But it is often, perhaps always, at the very beginning of a project that Clinton loses contact with his abstract purpose.
Of the writers I have read, only Woodward seems to understand clearly that Clinton cannot hold on to the connections between his abstract purposes and the concrete details which are his daily preoccupation. ...
3. Clinton is unable to set priorities among his projects. ... Asked Princeton scholar Fred Greenstein in Political Science Quarterly, "Why does an intelligent, politically aware leader who knows in his heart that he should 'focus like a laser' begin his presidency in a fashion more reminiscent of a cluster bomb?" Or, as Judy Woodruff put it anxiously to Vice President Al Gore, "Why can't he prioritize?"
This is actually the same problem as the one above but writ large. To know one's priorities, one must know their relationship to one's abstract and overarching purposes. ...
But Clinton, Woodward shows, did not know how to emerge from his concrete-bounded world to establish those priorities and goals for his administration or how to focus his thinking on them. Once again Woodward describes a dramatic and terrible moment. After the political consultants gave their analyses in turn to Clinton, the president erupted. "'I know what's wrong!' Clinton finally screamed. 'Give me a strategy.'" He wanted an outline, a plan with instructions: one, two, three. The consultants, Woodward says, continued to talk about "abstract themes, communications, values and ideas." Clinton kept snapping angrily that all he was getting from them was "analysis." What he wanted was a "strategy," a "plan." Says Woodward, "Clinton wanted something concrete."
It is a remarkable fact that the political consultants to President Clinton think far more abstractly than he does and can easily explain his priorities to him. ...
4. Clinton's decision making is avoided, postponed, or protracted. ..."
5. Clinton's time is poorly allocated: The most important tasks are left to the last moment. You have surely read two dozen descriptions of Clinton's wild last-minute rush to decision and action when the clock or the calendar will tolerate no delay....
6. Clinton insists that others submit to exactly his way of doing things, and is reluctant to allow others to do things because of the conviction they will not do them correctly. In the first month of Clinton's administration, the press learned that Clinton refused to delegate authority. David Broder analyzed Clinton's first appointments and quoted "Clinton insiders" who observed, delicately, that the choices revealed "Clinton's intent to keep the policy reins firmly in his own hands."
And Al Hunt in The Wall Street Journal observed that "the White House, taking its cue from its leader, is a managerial nightmare." Hunt further reported: "One of the smartest Democratic hands in this city is appalled by the president's style. 'He lacks any discipline, he hates planning or strategic thinking, and he doesn't want to be surrounded by bright, independent-thinking people.'"
Clinton's refusal to delegate authority is the final component in his paralysis. By distrusting others to live up to his standards, by insisting on holding on to all power, he turns his own disordered and exhausted consciousness into a bottleneck through which all decisions must pass--and he does this even as he flees constantly from the burden of making decisions. His mind is like a Rube Goldberg machine set to throttle itself.
It is unsurprising that Clinton desperately needs Hillary's "brains, logic, and focus." He is too damaged to function without an epistemological crutch. And it is unsurprising that, while she was preoccupied with her health-care project, Clinton had another epistemological crutch with him all day long: George Stephanopoulos. In a Time article, April 4, 1994, Stephanopoulos's function as an epistemological support system to Clinton was clearly described. Writer David Van Biema quoted Kiki Moore, a former aide to Clinton, as saying, "George has an innate knowledge of the president's thought process." And Van Biema reported that Stephanopoulos was the president's "policy body man" who hovered near the president all day, "providing continuity and calculating each issue's relative importance."
This interesting job consisted of providing Clinton with the logical integrations he cannot perform and with the priorities he cannot identify.
...Dee Dee Myers, who said of Stephanopoulos, "He's the place where all things come together. He is the one person "who doesn't lose the forest for the trees."
Clinton's cognitive paralysis does not exist in a void. It exists in a context, and it is not static. It affects others, it affects Clinton himself, and ultimately it affects his presidency. ...
There are actually two islands of order suspended in the primordial Clinton mess: the self-contained universes of Vice President Gore and of the first lady. In a foray into comparative epistemology, Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek (September 13, 1993) that where Clinton runs a meeting "throwing out ideas and endlessly circling the subject," Gore is linear. Linear, of course, is the post-Marshall McLuhan word for purposeful, logical thinking. Gore is intellectually organized, says Clift; he is "focused," and so is his operation.
The other island of order is Mrs. Clinton's. She has a bigger staff than does the vice president, and it is the very model of efficient organization. In Time (March 21, 1994), Nancy Gibbs transmits a description of Hillary's work universe from Ann Wexler, a career Democrat who was a "senior officer" in the Carter White House. Said Wexler: "[Hillary's] operation is the most organized, the most focused, the most coordinated, and the most disciplined in the White House."
Gibbs says two other significant things:
* Mrs. Clinton moves throughout the various activities of the Clinton White House at will: "Hillary functions in the White House rather like the queen on a chess board. Her power comes from her unrestricted movements."
* And conversely, Clinton and his staff always consult Hillary. Staffers "chart her moves and interests with as much care as his. Few were hired without an audience with her; when the President has a question about almost any sensitive issue that arises the refrain is the same: 'Run this past Hillary.'"
Time is supplementing Greenfield's analysis. In Time, the brain and the central nervous system of the White House is not exactly the brain of an idiot. It is the brain of Hillary Clinton, which she shares with her cognitively crippled, acutely dependent husband. As Woodward put it, she is part of Clinton's brain. As Woodward didn't put it, this does not add up to one single, decently functioning mind.
By contrast, Clinton's defenses against pain and suffering are almost universally observed. Because all are tied to, if not solely caused by, his cognitive deficiencies, and because they have had dreadful effects on his presidency, I'll list three of them. You know them already:
* Clinton values work and productivity, but only as a means to status and power. By his own say-so, he has valued nothing more than status and power since he was young. He is always aware of his relative status in power relationships. And he is extremely sensitive to criticism, especially if it comes from people with high status and power. His record of "caving" under pressure, of betraying both principles and people, is due most fundamentally to his lack of confidence in his own mind. In the face of an array of power, he capitulates. He has betrayed every significant group in the Democratic party and numerous friends to win favor with their enemies. The loyalty he commands from his natural political allies is paper thin.
* Clinton's mind is out of control. He has an unusually strong need to be in control of factors outside of him. When he is unable to control others, he grows angry, although the anger is usually not expressed directly. His entire relationship with the national press has been a covert battle for control, and it has been far more intense than you may know. See Tom Rosenstiel's Strange Bedfellows for a shocking report on the spying by the Clinton campaign on the national press during the presidential campaign.
* Clinton's perfectionist demands, which delay and inhibit his decision making, are due in great part, as Lloyd Bentsen says so diplomatically, to his intellectual "doubt." Clinton is inordinately afraid of making mistakes. He is in so far over his head, over his capacity to do the work required for the presidency, that he exists in a state of terror. It apparently builds up in the night, and, according to Woodward, the next morning he vomits out the accumulated terror all over George Stephanopoulos in the form of uncontrolled explosions of rage. Clinton's eyes bulge, his face grows scarlet, he yells, he screams, he shrieks. While Clinton is quite capable of controlling this rage and conceals it from the public--it has only been glimpsed by accident and briefly--he does not control it in private. According to Meg Greenfield, he takes his rage out on vulnerable members of his family and on employees--on those over whom he has power.
Stand back and look at all these defenses against pain and fear: Clinton is traitorous. Clinton is a devious manipulator. Clinton grovels before the powerful. Clinton bullies the weak.
There is only one Clinton defense mentioned so far that does not fit this pattern. It is the mysterious one--the strange robotic repetition of "I do too much, too fast," that broken record that Clinton plays in all ears, especially when public approval drops and when important people criticize him.
Do we have a better idea now of what this half-boast, half-lament might mean? We are certainly in a better position to speculate. Clinton, to repeat, prizes work and productivity, almost to the exclusion of pleasure and interpersonal relationships. He knows they are the crucial means to his end: status and power. But the subject of productivity fills him with dread, because he is cognitively paralyzed. When he recites monotonously that he tries "to do too much, too fast," or that he sometimes "works hard but not smart," he is actually saying, "I am very intelligent. I work terribly hard. I am not slow, I am fast. I think and I work with great speed." It seems painfully clear that with those words Clinton is denying his cognitive paralysis and is asserting his self-worth.
In a New York Times Magazine article (March 8, 1992), ...Clinton told Applebome that his principal discovery about human relationships was this: "I finally realized how my compulsive and obsessive ambition got in the way."
All of Clinton's thinking problems and emotional defenses described in this article are symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder as identified by the American Psychiatric Association. (See Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition revised, pages 354-356.) In fact, I have used their words to introduce each psychological trait and I have italicized them to call them to your attention. You will recognize them from my text.
The diagnostic literature says that at least five of the criteria of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder must be present to identify someone as suffering from this disorder. Here are five that describe Clinton:
1. Perfectionism that interferes with task completion, e.g. inability to complete a project because [the person's] own overly strict standards are not met.
2. Preoccupation with details...to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
3. Unreasonable reluctance to allow others to do things because of a conviction that they will not do them correctly.
4. Excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships.
5. Indecisiveness: decision making is either avoided, postponed, or protracted, e.g. the person cannot get assignments done on time because of ruminating about priorities.
1. No matter how good an accomplishment is, the person does not feel it "good enough."
2. The person allocates time poorly; the most important tasks are left to the last moment.
3. The person usually keeps postponing the pleasurable activity, such as a vacation, so that it may never occur.
4. The person may avoid or postpone decision making because of an inordinate fear of making a mistake.
5. The person may experience considerable distress because of the indecisiveness.
6. The person has an unusually strong need to be in control. When unable to control others, he often ruminates and becomes angry.
7. The person is often extremely sensitive to social criticism, especially if it comes from someone with considerable status or authority.
These psychological classifications are not fixed. Their boundaries are not absolutes. But they are not tone poems or impressionist paintings either. What journalists have been observing about Clinton for two years, what Clinton calls "my compulsive and obsessive ambition," conforms strikingly to the clinical descriptions above.
Personality disorders range from the mildest of cases to the acutely severe. And there are also psychotic forms of these disorders. Clinton clearly is not psychotic--he is not "crazy." But his problem is nonetheless severe.
Its severity is captured by its duration, by his dependence on his wife and on Stephanopoulos, and by the fact that he has found it impossible to conceal the problem from the press. And it is captured most shockingly by the word Stephanopoulos uttered to Panetta: never. To say that Clinton "never" makes a political or policy decision may be exaggerated. But even if exaggerated, it communicates the intensity of the problem. Only acute distress over Clinton's cognitive paralysis could inspire Stephanopoulos to use the word never.
It is important to remember that Clinton's indecisiveness--his paralysis--is not consciously acknowledged. He is literally unaware of it. It is surrounded by a Chinese wall of rationalization, reinterpretation, and evasion. He does not even have language to describe it. He only knows that he tries "to do too much, too fast." "I can't move" is the expression I have given him.
And he surely does not know that beneath this Chinese wall, yet another psychological conflict lies buried. It, too, first presents itself in an incoherent confidence to an interviewer and it too must be decoded. But this time, you will see, the voyage into Clinton's conflicts comes to an end, leaving only the consequences to contemplate.
More detailed observations start with Clinton's entry into public life, when reporters began to observe him. One of the first things they discovered was his extreme distractibility.
Arkansas news reporter Anne Jackson, speaking to David Gallen, has many memories of Clinton as governor. Talking about Clinton's chronic lateness, she says, "Clinton is one of those people who is distracted by people, and by stories, and by things. I mean, he's like a kid in a candy store about the environment around him. He'll see something, and if it gets his attention, he's gone. There's no clock in his head."
But there is evidence now that some people have finally grasped that those assumptions about Clinton are false, that Clinton's problem is located in the realm of attention.
On August 20, 1994, the most overt expression of concern appeared in an article by R.W. Apple Jr. of The New York Times: "The question now, therefore, is how long the President, whose attention can wander like a teen-ager's on Saturday night, manages to keep himself squarely on target."
The condescension is undisguised. ...
Two other references to the same phenomenon are entirely covert. One can be found in a passage in Woodward's book. Another appears in a comment by a "senior diplomat" speaking anonymously to John M. Goshko of The Washington Post--both in the summer of 1994.
Woodward's passage will give you little new information about Clinton, save for one word, which I have italicized: "At night the president attended a social event or a working or family dinner. Then he would flit among the kitchen, his bedroom, the living room, the family room, and the office in the residence. Little piles of paper that he was reading would accumulate. He would watch some TV, call people, or get into long, late-night conversations with a visitoräknown or unknown to Stephanopoulos."
And the anonymous senior diplomat says something equally significant, and again I have italicized it: "[Secretary of State Warren] Christopher has tried to keep a steady course but he has been hampered by Clinton's tendency to flitter between issues like a butterfly."
People who use verbs like flit and flitter have large vocabularies and know exactly what they are trying to convey: They are saying that Clinton cannot concentrate.
An inability to concentrate is a disturbing attribute in a president, and one can understand people using code language to communicate with each other about it. They are wasting their time, however. ...
But it is nonetheless significant that the president's fractured cognitive state is so widely known that it is being publicized in a major newsmagazine and chattered about in cyberspace, and that it will inevitably run its course through the media. The White House aides, State Department officials, and others who are now whispering about Clinton's inability to concentrate would do better to realize that they don't just have a secret on their hands, they have something resembling a public relations emergency.
Clinton's fractured attention span, his acute distractibility, his incessant talking, are further manifestations of his compulsive disorder. He is undoubtedly accurate when he describes himself as "compulsively overactive." This diagnosis is yet another way of looking at his cognitive damage. It provides further evidence that we have a mentally impaired president in the White House.
There is one last symptom for us to consider, the one we set aside--the extraordinary untruth Clinton told Charles Allen in 1991 when he redefined his "compulsive overactivity," his "hurry," to mean amazing organization and tight control over every minute of his life. It is only now that we can see the full magnitude of that untruth. But it would be an enormous error to think that Clinton was consciously lying when he described himself as superbly organized. One need only remember more than 15 years of profoundly unconscious and robotic invocations of "I do too much, too fast" to know that Clinton has no understanding of his "hurry."
Clinton's assertion that he is superbly organized is an almost ferocious denial of his cognitive impairment.
We have now seen two variations of the same clashing themes in Clinton. There is the dark, dirgelike theme of paralysis and fear. And there is the racing, rushing, striving theme which seeks ceaselessly to escape from and to override the dirgelike theme.
The first is the theme of "death" and inertia: "I can't move" "I will die" The second is the theme of life and action, of doing: "I must hurry and do things", "I try to do too much, too fast", "I will try not to do everything at once".
Those two warring themes seem central to Clinton's very being. Whatever else is wrong with him, and whatever may be right with him, he is riven by this particular conflict. Clinton is deeply proud of and deeply afraid of his own mind. He is in ceaseless flight from its tragically damaged aspects. But no matter how fast he races, no matter how proud he is of racing, he cannot outrace it. It is with him always--assaulting his confidence, corrupting his efforts, and mocking his dreams of glory.
At the opening of this article I said that a psychological perspective on Bill Clinton should contribute to one's understanding of him, of his presidency, and of the political events of the past two years. I now add that it should contribute to one's thinking about the political future.
After two years, Clinton's presidency has degenerated into chronic crisis and, to all intents and purposes, it is now in receivership while three California Democrats try to rescue that presidency in time for the 1996 election. Clinton alone cannot rescue it. He was not psychologically qualified for the presidency, and he is not now able to save it from the corrosive effects of his own psychology.
This profile does not exhaust the subject of Clinton's psychological problems. He has others I have not discussed, such as grandiosity, and I have scarcely mentioned the first lady, save to say that she is in far better cognitive shape than Clinton. But even this discussion of a few key problems should suffice to tell the reader that the California trio--Leon Panetta, the new chief of staff; Tony Coelho, the new de facto head of the Democratic party; and political consultant Bill Bradley--will not solve Clinton's problems with managerial reorganization and Reaganesque appearances in the Rose Garden.
Coelho has been quoted as saying that all the White House needs is "some old pros who know the town." Clearly, he does not know, any more than Gergen knew, what he is walking into. "Old pros" cannot heal the fractured cognition of the man in the Oval Office, whose morning ritual includes vomiting out his terror of the burden he cannot carry.
While the Californians have their unrealistic honeymoon with their captive president, others can use the time to reflect more soberly on the political implications of the situation.
Since Democrats, liberals, and leftists have the most thinking to do, I'll review quickly the major implications for Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians. First, it is preposterous to attack Clinton as a leftist or a socialist. A man who collapses in the face of corporate hostility is not a leftist or a socialist. Second, it is preposterous to carry on feverishly over the disposition, past or present, of Clinton's genital organs when the man has a fractured mind.
It is demanding, I know, to ask older Republicans to think about something radically new. But the younger ones might start paying close attention to the fact that Democrats have put a cognitively disabled man in the White House. Defenses of the family, moral homilies, and economics lessons do not address the problem.
As for Democrats, liberals, and leftists, they must answer the question suggested by Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, who, on learning of the California trio's plans to resurrect Clinton, observed, "Their chances of succeeding are based on the assumption that he is educable." (Quoted by Howard Fineman in Newsweek, August 29, 1994.) Hess's formulation implies that he does not think Clinton "educable."
Actually, if it is simply a matter of saying words, of memorizing chunks of information, of delivering speeches, Clinton is entirely educable: He can learn to say anything. And in sheer terror of losing, he will say anything anyone wants him to say. But if rescuing Clinton requires any change in his psychology, he is totally ineducable. No one can change his psychology on command.
Thus, Hess and like-minded liberals have other questions to consider: Does Clinton's charisma compensate for his problems? Is there really no other unimpaired and reputable Democrat who could be nominated to run, with a good chance of success, in 1996? Must Democrats prop up a cognitive cripple? And, if they must, why must they?
This is just a hint at the kinds of questions it is time for both Democrats and Republicans to consider. Above all, political thought for the future requires that both Democrats and Republicans retain the awareness of Clinton's past.
It is not an accident that Clinton has ended up in Democratic party receivership. It is not an accident that the first attempt to control him personally was directed at his compulsive talking. It is not an accident that the first attempt to control the White House was to deal with the chaos that Clinton always generates around him. It is not an accident that the public sees him as weak and indecisive. It is not an accident that mainstream journalism, to quote Michael Kelly, treats Clinton with "dismissive contempt." And it is not an accident that his fractured attention span is so obvious he is now the poster boy for the Attention Deficit world.
None of this is an accident. That is what one can learn about the political past by thinking about Clinton's psychology.
It is now time to think about Clinton's psychology in terms that will shape the political future: What is it about contemporary politics that has put such a damaged man in the White House? Why, rather than repudiating him, has his party rallied to save him by camouflaging the reality of his fundamental incompetence? Why can we be certain that Republicans in the same situation would do the same thing?
And how, in the face of all this, does anyone dare to chastise the public and the press for their cynicism?
Contributing Editor Edith Efron is a journalist and author.
Historian James MacGregor Burns says,"Clinton's rhetoric is absolutely lacking in spark and, well, in style. So much of it is banal."
Time's Hugh Sidey says that Clinton is "tedious to a fault, thorough, bright, highly educated but excruciatingly dull at times."
And The New Republic's Leon Wieseltier explains why: "His seriousness seems to consist in a combination of ambition and pedantry. There is something spiritually thin about Clinton. Finally, his constant talk--at last we have a president who speaks in sentences, but all the time--leaves only an impression of articulateness. Detail has mastered him as much as he has mastered detail."
Rumor has it William Jefferson Clinton himself is to recite Honest Abe's lines in this New Year's Eve pageant. Whoever writes these scripts has a natural talent for irony. For some irrepressible reason, one cannot help but think of that costume party in "The Manchurian Candidate,'' complete with Red Queen and Abe Lincoln in stovepipe hat and fake beard.
Hillary Clinton says it's a great opportunity to unite the nation. (The way she's united New York?) But the Clintons are never so polarizing as when they are intent on uniting us. How can that be? Maybe it's their perfectly fabricated authenticity. The Nineties have had much the same effect, stirring the same vague dissatisfactions -- and sparking sudden outbursts of temper. What was it that poor, embarrassed David Brinkley, thinking his mike was off, said after the president's victory speech in '96: "We all look forward with great pleasure to four years of wonderful, inspiring speeches, full of wit, poetry, music, love and affection, plus more goddam nonsense.''
Hey, what a party! New Year's at the White House
Hamilton (or Madison) discussed the importance of wisdom and virtue in Federalist 57. "The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
(Contrast this with clinton, who recklessly, reflexively and feloniously subordinates the common good to his personal appetites.)
by Mia T
There was a third chance to get rid of the clintons. In '98, when there was still time to stop bin Laden...
The failure to remove the clintons in '98 was a monumental error and is directly traceable to the logic of pathologic self-interest.
Recall in particular:
THE LIEBERMAN PARADIGM
Senator Joseph Lieberman's bifurcated Monicagate speech in 1998 on the floor of the Senate was almost universally misperceived as an act of honesty and courage.
In reality, it was neither.
Lieberman's argument that sorry day was rightly headed toward clinton's certain ouster when it suddenly made a swift, hairpin 180, as if clinton hacks took over the wheel. . .which they probably did.
What was Joe promised? A place on the 2000 ticket?
To be fair, it was not the Lieberman speech but rather a New York Times apologia that institutionalized this shameless scheme to protect a thoroughly corrupt and repugnant--and--as everyone except The New York Times now acknowledges-- dangerous -- Democrat regime.
The Lieberman Paradigm made its debut in The Times' utterly loony 1996 endorsement of clinton. The Times actually argued -- NOTE: this is NOT satire on my part (nor is it satire, as far as I can discern, on the part of The Times) -- that although bill clinton was a "corrupt," "dysfunctional personality [with} delusions" -- The Times' own words -- we need not -- we must not -- remove bill clinton; we need only remove.the character lobe of bill clinton's brain.
THE SHAYS SYNDROME
Not an aberration, the Shays Syndrome was quickly adopted by the entire Senate as its impeachment show trial deus ex machina of choice.
Shays, you may recall, examined the evidence in the Ford Building, concluded that clinton did, indeed, rape Broaddrick -- "VICIOUSLY!" AND "TWICE!" he declared at the time-- and was planning to vote to impeach; he changed his mind, however, after a tete a tete with the rapist.
Any cognitive dissonance Shays may have experienced rendering that verdict was no doubt assuaged by the political plum clinton had given Mrs. (Betsi) Shays...
Each of the 50 senators, on the other hand, cured the cognitive dissonance problem pre-emptively by making certain not to examine the damning Ford Building evidence in the first place.
This statement is so ludicrous that it defies comment. But it dovetails with the oft-repeated story that Clinton completely disregarded his daily CIA and National Security reports.
*Thanx to Cloud William for text and audio
I was not impressed with his speechwriters, and in his desire for perfection and detail (as discussed in the Edith Efron article) he was always making last minute additions and changes, making the speech even more incoherent.
Yet week after week, month after month, year after year, Chris Matthews, Judy Woodruff, Tim Russert and the rest kept telling us he was a wonderful speaker.
It was and is a fraud.
I disagree with this statement. It is NOT perfectionism that is interferring - it is because he says what people want to hear and has no concept or real interest in how to get his projects done. So far it has worked and all he has to do is make 'feel-good' promises.
Clinton is self-centered and is like an actor seeking the limelight. He doesn't really care about important things - the country - or other people. He does everything for show and for promoting himself.
He is not as intelligent as he is devious. His mind is busy because it is forever trying to figure out what the next con job he will need to pull off and how to cover up for the past promises that were never fulfilled.
That's why it's always 'someone else' who is at fault.
And yet, when he gave the SAME SORT OF SPEECH at his first State of the Union, we were told how brilliant he was.
Bah! Frauds and hypocrites in the media, and at every opportunity I remind people about this, because it is easy to prove. Clinton's speeches were boring. Everyone knows this except the media. Therefore, the media are either liars or morons (or a combination of both).
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