Mark Steel: You couldn't make it up (unless you're Hillary, that is)
Published 02/04/2008 | 12:40
Traditionally, Democrat candidates for President start slightly radical, then try to reassure Conservative America, get in a tangle and look like idiots. But this time may be different, because Barack Obama has stuck by his friend the militant preacher, refusing to disown him, and Hillary Clinton has gone mental.
Her response to being caught lying to a military audience, when she invented a story about being under sniper fire in Bosnia, was to say it wasn't surprising she got some things wrong, seeing how she spoke millions of words every day. What a magnificent idea, that if you say lots of words some of them are bound to be fantastic lies. So if you listen carefully to horse-racing commentators they say things like "And it's Teddy's Boy still leading three furlongs out as they come up to the fourth last fence with Nip and Tuck two lengths behind by the way I fought a tiger once, punched it clean out and they're all safely over."
And auctioneers say, "Three-fifty, three-sixty, three-seventy, three-seventy man in the hat three-eighty here, my dad invented cornflakes, going once going twice, and magnets, he invented them straight up – gone."
Anyone can make a mistake about what happened on a trip, she said, and she's right. You might forget the name of the couple you met on the beach, or whether Thursday was the day you came under sustained mortar attack and had to dive behind sandbags and shoot your way out to safety, or was it the day you went to the dolphinarium.
This wasn't just a politician's lie, it was the pointless lie of someone who sits on their own in pubs and leans across to grab you and lie compulsively. Her next round of soft-focus adverts will probably feature her soothingly saying, "My fellow Americans, I drank a pint of walrus milk once for a bet. I speak fluent Eskimo. I once ate all the gherkins in Belgium. My brother's got a yak in his loft. I fell asleep on a night bus once and woke up in Munich, and had to get a lift back on a camel. I used to live on an iceberg. I've got a waffle-maker that works underwater."
If she became President it would be brilliant, as she stood on the White House lawn before the world's press and said, "I would like to thank the King of Morocco for his thoughtful remarks, and would add that I used to play professional darts. I went to a party once that went on for three weeks without stopping, and there was so many people dancing that the floor collapsed and we all landed downstairs which turned out to be an off-licence so it went on for another month."
Presumably she thought the sniper fire story would impress the audience of soldiers. So her campaign team should book her in to speak to other professions to see what she comes out with. If she addresses lumberjacks she'll start, "Hey, that's a tough job you folks do. And I should know because I once spent two days dangling from a cedar tree. Then my chainsaw slipped and sawed me down the middle, but luckily my right half put my left half in a nearby freezer that kept it fresh until the doctor arrived to sew me back together. But hey, let's turn to the economy."
Maybe it's part of a pact. Her husband only seems reasonable now because the idiot that followed him is so much worse. So to even things up, as president she'll talk such twaddle that in a couple of years people start pining for Bush.
Because someone who routinely lies like she does, then dismisses it as a consequence of the number of words she says has severe psychological problems. Perhaps her disorder is a result of the sort of politician she is. Like Blair, neither she nor Bill stand for anything – priding themselves in being tied to no "ideology". So a normal politician might set out with a set of principles, then lie as they compromise and betray them. But a Blair or Clinton is a politician with no purpose but their own standing, like celebrities who are nothing but celebrities. So they say whatever they feel will make them look best to the audience they're with, regardless of whether it's true, until they probably don't know themselves what's real and what's not.
And the daft thing with Hillary is her real life is ridiculous enough. So when she ends up in a home, muttering "I've got the biggest peanut in the world. I sang backing vocals on 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. I went right along the Great Wall of China in a wheelbarrow," the nurses will say "Poor old thing. This morning she was jibbering that her husband was president and had affairs in the back room and denied it but got caught cos he sploshed on an intern's dress. She's getting worse isn't she, it's such a shame.