When I got home from work last Friday, I found that my friend Jim—a guy you’ll probably never meet, as he steadfastly refuses to blog—had sent me via snail mail two essays which he had, years ago, carefully ripped out of magazines, or journals. One was an essay by Czeslaw Milosz that was published in Harper’s. The other, and the one concerning which I intend to write at least a couple of posts, was an interview conducted by Christopher Hitchens, with Norman Mailer.
The hard copy of the Mailer piece gave no indication of either its date, or its origin. From context, one could assume that it was pre-Millennium, and, thus, pre-9/11. I searched the internet and found it here. This would date it from 1997.
Tonight, as a teaser, I share with you Mailer on Bill Clinton:
Clinton’s very bright. His heart is as often in the right place as the wrong place. But there’s something about him that’s hopeless. Which is he’s not ready to die for a political idea. And what I mean by that is not that he’d die literally with his own flesh and blood, but that he’d lose his political career over an idea. He’s not going to do that, and so he’s going to die for the absence of a political ideal. And that’s his terrible weakness. I’ve said this before, but if I could be a sixteen-year-old French peasant girl named Joan of Arc, I’d go to him and say, ‘Dauphin, you must save America.’ He wouldn’t. He’d go back and forth, back and forth. Everything about him that’s good is wiped out by that fact, that he simply doesn’t have one last idea that, whatever else they take away from me, they can’t get that idea.
Does Mailer nail that, or what? As it turns out, it may well have come to pass that it is Hillary’s political career, more than his own, that is brought down by the Achilles’ heel so presciently described by Mailer. She has got the family curse, and he is running around America highlighting that fact, even as I write.
This may well be the crucial difference between Hillary and Barack Obama. Obama’s refusal to back down on such things as his support of his pastor, regardless of the political consequences, would surely have drawn Mailer’s praise. His latest alleged “gaff” concerning the “clinging” of “bitter” small-town losers in the global economy crap-shoot to “God and guns” by way of compensation is spot-on. But you can’t say that on television. Again, America may not be ready for Obama in Prime Time.