Lucy and Todd

Posts Tagged ‘guns’

What Happened — Hillary Rodham Clinton

In Reviews by Lucy and Todd on September 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm

What’s a girl to do? She said she wanted to be prez, Wall Street backed her as prez, Bill and Barack said she should be prez, and the Democratic National Committee got up to all kinds of dirty tricks to make her prez. Some people even voted for her (more than voted for Trump). But she’s not the prez!

Clinton wonders why she lost the U.S. election every day. So she got together a large team to write a book about it in her name. Like the giraffe, this group-effort apologia’s all over the place. The story’s told backwards, starting with Trump’s inauguration and George W. Bush’s appraisal of his speech: ‘That was some weird shit’.

Then it’s the morning after election night and time for Clinton’s painful concession. Then come the reasons she decided to run, unconvincing even if she genuinely cares ‘about struggling working-class families in fading small towns’ (it sounds like a Bruce Springsteen music theory mnemonic). To hear her tell it, she’s a real sweetie. She seems to see herself as some kind of overgrown Shirley Temple from the Good Ship Doolally.

Most of all, she wanted ‘to make life better for children and families’. Her interest in children is sickening, given that she presided over civilian drone strikes as secretary of state. Awash in American exceptionalism, she says the lead-poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, ‘is not something that should happen in America.’ Where should it happen?

Let’s be clear. Women undoubtedly need to take over the world – it’s our only hope. But Thatcher, May, Imelda Marcos and Hillary Clinton will never help anyone eliminate patriarchy. Hillary couldn’t even bring herself to espouse the $15 minimum wage, the least she could do for women, who are the poorest of the poor. This ‘pragmatic progressive’ is actually a corporate-entrenched, business-as-usual capitalist nursed at the nipple of Walmart. But what’s a little slave labor between friends?

The Clintons invented Blairism, a money-grubbing centrism founded on indifference. To this Hillary added her own brand of Nixonian secrecy, torpor and contempt. The few actual beliefs she has turn out to be wishy-washy: feminism lite, healthcare lite, gun control lite. It’s all about strategy with her, and polls and data and focus groups and policy teams; caution, never passion. She likes the idea of a universal basic income so much she never even mentioned it in the campaign.

She writes of ‘the problem’ of income inequality when she should be talking about the obscenity of it. She claims to want to make her country ‘freer, fairer, and stronger’. Why not just free, fair, and strong? Next she’ll want equaler pay for women.

She’s right about all the sexism and misogyny in the 2016 election, and the beauty contest aspects of being a woman in politics. Clinton had to wear contact lenses, get her hair done daily, employ a makeup expert recommended by Anna Wintour (ouch), and buy a ‘uniform’ designed by Ralph Lauren: the pantsuits. This was another missed opportunity for feminist rebellion: for the sake of other female politicians, Clinton should have worn her beloved yoga pants.

Next comes a nauseating chapter on family and friends. Chelsea, the apple of her eye. Bill, her best pal and great fun to be with. How they love their bedroom in Chappaqua, with its many windows (hints here of lifestyle porn). From her father she learned unconditional love, and she loved her tough mother too, who endured a harsh upbringing. She’s also got hundreds of male and female friends who are always there for her, including (apparently) the Obamas.

The Clintons are philistines, their house full of biographies of past presidents. Bill reads spy novels, Hillary mysteries. But after the election all she did was watch box sets of TV series and practice nostril breathing. Bill’s a night owl (that’s not all he is). They walk the dogs together, and he edits her speeches. She calls him every night and buys him presents when she’s on the road. A martyr to the snooze button and snacks, she likes Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, hot sauce, and ice cream bars. She’s a grandma, bigly, and a Methodist: she reads a morning devotional every day, prays quite a bit, and they say grace before dinner. She seems to think having a ‘faith’ is something to be proud of! But religion has killed America. It really stinks up the joint.

One chapter deals with gun violence, which Clinton rather bravely made an issue in her presidential campaign, risking the ire of the NRA. Sanders disappointingly stalled on the subject, treating gun ownership as a civil liberties matter, and the gun industry as the source of manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, the Sandy Hook massacre has been labelled a hoax, and the parents get death threats. Not only the American people but the police need their weaponry confiscated.

But Clinton’s commendable stance on domestic guns vies weirdly with her hawkish behaviour in foreign affairs. She voted for the Iraq War, is always up for bombing people and, chuckling on camera over the savage slaughter of Qadaffi, once boasted: “We came, we saw, he died.” On top of that, where the Clinton Foundation goes, an arms deal always seems to follow. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

She offers an interminable recap on the ‘damn emails’, but the most significant chapter arrives near the end. It should have come first. Here she deals with Russia’s unprecedented interference in the election, which she deems an act of war. A Russian coup d’état has occurred in America and nobody’s noticed. (She suggests Russian government interference with Brexit too, shifty operations in Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway, and a failed attempt to insert Le Pen in France.) While Trump tweeted that he wished the Russians would hack into Clinton’s missing emails, others concluded he himself had been (perhaps) unwittingly recruited as a Russian agent. Maybe Melania’s a KGB robot. That would explain a lot.

Was the ‘misguided’ Comey unwittingly recruited too, along with Sessions, Kushner, Assange and Mitch McConnell? Clinton reckons that the combination of Russian espionage, Comey’s last-minute pronouncements, the Republican very successful voter suppression efforts, the reckless inanities of mainstream TV news reporting, the misogynistic witch-hunt, the outdated Electoral College system, which she deems undemocratic, and her own deplorable ‘deplorables’ moment, cost her the election.

A terrible trick was played on the American people. But it wasn’t that Clinton lost; it was that Bernie Sanders, riding a groundswell of true popularity, was denied the Democratic nomination. Bernie would have had a landslide. Clinton couldn’t beat the outright nincompoop who won with a mere 25% of the electorate.

So she’s freed women in one way: to screw up. If you ever feel you’ve really made a mess of things, just think of HRC. It takes a village idiot.




A version of this review appeared in the Herald, Sept. 23, 2017.




The Harder They Come — T.C. Boyle

In Reviews by Lucy and Todd on May 6, 2015 at 6:41 pm

T.C. Boyle can’t quite believe the USA, and that makes him very useful. We’re on holiday with Sten and his wife Carolee. They’re on a cruise ship which promises they will ‘experience world-class indulgence’, something that becomes a grim joke later on. They leave the ship at Puerto Limón in Costa Rica to visit a nature reserve, where they and their group are robbed. Sten, an ex-Vietnam War marine, kills one of the thieves with his bare hands, thus saving the passports and fanny packs of their little band of retirees. The police and the cruise line brush this incident under the carpet, while Sten becomes a celebrity for a short time, both on board and once back home in ‘religiously quaint’ Mendocino in Northern California.

Boyle is so good at describing the improbable environments western man creates for himself, and I do mean man: a martini bar on the ship is actually made entirely of ice. And in Boyle there is always the fun of physical discomfort, his characters wrenched away from the restaurants and air-conditioning on which they depend for their very existences. Go on holiday to Central America and you have to watch ants carry your own dead skin out of your hotel room; stuff like that. But things get far more uncomfortable.

Sten and Carolee have a son, and he is a paranoid schizophrenic. Fueled by drink and drugs, Adam’s take on the world has become increasingly bizarre. His hallucinatory political radar is constantly picking up Chinese and ‘aliens’ – figures he calls ‘hostiles’. Lately he has taken to living in the woods where he’s growing opium poppies in the belief that this is self-sufficiency.

Adam is obsessed with the story of John Colter, often considered the first ‘mountain man’, famous for escaping naked from an angry party of Blackfoot Indians. He starts calling himself Colter. He acquires a girlfriend, Sara, a sort of sub-Tea Party intelligence. ‘Seatbelt laws,’ she thinks, ‘were just another contrivance of the U.S. Illegitimate Government of America the Corporate that had given up the gold standard back in 1933 and pledged its citizens as collateral so it could borrow and keep on borrowing.’ Kind of thing.

For Adam’s part, there’s a sinister ‘wheel’ always spinning in his head, and ‘He could see the smallest things, the fine leather creases at the corners of her eyes, a single translucent hair stabbing out beneath her left ear, and finer still, till he could see the microscopic mites living and f***ing and s***ting in her eyebrows, in everybody’s eyebrows, every minute of every day … Just sat there watching her mites wave their segmented legs even as he felt his own mites stirring in the valley between his eyes …’ Their lush paranoias begin to merge.

Pals of Sten’s form a vigilante group (they deny that it is one) that will attempt to get rid of the (largely Mexican) people increasingly farming marijuana in these enormous lumber company forests. In a perfect Boyle passage, the most important thing decided at the first meeting is the t-shirt logo. But then two of these silly middle-class busybodies get killed.

On some levels, perhaps too many, this is an adventure, a thriller, so it wouldn’t be fair to tell you the outcome. The final manhunt is rather dull, full of false suspense. But there’s a certain creepy point when you realize that Adam’s extremely ill view of the world is not so different from Sten’s. Adam has a wheel – Sten has a ‘switch’ in his mind which gets thrown when he can’t take it any more. Adam relies on drugs and ‘151’ rum to keep him in mountain man mode; Sten and Carolee exist on quite a large number of martinis. You begin to see that Sten is uncivilized, and that he is the source of the confusion and pain and meaninglessness in this story, and in Adam.

Adam’s parents, emotionally inept and under-educated, continually asked for help for their son. He never got any. It’s worth bearing in mind that this may be the increasing reality of mental illness in America: it comes with guns on both sides. Adam is an insane moron, and yet Boyle will convince you that there must be thousands or even hundreds of thousands of young men like him in America. Given the culture, how could there not be?

Boyle’s next novel ought to be an exploration of life at the top, among the corporatists and mad neo-con governmentarians addicted to power that the unbalanced characters in The Harder They Come paranoiacally rail against. He should write The Hillary Clinton Story. In doing so he will have sewn shut the entire rat bag that is the, or his, USA—ready to drop in the nearest giardia-infested river.


(This review first appeared in The National, May 4, 2015)