May 27, 2007

The Clinton Soap Opera

Noemie Emery, long a student of Clintonism, with the new cover story for the Standard:

Days of Their Lives

This is crunch time for the Great Clinton Gamble, the one Hillary took in her deal with Bill: to serve his career first to gain power later, or more power sooner, than she might have won for herself. She has to put up, to prove the claim her fans have been making since the couple emerged: that she is the one who ought to be president, a woman of genius and destiny. And he, for this, and for all of the grief he has caused her, now has to pay up, big time.

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Like any successful duo, Hillary and Bill's complementary skills--her will and discipline, his political talents--could compensate for their individual deficits, and create one effective political animal. The downside was that their opposite deficits--his lack of discipline, her tin ear for politics--constantly threatened to scuttle the enterprise, creating an unending cycle of danger and rescue and blame.

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How will the writers survive this last challenge? Can the couple bring it off once again? If they can't, it won't be the first time a show failed when main characters tried to spin off into separate series, losing much of the magic that made the act compelling. From the start, the thing that made The Clintons work was the unlikely union of opposites, held together in an attraction-revulsion dynamic, with the whole adding up to more than the sum of its parts. As a sum, they are, and remain, an incredible story. As parts, however, they are merely stock players: an aging roué, who is almost too facile, and a grimly ambitious feminist lawyer, with a tough but conventional mind. In 1992, they seemed fresh and exciting; now they are part of the system and the problem; they were young; now they're not far from the age that the elder George Bush was when they ran against him. And if her job was tough, Bill's is still tougher: It is easier to discipline a huge and unruly political talent than to try to breathe talent into a humorless disciplinarian.

Related:

Noemie Emery; Heterodoxy: October, 1999: "The Moral Fallout of Clintonism" (Not in the Heterodoxy archives yet, so plucked from my own, with a bleg for indulgence from DH and Co.)

Posted by dan at May 27, 2007 11:49 AM