March 26th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Carl Bernstein is guest blogging on Anderson Cooper’s site (and in typical CNN.com fashion it’s not really obvious that it’s not Mr 360 himself from the word go). His subject is Hillary’s lack of candor, in light of the Bosnia / Tuzla story this week. The most striking thing about the piece is how hard Bernstein seems to find it to call Hillary a liar. He goes out of his way to avoid this construction, using almost comically contorted language and double negatives to make it implicit but never explicit, mostly quoting from his own biography of Hillary. Some samples:

Since her Arkansas years [I wrote], Hillary Rodham Clinton has always had a difficult relationship with the truth… [J]udged against the facts, she has often chosen to obfuscate, omit, and avoid. It is an understatement by now that she has been known to apprehend truths about herself and the events of her life that others do not exactly share. ” [italics added]

“Almost always, something holds her back from telling the whole story, as if she doesn’t trust the reader, listener, friend, interviewer, constituent—or perhaps herself—to understand the true significance of events…”

“Hillary values context; she does see the big picture. Hers, in fact, is not the mind of a conventional politician,” I wrote in A Woman In Charge. “But when it comes to herself, she sees with something less than candor and lucidity. She sees, like so many others, what she wants to see.”

The book concludes with this paragraph:

“As Hillary has continued to speak from the protective shell of her own making, and packaged herself for the widest possible consumption, she has misrepresented not just facts but often her essential self. Great politicians have always been marked by the consistency of their core beliefs, their strength of character in advocacy, and the self-knowledge that informs bold leadership. Almost always, Hillary has stood for good things. Yet there is a disconnect between her convictions and her words and actions. This is where Hillary disappoints. But the jury remains out. She still has time to prove her case, to effectuate those things that make her special, not fear them or camouflage them. We would all be the better for it, because what lies within may have the potential to change the world, if only a little.”

What’s behind this? Is Bernstein really worried that he’ll be sued for using the obvious word to describe this obvious behavior? Or did he get just enough cooperation from Clinton and her people in writing the book that he couldn’t go the whole hog?

The most invidious thing about all this, though, is his assertion in the third-to-last paragraph quoted above that in being an inveterate liar, Hillary is really just like the rest of us: “She sees, like so many others, what she wants to see.” No, Mr Bernstein: the rest of us may not see clearly some of our shortcomings, encumbered with beams in our eyes that obscure our self-image. But the rest of us do not stretch that lack of clarity about who we really are to invent from whole cloth stories about our past or entirely distort versions of our personal histories when speaking in front of the national news media. That honor is Hillary’s alone.