On my third pass through this, I just sat back and marveled at how crazy it was. Camille Paglia is a writer without an editor or a coherent thought. Salon seems to be perfect for her--no accountability, no need to make sense, no stopping off for a sanity check. Let it all hang out. Their business model can best be described as, "yeah, throw that out there and then check the analytics--we need some clicks, baby!" I think it has seriously diluted the brand, but what do I know about destroying websites and letting the patients dictate policy inside of the asylum? Otherwise decent people don't even go around there anymore. They can't bring themselves to look at the last dying moments of a once-great idea.
When you work your way through this piece, try to remember the context of the 1990s. If you had any reason to be jealous of the Clintons, it will play like a lullaby in your head. For the rest of us, to read it was like being awoken to the batshit craziness of the era. It was like seeing into the eye of a demonic beast with no conscience or soul--just an unmistakeable need to consume and burp something out and roll around in filth.
This is next-generation crazy, the kind you find when you roll into a town no one visits on purpose and see a stringy-haired character on a three wheeler bike with a boombox playing Rick Astley songs while he eats beans out of a shirt pocket and drinks lemonade out of a hubcab dipped in battery acid. I mean, son of a bitch:
It’s zombie time at campaign Hillary. Behold the dead men walking! It was with strangely slow, narcotized numbness that the candidate and her phalanx of minions and mouthpieces responded to last week’s punishing report by the State Department’s Inspector General about her email security lapses. Do they truly believe, in the rosy alternate universe of Hillaryland, that they can lie their way out of this? Of course, they’re relying as usual on the increasingly restive mainstream media to do their dirty work for them. If it were a Republican in the crosshairs, Hillary’s shocking refusal to meet with the Inspector General (who interviewed all four of the other living Secretaries of State of the past two decades) would have been the lead item flagged in screaming headlines from coast to coast. Let’s face it—the genuinely innocent do not do pretzel twists like this to cover their asses.
Meanwhile, former Bill Clinton advisor and pollster Douglas Schoen gave the strongest signal yet in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week (“Clinton may not be the nominee”) that worried backstage huddles in the Democratic party establishment are reaching fever pitch. The article’s floating of the idea of a Joe Biden-Elizabeth Warren substitute ticket (which I’ve been privately predicting to friends all year) is so evenly and magisterially phrased that I wondered if the text had been vetted by an approving White House. So this may be why Bernie Sanders (my candidate) has gone into overdrive—not to damage Hillary, as her acolytes spitefully claim, but to fight off the tactical insertion of Biden at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Sanders could rightly claim, on the basis of his long and strenuous primary campaign, that if anyone deserves the nomination vacated by a tarnished Hillary, it is he. If Sanders does defer to Biden, it will only be via enormous concessions, beginning with the unceremonious removal of devious DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
She goes on to praise Donald Trump and Arnold Schwarzenegger because of course that makes sense. Are those butterfly nets coming over the horizon? Good Lord, no. That's Maureen Dowd in search of a metaphor that got away. But this bag of nuts reads like someone handed in a column after spending a little too long with Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs on the headphones.
Part of the problem we face right now is the fact that actual political writing is all but dead and practiced poorly by far too many people. You can speculate and guess about what someone is going to do, but no one really knows. No one has a lock on the truth. Paglia is just regurgitating some churned up envy and hate for the Clintons that has no bearing on what is happening right now. It's a generational thing for Baby Boomers--everyone has to have a place in the pecking order. The very influential people who got famous in the 1960s and are still alive today are all vying for the top spot, the chance to be called the voice of the generation. Paglia believes herself to be the ultimate controversial public intellectual, and her envy of the Clintons stems from the fact that they either dismissed her commentary or upended it by being successful without deserving it. In reality, she's writing for Salon, which sucks, and people are making fun of her. Meanwhile, Hillary is on television every day, winning the presidency.
In many respects, Paglia is just mad that people don't give her the same accolades she once enjoyed. No great movement emerged to follow her to greatness. But here's Hillary--to Paglia, an undeserving beneficiary of marrying the right man at the right time in history--being given a chance to legitimately claim to be one of the greatest members of the Baby Boom generation. It has to be a kick in the ass for people like this. Everything was supposed to go Paglia's way; everything was supposed to happen according to the narrative that put her at the center of a world where her words mattered and her opinions were praised. Shit got real and went the other way.
Were he alive today, imagine the crazy shit Christopher Hitchens would be getting paid to write.