Yearning for the good old days
(and building a better yesterday)

Remember in the good old days of the Cold War, when political analysts in this country used to play Kremlinologist? The Soviet leadership would line up on the reviewing stand of the Lenin Mausoleum (especially on Mayday) to watch men and missiles on parade, and the slightest details were watched avidly. For "signs." And "clues." Who was now standing closest to Brezhnev? What did that mean when Kosygin was seen looking skyward for an instant when Brezhnev paused for effect? And why did Defense Minister Ustinov slightly raise his eyebrow?


Yes, those were the happy days!

While he was not talking about Kremlinologists, Sean Kinsell made me feel an outburst of nostalgia:

...everything she says or does is examined to death, by friend and foe alike, for what it might indicate about her emergent Hillaryness. Of course, every politician makes tossed-off comments or clothing choices that get overworked in the media, but with Hillary the enterprise reaches a whole new level. Some sources speculate that Clinton's newest shade from Clairol suggests her commitment to the reconstruction of Iraq is less than sincere.... I understand that there are reasons for it--she may lack Bill's charisma, but in her own weird way, she may be just as compelling a figure. A lot of her fans seem to think she's some kind of saint, and a lot of her detractors seem to hate her more than they do Satan.
Ah, but that's why they watch her every move! This is not to engage in a moral or political comparison of Hillary Clinton to the Soviet Politburo, but when powerful figures become mysterious and aloof, when they are off limits to ordinary mortals (and politically "unreliable" media sources), a cultlike aura develops around them, and watching their every move becomes natural.

Mere mortal than I am, even I occasionally can't resist the temptation.

I kept my trap shut during the Media Matters-fueled attacks on Rush Limbaugh because it was obvious to me what he meant by the "phony soldiers" remark, and equally obvious that paid professional Rush watchers can do wonders by taking a few words out of their overall context. By its nature, talk radio cannot withstand textual analysis, because the shows consist of hours of daily spontaneous remarks. Considering the number of mistakes and inadvertent omissions I make when I'm writing, and the voluminous nature of my remarks (many of which are intended as satire), and considering the way new readers misconstrue what I say, I shudder to think what a paid professional antagonist could do if I vented freely on the air for hours each day. I'd probably be left saying, "I didn' t say that! And if I did I meant precisely the opposite!"

On the other hand, I'm not a Limbaugh fan. So the Limbaugh matter failed to excite me. People can yell and scream and misconstrue him, demand that he be taken off the air, and it probably helps his ratings overall.

However, there is one aspect of the Limbaugh matter that cannot be ignored, and it isn't Hillary's Media Matters stuff. When the government -- in the form of a number of members of the United States Senate -- ratified the Media Matters accusations and coupled them with demands on official stationery, they came pretty close to violating their oath of office. (The latter requires them to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and "bear true faith and allegiance to the same.") I think accusations and demands sent to a radio executive based on no more than the alleged content of protected political speech constitute something less than full truth and allegiance to the First Amendment to the Constitution. Maybe I should grateful that they stopped short of passing a law regulating what Rush Limbaugh is and is not allowed to say, but haven't these Senators heard of a thing called the chilling effect on free speech? (Imagine the outcry if a group of Republican Senators had sent a similar letter to the employer of a left-wing radio commentator who had upset them!) Anyway, whether they like it or not, these people are charged with protecting free speech, not chilling it. I think they've abused their position and damned themselves as enemies of free speech. Any remark made by Rush Limbaugh (who is simply sounding off) pales in comparison to a government letter like the above.

Had the letter only been signed by a few ideologues like Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, or Bernie Sanders it wouldn't be as big a deal.

What makes it a big deal is the signature of Hillary, because this makes it Hillary's letter to Rush. She is running for president, and unless the GOP does the impossible gets its act together, she'll win.

In the letter, Hillary claims that Rush's remarks were "an outrage" and an "affront" which was "beyond the pale":

Although Americans of goodwill debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh's recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as "phony soldiers" is such an outrage.

Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale.

What I'd still like to know is whether soldiers were forbidden by order of Hillary Clinton to wear their uniforms in the White House. These allegations have been around for years, and they're detailed in a book by Buzz Patterson, who has consistently maintained -- and still maintains -- that they are true. As affronts go, this would certainly be a greater affront than Limbaugh's remarks about phony soldiers. Of course, Media Matters indignantly denies that Hillary ever tried to forbid uniforms, calling the claim a "dubious smear."

I remember the uniform ban claim quite well, and I first heard about it during the frenzied debate over gays in the military. Looking back, it would be nice to know what really happened, but all I can see right now is the claim by Patterson (who worked as an Air Force aide in the Clinton White House) on one side, countered by angry denials on the other. The reason I wanted to know then and still want to know now is that it once worried me that so many of the people who were pushing for gays in the military -- a cause I strongly supported at the time as I do now -- were anti-military. (I'm a very cynical person, but the idea that patriotic gays who wanted to serve in the military might be used as political fodder to hurt the military upset me enormously. Perhaps to the depths of my soul, if such things be....)

So I'd still like to know. If the First Lady tried to keep uniforms out of the White House, it is at least as relevant now as it was then. Because, you know, it might have significance beyond the Limbaugh letter.

Geez, was I getting serious there? Forgive me. I started out trying to be humorous and nostalgic.

Perhaps I should return to the signature of Hillary. Might there be hidden meanings expressed in the signature itself that haven't been thoroughly explored and dissected?

Here's the Limbaugh letter signature:


The "Clinton" part of her name is distant, and clearly running off to the right, as if written in as an afterthought. The "Hillary Rodham" part looks like a normal signature, while the "Clinton" appears added. Furthermore, "Hillary Rodham" runs along the same line, while "Clinton" is slightly elevated.

Notice particularly the gap between "Rodham" and "Clinton."

Signatures from a few years ago not only align perfectly, but there's no gap between "Rodham" and "Clinton." Here are three typical examples:




What really deepens the mystery is that an autograph dealer states that she no longer signs her name that way:

An Invitation to the White House oversized coffee table book autographed on the inside cover in black marker with a legible FULL NAME Hillary Rodham Clinton signature that she no longer signs. Her current shorthand signature is much less legible.
Might that explain the gap? Has she reverting to signing her full name only recently? Or did she just do it this one time, and only for Rush?

A psychoanalyst I am not (nor am I a paid professional Hillary watcher). But it does occur to me that there might be an element of passive aggressiveness in the Limbaugh letter "afterthought" signature, especially the Rodham-Clinton gap. Many have long suspected that she'd love to ditch the Clinton, and not in name only. But for political reasons, she can't. So she may be feeling torn, and it would not surprise me if she has mixed feelings about returning to the White House with Bill. Would they actually live together? Again?

Not that it would really matter to anyone except a nostalgic Clintonologist.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds and Extreme Mortman something to add to the nostalgia mix (and related to competitive victimology) is the question of whether black women should support Obama as a black candidate, or Hillary as a woman with historically significant hair:

Clinton won Bell's undying support in part by playing on her femininity. In addition to the policy pronouncements she gave during the keynote at a black hairdressers' convention this summer, Clinton ran through a slide show of her hairstyles through the years.

A long bob with short bangs.

A short bob with tall 1980s bangs.

A mini-bouffant as a brunette.

A straight slick cut hitting at the chin.

"Go 'head, woman," someone in the audience said. "You've got more power than any woman in this whole world."

That's probably true, and we should all be focusing on important things like hair.

Glenn also links Ann Althouse's discussion of fading memory (on which Andrew Sullivan has more). Althouse notes the incredibly condescending nature of the discussion:

I'm vaguely horrified by this discussion of black female political thought. As the NYT article tells it, it seems that black women vote based on whether they feel more like a mother or a sexual partner to the candidate (or the candidate's spouse) -- with a dollop of religious inanity stirred in.
I don't know which should be more horrifying; the condescension in the discussion or the condescension in the campaign.

(Oh, I forgot. The media "discussion" is part of the campaign, dummy!)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! And welcome fellow Kremlintonologists. (Did I spell that right? I keep making hair-raising mistakes.)

posted by Eric on 10.14.07 at 02:29 PM


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