April 20, 2015

KEVIN WILLIAMSON: With Hillary, Appearances Are Everything.

Every Mystery Machine must have its Velma. You’ll remember Velma Dinkley, the grim-faced young fogey of the Scooby-Doo gang: turtleneck and knee socks, orange; pleated skirt and pumps, red; spectacle lenses a very groovy shade of aqua; hair in a severe, LPGA-ready bob. She was the thick and bookish counterpoint to the comely Daphne Blake. But the id moves in mysterious ways, and Velma has enjoyed a strange post-1970s career as a minor object of erotic fixation, being portrayed on film by the knockout Linda Cardellini and, in a dramatic illustration of Rule 34, by the pornographic actress Bobbi Starr. . . .

Sharon Stone, the Clintons, Scooby-Doo, the man-feminists of the New York art scene, the just-one-name-like-Sting-or-Cher thing: That Hillary Show has a distinctly retro feel to it already. We have seen this movie before: Last Vegas, The Bucket List, About Schmidt, John Podesta and Paul Begala starring in Grumpy Old Men. Once more unto the breach. The Lion in Winter, with all the domestic friction and succession drama but no lion.

Herself, who speaks in clichés and who gives some indication that she thinks in them, too, says that she is in the van — “Road trip!” she tweeted — because she is “hitting the road to earn your vote.” The Clintons — not too long ago “dead broke,” as Herself put it — have earned well more than $100 million since the president left office, the Washington Post reports, with his speech income alone amounting to some $105 million.

That’s armored-car money, and an armored car is of course what Herself is riding around in, as she did during her first Senate campaign. There is something ineffably Clintonesque in that: She declined the use of the customary limousine because she wanted to appear to share the lives and troubles of the ordinary people, so she rides around in a customized armored van, having spent a great deal of money — starting prices for such vehicles are comparable to those of Porsches — to avoid the appearance that she has a great deal of money. . . .

Appearances apparently do matter. That van is the cosmetic surgery of populism, the tummy tuck of a 1 percenter auditioning for a role somewhere between Evita and Auntie Mame. But the Clintons have always had a strange knack for getting people to admire them for their phoniness, not in spite of it. Their admirers — and there are many of them — are like those odd ducks who prefer breast implants to the genuine articles, the more obviously artificial the better.

That’s the strange thing about the career of Herself: Because she is a feminist, or at least a woman who plays one on television, to bring up the subject of her appearance is taken as prima facie chauvinism, boorish boobishness of the sort that illustrates exactly why we need a woman as president. (Maybe. But this woman?) At the same time, appearance is 83 percent of every presidential campaign, and 97 percent — at least — of a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign. In some cases, the appeal is literally skin deep: When Team Herself unveiled its campaign icon — an uppercase “H” with a vector pointing to the right — the daft young actress Lena Dunham remarked that she wanted to get a “tramp stamp” tattoo of the logo.

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