I possess a very retentive memory. It has its drawbacks; I remember the bad stuff just as vividly as the good. But it also provides me with material for these tirades when I most need it.
On May 23, 1993, with the inauguration of Bill Clinton only four months past, the New York Times ran a canonization piece on Hillary Clinton. Here are a few choice quotes about (and some from) the quondam First Lady, as they were immortalized in the Paper of Record:
Driven by the increasingly common view that something is terribly awry with modern life, Mrs. Clinton is searching for not merely programmatic answers but for The Answer. Something in the Meaning of It All line, something that would inform everything from her imminent and all-encompassing health care proposal to ways in which the state might encourage parents not to let their children wander all hours of the night in shopping malls.
When it is suggested that she sounds as though she's trying to come up with a sort of unified-field theory of life, she says, excitedly, "That's right, that's exactly right!"
The point of all this is not abstract or small. What Mrs. Clinton seems -- in all apparent sincerity -- to have in mind is leading the way to something on the order of a Reformation: the remaking of the American way of politics, government, indeed life. A lot of people, contemplating such a task, might fall prey to self doubts. Mrs. Clinton does not blink.
"It's not going to be easy," she says. "But we can't get scared away from it because it is an overwhelming task.'
The Western world, she said, needed to be made anew. America suffered from a "sleeping sickness of the soul," a "sense that somehow economic growth and prosperity, political democracy and freedom are not enough -- that we lack at some core level meaning in our individual lives and meaning collectively, that sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another, that community means that we have a place where we belong no matter who we are."
"What do our governmental institutions mean? What do our lives in today's world mean?" she asked. "What does it mean in today's world to pursue not only vocations, to be part of institutions, but to be human?"
These questions, she said, led to the larger question: "Who will lead us out of this spiritual vacuum?" The answer to that was "all of us," all required "to play our part in redefining what our lives are and what they should be."
Now, asked if she has always been impelled by what she called, in a recent interview with The Washington Post, "a burning desire" to "make the world . . . better for everybody," Mrs. Clinton says, with a slight, self-conscious laugh: "Yeah, I always have. I have not always known what it meant, but I have always had it."
IT IS AT THIS POINT that some awkward questions arise:
If it is necessary to remake society, why should Hillary Rodham Clinton get the job?
Can someone who helped lead the very generation that threw out the old ways of moral absolutes and societal standards now lead the charge back to the future?
Today, she asks "what do our governmental institutions mean? What do our lives in today's world mean?"
At the heart of the Wellesley speech, she argued for what she then called the "experiment in human living" and would come to call "excessive individualism" and "rights without responsibility."
The "prevailing, acquisitive and competitive corporate life," she said, "is not for us. We're searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living."
Yes, she really said those things, and the Times really said those things about her. The article was graced by a glowing white portrait photo of Mrs. Clinton which appeared on the cover of the Times Magazine. Its title, whether meant seriously or tongue-in-cheek, was “Saint Hillary.”
Whereupon I must cite an old wisdom, well known among Catholics:
Every sinner has a future.
Perhaps Mrs. Clinton will make a constructive, non-political use of her future. At any rate, we can hope.