24 hours in Tuzla

Mark Steyn:

About this business of Hillary coming under intense sniping, I have some sympathy. The Clintons got away with this sort of thing for so long that you can't blame them for wondering how they missed the memo advising that henceforth the old rules no longer apply.

Bill, being warier, was usually canny enough to set his fantasies just far enough back in time that live cable footage was unlikely to be available – his vivid memories of entirely mythical black church burnings in his childhood, etc. But Hillary liked to live a little more dangerously. The defining fiction arose back in the mid-Nineties when she visited New Zealand and met Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Everest, and for some reason decided to tell him he was the guy her parents had named her after.

Hmm. Edmund Hillary reached the top of Everest in 1953. Hillary Rodham was born in 1947, when Sir Edmund was an obscure New Zealand beekeeper and a somewhat unlikely inspiration for two young parents in the Chicago suburbs. If any of the bigshot U.S. newspaper correspondents on the trip noticed this inconsistency, they kept it to themselves. I mentioned it in Britain's Sunday Telegraph at the time, but like so many other improbabilities in the Clinton record it sailed on indestructibly for years. By 2004 it was preserved for the ages in Bill Clinton's autobiography, on page (gulp) 870:

"Sir Edmund Hillary, who had explored the South Pole in the 1950s, was the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest and, most important, was the man Chelsea's mother had been named for."

Eventually, when it was noticed that Hillary was born six years before the ascent of Everest, Clinton aides tried assuring skeptics that her parents had seen a press interview with Sir Edmund in his beekeeping days, Mr. and Mrs. Rodham apparently being the only Illinois subscribers to The New Zealand Apiarist. Then, in the early days of her presidential campaign, Sen. Clinton quietly withdrew the story, by which time the damage was done. Edmund Hillary passed away a couple of months back, and, as I recall, the New York Times headline read:

"New Zealander For Whom Sen. Clinton Named Dies; Also First Man To Climb Everest. Sen. Clinton Was At The Summit To Greet Him, After Landing Under Heavy Sniper Fire From The Abominable Snowman."

There's something weird about the need to tell quite so many unnecessary fictions. Yet Sen. Clinton might reasonably have expected the sniper-fire landing in Tuzla to have been like the late-1940s epidemic of beekeeper-inspired Chicago christenings, something planted in the record that no-one dares question. Perhaps Burt Bacharach, after his recent anti-Bush anti-war album, might have remade his old song for Gene Pitney as a Hillary campaign anthem:

"Oh, I was only Twenty-Four Hours In Tuzla

Only one day pinned down under fire

The jet exploded in flame

But danger's my middle name

I'm glad

I came … "

What a surefire smash it would have been. First week, straight into the Billboard Hot One Hundred at Number Seven with a bullet. Alas, Sen. Sir Edmund Hillary Danger Rodham Clinton couldn't have foreseen that the Democratic primary season would dwindle down to the Palm Beach recount replayed as a civil war: Two 50-50 candidates slugging it out, but both Democrats – and so the party's formidable skills at the politics of personal destruction and its fierce determination to win at all costs are now turned in on itself: As Edwin Glover said of the British defenses at Singapore, the guns are pointing the wrong way.

The other day I gave a talk, and a Democrat in the audience demanded that I disassociate myself from the sleazy attacks of some Republicans who've been referring to "Barack Hussein Obama." I said I'd be happy to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Bob Kerrey, who's been floating the whole nudge-nudge-Hussein-the-secret-Muslim thing, and to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Bill Shaheen, who's been pushing the Obama-spent-most-of-the-Seventies-selling-cocaine rumors, and to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Andrew Young, who's boasted that Bill Clinton has slept with more black women than Obama. And golly, after I'd got through disassociating myself from all the Democrat sleaze about Obama, I had no time to peddle any sleaze of my own.

...

Both Democrat candidates have their fantasy life. Hillary blames sleep deprivation for her Tuzla horrors. Obama can't make that claim since he apparently slept through most of Rev, Wright's sermons.

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