The first book I read by Christopher Hitchens was ‘The Missionary Position’ in which he attacked Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I was impressed – I always thought there was something a bit odd about raising millions and preaching the glory of poverty. If I was impressed by his research and his merciless attack on a little old lady, I was totally blown away by the character assassination of Bill Clinton in Hitchens’ 1999 book No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. Whilst much of the world will look back on Bill as a philandering draft dodger who may or may not have inhaled, Hitchens soon shows us that fondling interns in the Oval Office was just the teensiest tip of the iceberg of misdemeanours which can be attributed to the 42nd president of the United States of America.
Hitchens started out as a political left winger but got a reputation for heading towards the right as he got older, most astonishingly to his friends and admirers, he supported the war against Iraq. Mind you left-wingers heading for the right have not been unusual in the past twenty years; just ask Tony Blair and the architects of ‘New Labour’. Meanwhile on the other side of the pond the man who was elected as a Democrat president was carving out a cosy little spot somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. Traditionally we expect a Democrat leader to at least pretend to be ‘nice’ to people, to protect the poor and down-trodden, to treat people with at least the appearance of ‘fairness’. What Hitchens reveals is a coldly calculating manipulator who was happy to stage any kind of extreme entertainment to distract the public from his own bad behaviour.
When faced with the media hounding him over an affair with a club singer, he approved the carrying out of the death sentence on a young man so educationally challenged that he left the pudding from his last meal ‘for later’. As Ricky Ray Rector lay down thinking that the doctors were there to make him feel better, Clinton was attempting to hijack the headlines with the ‘legal’ murder of a young man so ‘simple’ that he had absolutely no idea what was happening and probably should never have even stood trial. When things were hotting up with the impeachment demands following his involvement with Monika Lewinsky, he coldly and calculated ordered the bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, claiming it was making nerve gas and was funded by Bin Laden. It wasn’t – but then I don’t suppose that was a surprise. The evidence mysteriously disappeared; another non-surprise. Whenever the heat was on, Clinton could find someone to attack or kill to divert attention.
Welfare mothers came in for his ire and Hitchens describes how big companies who funded Clinton benefited from laws forcing the unemployed to take work whatever it paid, wherever it was, and never mind if you had a tiny baby at home and had to walk six miles to the chicken gutting factory. Surely looking after the poor and disadvantaged is what Democrats are supposed to do but not by giving them compulsory jobs with their hands up the bottoms of chickens all day long.
For a poor white boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Clinton soon forgot where he came from. His attitudes on race were sometimes very distasteful, his behaviour towards women – especially poor, pretty ones, was disgusting. And he didn’t stop at sex with women he could dismiss as trailer trash if they dared to come forward. Hitchens offers evidence of three well documented cases of respectable, well-to-do Democrat supporting women whose accounts of being attacked by Clinton match up to scary degrees. Whilst the women were unwilling to press charges, their experiences establish clear patterns of behaviour. He writes of how Clinton forced his senior team members to tell lies on his behalf and how supporters spread rumours that Lewinsky was a stalker.
It’s easy to look upon Clinton as the president who couldn’t ‘keep it zipped’ and to treat him as a bit of a joke. At the time of his impeachment, supporters said he was a victim of sexual McCarthyism, choosing to turn a blind eye to the assaults on his victims and even more seriously, to the bigger sins of his administration. We all heard about the sex, but what about the corruption, the violence and the attempt to make the UN Special Committee (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors into lapdogs of the Clinton administration.
Finally, just when you think there can’t possibly be something even more entertaining still to come, Hitchens lays into Hilary Clinton too. It’s priceless – absolutely priceless, and I say that as someone who just assumed the Clintons were probably OK if you could look the other way about his philandering.
Hitchens is not one to sensationalise and I’m confident that his sources and his research are impeccable, if only because the Clintons would no doubt have sued over anything he couldn’t prove. It’s not always an easy read for a Brit since the book assumes quite a lot of knowledge of American political and media figures which sometimes went over my head. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to what was going on back in the 1990s. No One Left to Lie To is the kind of book I know I’m going to need to read again at least once or twice in order to get the hang of everything that was going on but if I only ever read one book on Bill and Hillary, this one will do for me.
No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton
by Christopher Hitchens
Published by Atlantic Books, December 2012
With thanks to the publisher for sending the review copy.
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