rejuvenating month in the forest.” Were Mrs. Clinton less intentrnon name-dropping {Look Grandma—global splendorsl)rnand more concerned with communicating, she might realizernthat the image of Helmut Kohl rejuvenating in the forest is onernthat many of us would just as soon skip.rnHillary Clinton followed her vacation memories withrncolumns devoted to her conviction that American womenrnshould exercise their right to vote; her observation that life inrnMongolia is hard; her conclusion that being First Lady is nicernbut difficult—or difficult but nice. She also wrote a commentaryrnon her belief that the United Nations World Conferencernon Women in Beijing would make the “world a better place byrnhelping women live up to their God-given potential at home, inrnschool, on the job, in their communities and as mothers, wives,rnlearners, workers and citizens”—an extremelv large assertionrnwlien vou think about it, one she repeated several times in differentrnwavs, avoiding each time anv explanation of how such arntask might be accomplished.rnIcannot imagine who would publish Hillary Clinton’s musingsrnwere she not First Lady; and I can’t imagine who is interestedrnin them even if she is. And it is this, the column’s complete,rnalmost deliberate lack of quality—more than itsrnpatronizing tone, more than its contradictory agenda {Think ofrnme as someone just like you, only special)—that is such an affront.rnDoes she think her readers don’t deserve better? Or isrnthis actualK the best this “bright, ambitious” woman can do?rnM- guess is that it’s actually the best this bright, ambitious,rno’errated woman can do. Mrs. Clinton’s stated rationale forrnwriting a column is her hope that it will “prompt all of us tornthink more about the human dimension of our lives.” I have nornidea what “the human dimension of our lives” means. Butrnwhat rankles is that she apparently wrote it without asking—rnwithout grasping that she was obliged to ask—if she knows whatrnit means. Like her husband, Mrs. Clinton appears to have spentrnso manv ears adapting her personality in the service of politicalrncalculation that political calculation has become her personality.rnTogether, the Clintons present America with a relativelyrnnew political persona (a legacy of the 1960’s, I think): the authenticrnphom.rnMeaning—her search for it in her life, the search by others forrnit in her words—is a theme that follows Hillary Clinton, as arnreading of her speeches illustrates. (Whether Mrs. Clinton personalK’rnwrites her speeches, or her newspaper column for thatrnmatter, seems irrelevant, because everything that has appearedrnunder her name since she became First Lady has the samernlumpish shape, the same Fm-smart-so-I-don’t-have-to-makesensernpresumption, the same I-mean-well-therefore-I-do-wellrntone as the commencement address she delixered to her fellowrnWellesle graduates in 1969. Speechwriters or not. these arernher clioices.)rnIn her speeches on politics and public policv, one of Mrs.rnClinton’s most frequently used words is should, as in “wernshould insist… we should require . . . we should always… wernshould never.” Rarely do any illustrations follow as to how, preciseK,rn”we” can accomplish what should be done. Confusingrndeclarations with revelations, Mrs. Clinton seems to think itrnenough to state what ought to be, and seems, further, to believernthat verbal smog such as “meet challenges,” “do our part,” andrn”welcome change” is not only original but inspiring.rnBut the most important thing we should be doing, whatrnHil]ar- Clinton herself is busy doing always, is remolding, as inrn”remolding society”; reconstruction, as in “reconstruction ofrncivil society”; and, above all, defining and then redefining. Mrs.rnClinton obviously believes that if you keep defining and redefiningrnyourself, your government, }Our institutions, your responsibilities,rnand your values, you eventually find, well, meaning.rnThus we should all “play a role in redefining what our livesrnshould be.” We must “dehne our institutional and personal responsibilitiesrnin ways that answer [our] lack of meaning.” Wernshould create “a society that fills us up again and makes us feelrnwe are a part of something bigger than ourselves.” And wernshould “figure out how to make our institutions more responsivernto the kinds of human beings wc wish to be.”rnr n h e First Lady uses language T in order to obscure. In herrncolumn, whose intended audiencernis ‘average’ Americans and whosernpurpose is to warm’ Mrs.rnClinton’s image, her use of languagernobscures the fact that she isrnsaying, essentially, nothing.rnBusily projecting her problems onto the rest of America (“Allrnof us face a crisis of meaning”), Mrs. Clinton is eluded in herrnmist of self-generated complexities by the obvious: to the degreernthat you are free to redefine at will, you lose meaning.rnEmotionally and philosophically, not to mention practicably,rnshe comes at things backwards. “Society” does not “hll us up”rnand never has; it doesn’t create a state of individual emptinessrnor fulfillment, it reflects it. We cannot “make our institutionsrnmore responsive to the kinds of human beings we wish to be,”rnbut we can become the kinds of human beings we wish to bernand expect our institutions to respond. Wc do not find meaningrnby redefining; we find it by ceasing to redefine. HillaryrnClinton mistakes the means for the ends. She confuses therntools with the task. It’s as if she decided to dig a hole in orderrnto hnd a shovel. No wonder she isn’t having any “fun.”rnSince Mrs. Clinton’s mental methods result in repeated publicrndisplays of clumsy intellection, the question becomes, whyrndoes she cling so stubbornly to them? Wide deeper into herrnspeeches, and her motive becomes apparent, along with somernastonishing conclusions. In her famous “Politics of Meaning”rnspeech, delivered in Austin, Texas, in 1993, she made many remarksrnthat were discussed and analyzed, applauded orrnridiculed. One statement that was generally overiooked, thernmost revealing, it seems to me, and surely the most stunning,rnwas that people in this country must begin to “see other peoplernFEBRUARY 1996/17rnrnrn