Hillary Is Too Boring to Be President

by Michael O. Allen on May 16, 2008

By JOE QUEENAN, May 16, 2008; Page A13

Journalists like to pretend that it makes no difference to them who gets elected president, but this is a lie. A few years ago, I disclosed in print that I had two handwritten notes from Steve Forbes that would vastly increase in value were he elected to the highest office in the land. Yes, I admired my ex-employer’s pluck and thought he had some wonderful ideas about simplifying the tax code. But the main reason I supported his candidacy was because of those two collectibles I could cash in. I may be venal and morally rudderless, but at least I’m honest.

Journalists, and especially humorists, need to come clean and admit that none of us ever really wanted to see Hillary Clinton in the White House. No, it isn’t her hair or her know-it-all attitude or her inexplicable marriage or her pitiful attempts to portray herself as a tribune of the working class or the fact that she went to Wellesley that puts us off. She’s just no fun, and politicians who are no fun are hard to write about. A barrel of monkeys is fun. A barrel of dead monkeys is no fun. Hillary is less fun that three barrels of dead monkeys. Maybe 300.

Down through our history, presidents have provided a cornucopia of chuckles for a hard-pressed electorate. Martin Van Buren was a fop. Andrew Jackson threatened to hang people who got on his nerves. Franklin Pierce took a daily nude swim in the Potomac, and is the only sitting president who ever ran someone over with a horse. Andrew Johnson was a boozehound, Warren Harding a lush, Zachary Taylor bust a gut and died after gorging himself on milk, cherries and pickles on July Fourth. Chester Arthur was a clown, William Taft a porker, and Teddy Roosevelt wore farcical hats. Harry Truman threatened to beat up music critics, Gerald Ford fell down stairs, LBJ liked to dangle beagles by the ears, and Richard (“I’m Not a Crook”) Nixon was a laugh a minute. Ronald Reagan would say inappropriate things in inappropriate settings, George H.W. Bush didn’t know what a supermarket scanner was, George W. Bush projects the Alfred E. Newman look, and Jimmy Carter got attacked by a killer rabbit. As for Bill Clinton . . . well, we all know about Bill Clinton.

By no stretch of the imagination could Hillary Clinton ever amuse the rest of us the way these megaliths of mirth have. She’s like one of those short, stubby running backs no one can tackle because you can’t get your arms around them. Using her as a comic launching pad is like waiting to get a hoot out of Greenland or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Even her most outrageous comments are plausibly, prosaically outrageous. She is annoying without being preposterous, absurd without being flat-out nuts.

Even when she lies – as she did when describing that sniper fire in Bosnia – she ruins everything by carping and quibbling, instead of clamming up and letting the rest of us have a nice therapeutic guffaw. When Nixon lied, he’d lie up a storm, and everyone could get a big laugh out of it. When Bill Clinton lied – I never inhaled, I did not have sex with “that woman” – you could hear the entire country go into convulsions. Hillary, by contrast, takes all the joy out of deceit. Everybody likes a good liar. But nobody likes a tergiversator.

For a satirist, the most depressing thing about this year’s campaign is that Hillary is still standing while so many other richly amusing candidates have fallen by the wayside. Dennis Kucinich and his UFO theories was a peach. Mike Huckabee provided loads of fun with his pastoral quips and bass guitar. No one ever looked sillier in a vote-seeking sweater than Mitt Romney (not even Wesley Clark). John Edwards, the prole with the 28,000-square-foot McMansion, never failed to charm, and Rudy Giuliani, with his romances, his comb-over and Bernard Kerik kept the whole nation loose. All of them are sorely missed.

This brings us then to the obvious question: Are John McCain and Barack Obama the kinds of freewheeling cut-ups that can keep the rest of us in stitches for the next four to eight years? Clearly, neither is in the same class as Nixon, Ford and Carter, who made the ’70s the most hilarious decade in American history.

Still, both candidates are at least as much fun as Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover. Mr. McCain, with his puzzling economic theories and inexplicable comments about Baghdad marketplace security, is no stiff. As for Mr. Obama, anyone who can say, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” with a straight face is a force to be reckoned with, giggle-wise. Hillary, by contrast, is just too dry, too focused, too intense, too serious.

All right, I lied when I said I didn’t hate her because she went to Wellesley. Or, at the very least, I tergiversated.

Mr. Queenan is the author, most recently, of “Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile’s Pilgrimage to the Mother Country” (Picador, 2005).

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