The Woman Who Would Be Senator
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The "reality" is touchingly described by Sheehy on pages 109-10, where Hillary's Watergate committee chum Sara Ehrman drives her from Washington to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where Bill is teaching at the law school, so Hillary can be with him (but not, alas, live with him; local mores, don't you know).
"He's just a country lawyer," Sheehy says Ehrman said. "Why are you doing this?" Hillary sat mute all the way, staring silently ahead. Finally, Fayetteville. A Saturday. Air filled "with the high-pitched sound of pigs in heat," which "the initiated" recognize as the rallying cry of the Arkansas Razorbacks ("Woo, pig, Suey!"--I happen to know), who were that very day playing archrival Texas. This distillation of the beer-spittled life that awaited her dear friend was a little much for Ehrman, who began to cry. Funny thing, though; when Ehrman and Hillary left Washington, it was a "steamy...August evening" in 1974, just after Nixon's resignation. Nine paragraphs later, two football archrivals are playing each other. That striking me as an autumn ritual, I checked. In 1974 Arkansas played Texas on October 19. Long drive. And oh, yeah--they must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, too, because the game was played at Texas.
I also bought--call me naïve--Sheehy's conjecture about why Bill would do it, in the nonconjugal sense, with Monica. Sheehy describes three episodes--needless to say, she has to gussy them up by calling them three "major personal marker events"--that may have made old Bill feel...well, old. His mother's (i.e., the most important woman in any man's life) death. His tumble, toward the end of the affair, down a flight of stairs at golfer Greg Norman's house and subsequent dependence on the "accoutrements of decay"--cane, wheelchair, "flaccid [hmmm!] muscles." Third, and most crucially, Chelsea's future departure for college. I've never really thought about this before, but it makes sense to me. It's not hard to picture frustrated middle-aged men across America doing the same thing--watching the apples of their eyes (daughters) roll pretty far away from the tree and then acquiring a sexual surrogate as a way to keep dealing with the repressed father-daughter sexual tension that's always floating around in the libidinal penumbra somewhere. This isn't the sort of thing we talk about much, and it's certainly not suitable for Meet the Press--one can imagine the New York Post headline: shrinks: bill wanted sex with chelsea!--but it strikes me as a plausible guess about contributing factors.
So you see, reading Hillary's Choice is not a waste of time. You won't find much about politics in it that's interesting, though, if that's your bag. I suppose from a Nation reader's (and reviewer's) perspective, the book's aha! moment turns out to be the part where Dick Morris (good old Dick!) tells the author, apropos the early days in Arkansas, that Hillary "was more conservative than Clinton was...she was always pulling him back to the right." (Sheehy leans quite heavily on Morris, who has been using his New York Post column to cuff his former client about the ears in every way he can imagine. Ditto Nancy Pietrefesa, the one old friend who's been willing to dish some dirt.) Perspective is added by Don Jones, Hillary's youth minister, the man who opened her eyes to the world beyond the fragrant azaleas and scraped Girl Scout knees of her childhood suburb. He took her to meet Martin Luther King Jr., took her into Chicago's South Side to meet her poor, black coevals, strummed protest songs (inevitably!) on his guitar. Jones: "She definitely has a conservative streak...particularly on abortion, homosexuality, and capital punishment. Surely, she is for gay rights, there's no question about that. But I think both she and Bill still think of heterosexuality as normative." And so on.
This commences a discussion by Sheehy about teacher testing, a cause HRC took up with her usual earnest ardor, which had her reading the curriculums of pretty much every school in the state and which led one school librarian to call her "lower than a snake's belly" (that's how they talk down there in Arkansas, see?). Teacher testing is anathema to liberals. So it was an awkward moment, at Hillary's pre-announcement announcement of her Senate candidacy, which was held in November at the Manhattan offices of the United Federation of Teachers, when someone from the press corps had the bad form to ask her about her old Arkansas enthusiasm for this bane of teachers' unions everywhere. Hillary ducked, muttering something about circumstances being different then. Which of course is true: Then, she didn't need the massive phone-bank operation of one of the most politically influential unions in New York to beat back a popular and well-financed conservative opponent. Now she does!