A book review.
Dr. Alma Bond has done it again, penning another psychological (sort of) look at a prominent woman. This time, it is Hillary Clinton, a living person, and as such, treated with kid gloves.
Dr. Bond is a literate author and psychoanalyst with a score of published books to her credit. In this one, she has employed the same literary “device” she used with a previous book, Marilyn Monroe: On the Couch. She uses an alter-ego in the guise of Dr. Darcy Dale, a psychoanalyst who shares her session notes with the reader. In Marilyn’s case, the device worked well. Marilyn needed a shrink to finish breakfast.
In Hillary Clinton’s case, the device is somewhat thin. Hillary Clinton, like her or not, is a very “together” woman, not to mention an intensely private one. She doesn’t really need a shrink, particularly since as a “head person,” she doesn’t share and she doesn’t whine.
The ruse is even thinner. Hillary Clinton, “troubled” by yet another one of her husband’s liaisons, makes an appointment with Dr. Dale. This gets her in the door and on the couch, but it is never discussed again. But after forty years, Hillary is probably bored and immune to Bill’s lady friends.
The Basic Hillary
Mrs. Clinton has been on the political stage for a quarter century. There is little to the story that the public doesn’t know. A sweet, occasionally wise mother, exhausted by her overbearing and critical husband. A common enough scenario.
And a common enough Hillary Rodham. A plain-jane-with-a-brain, anxious to please, and defiant in proclaiming her indifference to “plain.” It was, after all, the 60s. A time for bra-burning, strident and loud insistence for a woman’s right to be whoever she wanted to be. Plain was a plus.
Hillary goes to college, opts for Yale Law School, and is bowled over by the attentions of hunky Bill Clinton, with his “aw shucks” charm and Rhodes scholar paperwork. She falls madly in love; he not so much, but then again, he was a man with a libidinous tapeworm.
Bill Clinton was the one with the political agenda, the goal and the ambition: Governor of Arkansas. Hillary, a more sophisticated Chicago girl, sort-of wanted the big law firm career and the big bucks. Clinton was her vehicle. She wanted Bill.
She follows him to Arkansas, marries him, to the dismay of her flashy-trashy mother-in-law, and becomes the family breadwinner. Arkansas pays a pittance to governors, and not everyone is Winthrop Rockefeller.
They have their ups and downs, and finally a mega-up. He is elected President of the United States, and she is now First Lady. A Public Figure. For goodly or badly. It would be another up and down eight years, and one can only guess whether or not Hillary enjoyed the White House. Then.
The Rest of the Story
Despite author Bond’s best efforts and “Darcy Dale’s” undisguised gushy admiration, Hillary Rodham Clinton: On the Couch becomes a resume recital, most of which is well known to everyone. She also includes at least a dozen pages of bragging-on-Chelsea. That Hillary is a devoted mom who loves her daughter dearly is never in question. Chelsea Clinton has always been a nice, sensible young lady. The country wishes her well.
Hillary Clinton (the Rodham part got dropped after her First Ladydom), is, of course, a major league player in American politics, and has been for decades. She is dissected in the media on a daily basis. Political pundits write about her. She has written her own books and gets big bucks for speaking about them. The millions who love her and ballyhoo everything, know that few can hold a candle to her impressive credentials, her diligence and her work ethic. Those who don’t like her and nitpick everything (an equal number), never deny her credentials, diligence and work ethic.
But alas for Dr. Bond, whose own impressive credentials, diligence and work ethic rival Mrs. Clinton, we never really get into Hillary’s head, let alone her heart, which is really what this book purports to do.
Putting up with Bill Clinton’s extra-curricular activities as well as her own privacy vs. presidential ambition ambivalence (either one more than sufficient reason to “have her head examined”) are glossed over lightly. If she had/has any close friends, we know nothing. Early pals are shrugged off, and we suspect her “friendships” are more alliances than personal, anyway. So despite her public persona and fish bowl existence, Mrs. C. remains elusive and private, even to Dr. Dale. Good for her!
One would have liked to know if Hillary misses driving her own car. Or goofing off for a day in an old bathrobe and bunny slippers, and to hell with her hairdo. Or escaping her retinue to go window shopping at the mall or stopping for a Big Mac. We remain clueless, but suspect that figures highly in her ambivalence.
Hillary Clinton: On the Couch serves nicely, and Hillary lovers will love the book. Hillary bashers, if they bother to read it at all, won’t. So what else is new? But the fact that she is still living presents its considerable problems to an author. Perhaps Dr. Bond will choose a subject with a little time-lapse in between for her next effort. Like Mary Lincoln or the Empress Josephine. Interesting subjects, so much easier, and Dr. Bond is a wonderful writer, with a good ear. It would give her a chance to develop her own speech patterns. And did I mention work ethic?! Rock on, Dr. Bond!
Dr. Alma H. Bond
Bancroft Press, 2015