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Theodore Dalrymple (real name: Dr. Anthony Daniels) is a retired psychiatrist, who spent a big part of his career working in third world countries like Zimbabwe and treating patients inside British prisons. These experiences have turned Dalrymple into an implacable critic of, among other things, totalitarian governments, large bureaucracies like the British NHS, the psychiatric establishment (especially its attempt to do away with things like free will and personal responsibility), and the left in general.
He is a wonderful cultural commentator and literary critic (he is Exhibit A for the proposition that the best literary critics are those who simply love good writing and who haven’t been corrupted by stylish post-modern literary theory). His writing can be found in New Criterion, City Journal, National Review, and in the on-line magazine New English Review.
One of the proven tests for clear thinking is to go back and read columns and essays written several years ago and see how well they hold up. Under this test, it is easy to discern that the Paul Krugmans and Tom Friedmans of the world are little more than hack, penny-a-line writers. Dalrymple, on the other hand, is the real deal.
All of which brings me to my subject. A few days ago, I had occasion to re-read an essay published in April 2008 by Dalrymple in New English Review, “Roman Remains,” a brilliant analysis of Shakespeare’s last tragedy, Coriolanus. But what made it resonate so much for me seven years after it was written was Dalrymple’s spot-on comparison of the “mulishly inflexible” Coriolanus and Hillary Clinton.
[Coriolanus] seems to have no inner life, only an external role to play, that of the hardened warrior, braver, stronger, more unyielding than anyone else; he is, like so many modern politicians, unappealingly one-dimensional. He has, as they say, no hinterland; one cannot imagine him being interested in philosophy or art, or having a strange and passionate hobby, such as collecting things; if there were no wars for him to fight in, he would cease to exist for himself; and one would no more wish to spend an evening in his company than in that of Mrs Clinton.
I agree with Dalrymple that this could describe a lot of politicians, including some on the right. But it seems to be the perfect description of Hillary. I can imagine playing a round of golf with Bill and enjoying the experience, but I can’t imagine enjoying hanging around with Hillary. Where Bill has an actual personality, Hillary seems to be merely the embodiment of the will to power. This is why SNL’s brilliant parodies of Hillary resonate so much: they portray a woman whose only hobby is seeking power.
A bit later is his essay, Dalrymple provides us with a great payoff pitch. In describing Coriolanus, he’s given us a flawless portrayal of Hillary:
He is showing us a type that appears to me to becoming more common: someone for whom public adulation, though always on his own terms, is a kind of scaffolding that keeps the whole edifice of the personality upright, that prevents the ego from crumbling into nothingness.
Is that not a perfect portrait of Hillary: the woman with no hinterland?Published in