Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hillary Clinton on Memory

A casual reminiscence in Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes perhaps sheds a sidelight on Hillary's false memory, voiced repeatedly in the '08 campaign, of ducking sniper fire on her landing at Bosnia's Tuzla air base in March 1996.

Branch had worked with the Clintons for McGovern's campaign in Texas in 1972. Looking back, the three find their memories fuzzy:
We reminisced about how hard it had been to figure out what was real and right at the time (re Vietnam), but fickle memory dulled our access.None of us could remember even where our apartment had been located in Austin during the McGovern campaign of 1972. The president had an image of a complex near the Colorado River.I recalled being on a hill past the interstate. Both of us still knew the address of our headquarters on Sixth Street, but nobody could place the home retreat. Hillary absolved us, saying we had traveled so much that the three of us were seldom there together, but our vagueness and the Vietnam tapes (Johnson's) made her reflect on the trickiness of memoirs. If she ever wrote them, how could she reconstruct her own past accurately? Their lawyer David Kendall knew more about a surviving paper trail of her life than she did. And he remembered it better. She said Kendall was truly gifted (p. 470).

It's still a bit hard to fathom how Clinton could 'remember' ducking sniper fire when she was in fact greeted by children with flowers on the runway. But those of us with less crowded memories have little means of imagining ourselves into a mind packed with tens of thousands of meetings with strangers in thousands of settings. Not to mention into a mind with a politician's reflex for optimal self-presentation.

More on The Clinton Tapes
A Clinton-eye view of Republicans
The long view from China 
Bill Clinton, Happy Warrior

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