Commentary Magazine


Obama Gets the Tartuffe Treatment

It really is striking to see Barack Obama having to  deal with the sticky, gooey, confused and deliberately confusing attacks hurled at him by Hillary Clinton. He is voicing precisely the same kind of exasperated frustration that used to tie Republicans and conservatives in knots when they had to deal with a classic Bill Clinton attack (i.e., that they supported cuts in Medicare when they supported only a cut in the size of the increase of Medicare). The brilliance of a Clinton attack is that it need not be consistent or even logical — what matters is that it can be joined to an easily digested soundbite (“you won’t take responsibility for your vote”) and that there is a tiny sunbeam of truth dwarfed by a giant cloud of delibeate obfuscation. I wrote a piece in 1996 comparing Bill Clinton to Tartuffe, Moliere’s formidable character who used overt and false piety to pursue his own ambitions and assassinate the characters of others while always claiming to be modest and holy. Judging from this debate, Hillary has decided to succeed her husband as the Tartuffe of the Democrats.