It’s hard to say which of the three monomaniacal, monumentally grueling quests is the most riveting.
There’s the torturous trek portrayed in The Revenant of Hugh Glass, a 19th-century trapper who, inflamed by revenge, dragged his bloody body 200 miles through the Western wilderness after being gnawed by a grizzly and deserted by fellow trappers.
Then there’s the hunt by Leonardo DiCaprio for his first Oscar, for portraying Glass. He has been on the press circuit dramatizing the agonizing shoot, bragging about his verisimilitude in eating raw bison liver. The director, Alejandro Iñárritu, told Variety he had to fly ants twice, first class, to Calgary, Alberta, so they could crawl over Leo’s fractured frontiersman.
Some wags suggested Leo was so eager to inhabit the solitary Glass’ misery that he broke up with Kelly Rohrbach, his latest supermodel girlfriend, because she was bringing a frivolity to the saturnine mood of the promotional effort by taking the bouncy Pamela Anderson role in the new “Baywatch” movie.
And finally, of course, there’s the politician most like Glass in her willingness to crawl through glass, flip her positions and persona, and even bear up under a mauling by a merciless, manic bear to reach that goal most yearned for. In Hillary Clinton’s grimly relentless trudge toward the White House, the part of the bear is played by Donald Trump. (The bear in the movie is also a counterpuncher; when Leo tries to shoot the animal in the face, the grizzly races back to molest him again.)
Trump is like a CGI Rathtar or Indominus Rex, a larger-than-life, fight-to-the-death animated creature who improbably pops up in the ordinarily staid presidential campaign and stomps around, devouring attention and sinking his Twitter teeth into rivals. With his muddle of charm, humor, zest, vulgarity, bigotry, opportunistic flexibility, brutal candor, breathtaking boorishness and outrageous opening bids on volatile issues, he has now leapt into that most sensitive area: the Clintons’ tangled conjugal life.
Hillary was asked by The Des Moines Register about Trump’s crude comments that she had been trounced (he used a phallic word) by Barack Obama in 2008 and that her prolonged debate bathroom break was “disgusting.” She replied that Trump had a “penchant for sexism.”
That spurred him to declare “open season” on the Clintons’ seraglio imbroglios. On Thursday, he put out an Instagram ad showing The Daily News cover about Bill, after he admitted the affair with Monica Lewinsky, blaring “Liar, Liar.”
The ad goes straight at what Hillary sees as her strengths: Bill and running as a woman. Playing her famous line in Beijing in 1995 that “women’s rights are human rights,” it features pictures of the Clintons with “friends” who have been ensnared in seamy scandals – Bill Cosby and Anthony Weiner, the husband of Hillary’s close aide Huma Abedin.
In 1999, when I interviewed him, Trump said of Bill: “He handled the Monica situation disgracefully. It’s sad because he would go down as a great president if he had not had this scandal. People would have been more forgiving if he’d had an affair with a really beautiful woman of sophistication. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were on a different level. Now Clinton can’t get into golf clubs in Westchester. A former president begging to get into a golf club. It’s unthinkable.”
Ignoring our more gender-fluid society, the skyscraper-obsessed Trump has hectored male rivals for being girlie men. But he knows Hillary is tough. So he’s wielding his knife on her most sensitive pressure point: her hypocrisy in running as a feminist icon when she was part of political operations that smeared women who told the truth about Bill’s transgressions. Hillary told friends that Monica was a “troubled young person” getting ministered to by Bill and a “narcissistic loony toon.” Hillary’s henchman Sidney Blumenthal spread around the story that Monica was a stalker and Charlie Rangel publicly slandered the intern as a fantasist who wasn’t playing with “a full deck.”
Trump may be a politically incorrect Frank Sinatra ring-a-ding type with cascading marriages to hot babes, but he knows that a retrospective of the Clintons’ cynical campaigns against “bimbo eruptions” will not play well in a politically correct society sensitized by epidemics of rape in colleges and the military and by the Cosby effect.
Bill hid behind the skirts of feminists – including his wife and esteemed women in his Cabinet – when he got caught playing around. And feminists, eager to protect his progressive agenda on women, allowed the women swirling around Bill to become collateral damage, torched as trailer trash or erotomaniacs.
In Iowa last fall, Hillary promised to fight sexual assault on campuses, saying that survivors had “the right to be heard” and “the right to be believed.” But when a woman last month asked whether the women who claimed they were sexually harassed by Bill Clinton should be believed, Hillary faltered, replying lamely: “I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.” She’s in a dicey spot on this, as Trump well knows.
Hillary reacted to his ad by tweeting, “It’s important to stand up to bullies.”
Trump can be a bully. But Hillary was a bully, too, in the way she dealt with her husband’s paramours. Her impulse, as Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair, was to blame the woman – even herself. Hillary was not going to be hurt twice by Those Women, letting them damage her marriage and her political future. If someone had to be collateral damage, it was not going to be Hillary. For now, she will have to deal with that old show business saw: Exit, pursued by a bear.