Penn Jillette on the Clintons: Quote of the Day

On his weekly podcast, libertarian magician and skeptic Penn Jillette gave an incisive take on Hillary and Bill Clinton.

We have Hillary Clinton — while you were alive, while you were sexually active, three years ago — saying marriage is just between a man and a woman. …

And yet many people in [the gay community] are supporting Hillary, and their reason for supporting her is that “she was always in favor of gay rights, but she had to say what she had to to be elected.” …

She came out in favor of the pacific trade deal, very strongly in favor of it, and now she’s against it.

And that’s not seen as flip-flopping, it’s not really seen as a revelation or learning something — it’s seen as “she is politically expedient, and we want someone who is politically expedient.”

The followers of Hillary Clinton seem to think they have a secret deal with her — where they understand what she really believes, what she’s really going to do — and they are willing to support her as she bends the truth in order to be elected. …

Why do the people who support Hillary think that what she’s saying is to manipulate other people and not to manipulate them?

This cultivated impression of insincerity allows her supporters project whatever beliefs and values they want onto her, rationalizing away any dissonant actions as just “savvy politics,” letting her be everything to everyone.

Penn notes that Bill Clinton exploited the same tendency when he ran for president in 1992:

I remember when Bill Clinton was running for president. He was in a capital punishment state, Arkansas, and he flew back during his campaign, during the Gennifer Flowers thing, to pull the switch on a mentally handicapped criminal.

He went back to pull the switch, and I remember talking to a buddy of mine in Chicago … who said, “We know Bill Clinton is against capital punishment, we know he’s against it, but he had to make sure this guy was killed in order to be elected, and he knows that’s important.”

And I said I know people who are pro-capital punishment who have never actually been part of killing a person, and who might balk at that.

So this is what they postulate: you’ve got an anti-death penalty guy who think it’s worth it to kill this guy in order to be elected… so he can fight for not killing people?

Of course, this is not unique to Clinton supporters. Politics is a tribal game, where members of one team will always assume that their leaders are (at least secretly) really on their side and doing the right thing, and they’ll find ways to rationalize their disagreements as merely strategic or cosmetic.

Listen to the rest of the show here.

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Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian.

View all posts by Daniel Bier


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