- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A leaked passage from Hillary Clinton’s forthcoming memoir includes a colorful complaint about debating Bernie Sanders, which is great because what 2017 needs is more relitigation of the 2016 presidential primaries.
The complaint draws on an analogy to a scene from the 1998 film “There’s Something About Mary,” a scene that Clinton and her advisers seem to have misunderstood.
She recounts the film:
“A deranged hitchhiker says he’s come up with a brilliant plan. Instead of the famous ‘eight-minute abs’ exercise routine, he’s going to market ‘seven-minute abs.’ It’s the same, just quicker. Then the driver, played by Ben Stiller, says, ‘Well, why not six-minute abs?’ That’s what it was like in policy debates with Bernie. We would propose a bold infrastructure investment plan or an ambitious new apprenticeship program for young people, and then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger. On issue after issue, it was like he kept proposing four-minute abs, or even no-minute abs. Magic abs!”
It may be a coincidence, but I wrote a column for The New York Times in October 2015 that used this movie scene as an analogy for the Republican presidential debates.
Jeb Bush had proposed a $3.4 trillion, unfunded tax cut, which I said was the stand-in for seven-minute abs. You will believe what happened next:
“Donald Trump responded with essentially the same plan, but bigger: $11 trillion in tax cuts; economic growth as high as 6 percent; the biggest, classiest, most luxurious plan you’ve ever seen. Six. Minute. Abs.
“Mr. Bush responded on Twitter, saying he was flattered by the similar structure of Mr. Trump’s tax plan but that Mr. Trump should have stuck with ‘fiscal responsibility.’ Like that drifter, Mr. Bush was insisting that his own tantalizing plan was good, but if you cut one more corner you’d only be fooling yourself.
“But what, exactly, makes $3.4 trillion a reasonable size for a tax cut and $11 trillion irresponsible? After all, rock-hard abs in either six minutes or seven minutes is a dubious proposition. Is there reason to believe our government can handle a revenue loss of the size Mr. Bush wants, even if Mr. Trump has gone too far?”
The dialogue in this movie scene is funny because Harland Williams’ drifter, who proposes to tell people they can get rock-hard abs in seven minutes, suddenly becomes outraged at the idea that one could do it in six. The humor is in the fact that he did not have a good idea to begin with. Seven-minute abs, like six-minute abs, is a fantasy.
I certainly hope this is not how Clinton viewed, for example, her proposal for a $12 minimum wage.