FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Beware of Greeks Bearing Glibness

Given all the unsettling stuff going on in the world right now, one might properly ask: Why bother picking on someone as benign and tangential as Arianna Huffington? Why this particular woman and why now? After all, since selling her seminal “Huffington Post” to AOL (in 2011), Arianna has been out of the spotlight.

But things changed a bit in 2016. Not that there is any logical or readily apparent connection, but one could argue that Donald Trump’s preposterous presidential victory automatically brings to mind Arianna Huffington’s equally astonishing meteoric rise.

Where Trump was the thin-skinned man-child real estate tycoon who hosted a popular reality TV show and whose sudden interest in national politics spawned delusions of grandeur, Arianna was the bright, sharp-eyed opportunist on a near predatory quest for personal glory. In fact, other than Arianna being smarter, shrewder, funnier, subtler, abler, taller, and infinitely more secure than Trump, the comparison has merits.

Volumes could be written about the sustainability and high octane thrust of mega-ambition. Here are two quotes that go a long way toward summing up Arianna’s ability to self-promote. This, from Ed Rollins, a veteran campaign strategist: “Ariana Huffington is the most ruthless and ambitious person I’ve met in thirty years of politics.” And this casual reference to her, from Los Angeles Magazine: “The Sir Edmund Hillary of social climbers.”

So where did the now “liberal” Arianna come from, and how was she, in the mid-1990s (to quote David Brock) “able to reinvent herself as the godmother of the Gingrich Revolution”?

It all began in England, where the Greek-born Arianna relocated from Athens when she was sixteen. As a student at Girton College, Cambridge, she became only the third woman (and first foreigner) to be elected president of the Cambridge Union. Despite a propensity for chameleon-like glibness, no one ever denied that Arianna was brilliant.

But brilliant or not, Arianna was never one to embrace gender politics. Indeed, not only was she not a “feminist,” she firmly opposed the Women’s Liberation movement. In 1973 she wrote a book entitled “The Female Woman” (basically a rebuttal to Germaine Greer’s blockbuster, “The Female Eunuch”).

Always the proud and sexually active heterosexual, here’s a quote from that book: “Women’s Lib claims that the achievement of total liberation would transform the lives of all women for the better. The truth is that it would transform only the lives of women with strong lesbian tendencies.” Ouch.

Arianna authored a couple of other books, both of which were problematic. She wrote a 1981 biography of opera diva Maria Callas (“Maria Callas—The Woman Behind the Legend”), and, in 1989, she did a biography of Pablo Picasso (“Picasso: Creator and Destroyer”).

After being accused of plagiarizing significant portions of both books, she agreed to out-of-court settlements, a penalty that had to have hurt all the more as both books (according to Brock) had been ghost-written. Presumably, she never even had the guilty pleasure of doing the deed herself.

The year 1986 marked the start of her life in “full contact” politics. This was the year she married California Republican and oil scion Michael Huffington. In 1992, at Arianna’s urging, Michael ran for congress and won a seat after having spent a reported a whopping $30 million on the campaign, the most ever spent in a California congressional race up to that point.

And then, in 1994, after barely having gotten his feet wet in congress, Michael Huffington ran for the U.S. Senate, narrowly losing to incumbent Diane Feinstein. Shortly before the election it was revealed that Arianna had violated some state laws regarding household servants (i.e., proper documentation, tax forms), which, given how close the election was, may have contributed to Michael’s loss.

As of 1996, Arianna was still a Republican. She was recognized as an integral part of Newt Gingrich’s brain trust, and was a vocal supporter of Robert Dole’s candidacy for president. Then, around the turn of the millennium, things changed. After having divorced Michael, in1997, and sensing that Newt had burnt out, it was time to move on. Arianna morphed into a different animal. Not a Democrat precisely, but something close.

In 2003, she ran for California governor as an “independent.” After engaging in some lively and entertaining televised debates with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, the eventual winner, she withdrew from the race, realizing she had no chance of winning.

It’s fair to say that her goal all along had been to get noticed—to show off her considerable wit and rhetorical skills—not to run the state from Sacramento. However, her name remained on the ballot. She wound up with 0.55% of the vote.

Arianna Huffington’s story ended very much the way she hoped. She set herself an ambitious goal, and she came close to achieving everything she wanted. Once the “Huffington Post” had run its course, she deftly bowed out. AOL is reported to have paid $310 million for it. Only in America.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail