The best thing about American politics is that it almost always makes you feel better about ours. Even our most hotly-disputed conspiracy theories (Julia Gillard’s ex-boyfriend light-fingering some union cash two decades ago, Tony Abbott thumping or not thumping the wall immediately adjacent to the head of a student political rival in 1977) usually have at least a spidery skein of truth to them.
Not so in the US, where political freedom of speech translates into a ribald, promiscuous, all-in entitlement to make stuff up for the exact purpose of then going on cable TV and arguing about it.
In the last week, for instance, the American political conspiracy theory family welcomed a healthy new arrival: Chelsea Clinton’s fake pregnancy.
News that the 34-year-old was expecting her first child with husband Marc Mezvinsky was met with narrowed eyes among a certain sector of the punditocracy.
“When I say the pregnancy’s staged, I have to believe she’s pregnant,” said Newsmax host Steve Malzberg, hedging his bets slightly.
Fox News analyst Lauren Ashburn, meanwhile, was prepared to believe the pregnancy was real, but thought it a clear ploy to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the White House.
“You’ve been in this town for how many years, and you don’t have a cynical bone in your body? I think a lot of reporters think maybe this was planned.”
Hillary Clinton is relentlessly accused of evil genius; this is nothing new. But to have had the foresight, back in 1980, to give birth to a daughter who would hit prime childbearing age slap bang when Granny needed a cute little campaign buddy for Campaign 2016? Whoa. She’s good.
It’s almost as clever as Barack Obama’s mother was, when she gave birth to her little boy in Kenya all those years ago and thought to have him fake-registered in Hawaii, so as to facilitate his adult bid for the Presidency.
The uterus is the human organ most puzzlingly over-represented in American political controversy. (There is a male organ which also features regularly, but there’s nothing puzzling about that)
For a nation that fancies itself as the birthplace of the only democracy that really counts, Americans really do take quite a suspicious view of other birthplaces.
Sarah Palin, back when she first appeared in her role as the 2008 presidential campaign’s Kinder Surprise, had a new baby, a boy called Trig, who has Down Syndrome.
There was at the time – and persists to this day – a stubborn theory that that baby is not hers; that he is her daughter’s baby, or someone else’s, and that she “needed” a baby with Downs to demonstrate the profound and personal depth of her pro-life views (because, presumably, confused pro-lifers would otherwise have panicked and voted for Obama).
Photos of her wearing slim-fitting jeans near the time of the birth, and her decision to fly back to Wasilla during labour, provide more than enough fuel to keep this daft theory alive.
The uterus is, to an American politico, a shadowy place full of mystery and intrigue.
Some are unsure of its exact workings, but nonetheless convinced of its magical powers. Todd Akin, then a Republican congressman for Missouri, said in 2012 that he opposed abortion in every circumstance, including rape, because rape victims did not get pregnant. “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.”
Perhaps Akin’s belief in some kind of uterine panic-room is a failing of the American school system. Perhaps it’s a measure of his respect for the female form. Or maybe it’s a further manifestation of the US political system’s implicit belief that the womb is a naturally treacherous piece of equipment, always looking for ways to pull a swifty.
Over the first term of the Obama presidency, Republican state legislatures all around the US got tough on the womb, with a rash of new laws enabling lawmakers to keep tabs on what went on in there.
Nevertheless, sneaky old Hillary has managed to swing things her way, and looks like flying all the way to the White House on a magical bunny rug, adorable grandchild held aloft.
Or does she? A staff writer at the Christian Science Monitor reminded readers: “As everyone who’s had children knows, there’s often nothing like the bond between mother and daughter when the first grandbaby is on the way. If we had to guess, we’d say that Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she’s about to be a grandmother.”
Mitt Romney, who had 21 grandchildren when he ran for president, never seemed to be distracted in the same way. Hmmm. Maybe some of them were fake.
Annabel Crabb is the presenter of the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet. @annabelcrabb