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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

See? Hillary Clinton IS divisive after all
Posted by Jill | 6:15 AM
And the campaign of John McCain, who is benefitting from the IOKIYAR rule as it pertains to his ongoing pattern of doing favors for lobbyist, is going to laugh all the way to the White House.

Perhaps the Ted Kennedy/Jimmy Carter primary race of 2000 was similarly nasty, and perhaps this just seems worse because of the undercurrents of sexism and racism running through it, but I don't recall ever seeing this kind of nastiness going on in a Democratic primary race.

Just watching Countdown last night was enough to give me a headache, particularly finding out that the Clinton campaign is behind the release of a photograph of Barack Obama from a few years ago in Somali dress during a visit to that country a few years ago. Mark Karlin had a reminder this morning of the Clinton campaign's strategy of leaking stories to Matt Drudge, so Maggie Williams' protestations that the photograph is not intended to be divisive ring completely hollow.

I keep going back to the friend who asked me whether I thought Obama has enough loyalty to this country to be president and wondering what she, and people like her, make of this photograph when presented without context and without reminder that American dignitaries donning the garb of their overseas hosts is nothing new. Like this one:

Of course the Usual Suspects had the vapors about this too, but it's called "courtesy."

The real point, however, is not what one does when presented with local clothing while on an overseas trip. The point is the depths to which Hillary Clinton and her campaign are willing to sink in order to gain this nomination. I posted just over a week ago about how her tactics are reminding me of Scarlett O'Hara's vow to tear down Tara and sow every acre with salt rather than see Jonas Wilkerson live there. And by joining with our old friend, that Republican water-carrier Nedra Pickler in deciding that the most moronic, xenophobic, and ignorant memes of the right wing constitute legitimate points for debate, she reinforces everything the right has said about her for nearly two decades -- that she is so power mad that she'll destroy the Democratic Party if she has to, in order to gain the presidency.

Today the New York Times tells us more about how Hillary Clinton plans to hand the presidency to her good friend John McCain in the coming weeks:

After denouncing Mr. Obama over the weekend for an anti-Clinton flier about the Nafta trade treaty, and then sarcastically portraying his message of hope Sunday as naïve, Mrs. Clinton delivered a blistering speech on Monday that compared Mr. Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience to that of the candidate George W. Bush.

“We’ve seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security,” Mrs. Clinton said in a speech on foreign policy at George Washington University. “We can’t let that happen again.”


But the attack that received the most pop, on cable television and blogs, came after a photograph of Mr. Obama in ceremonial African garb appeared on the Drudge Report, and the item’s author, Matt Drudge, claimed that the image was provided by a Clinton staff member.

Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, said that the Clinton campaign had “engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party.” It has not been independently verified that the photograph came from the Clinton campaign.

Mrs. Clinton’s new campaign manager, Maggie Williams, recently appointed to bring a tougher hand to the operation, issued a withering reply, not taking responsibility for the photograph but attacking the Obama campaign for suggesting that the photograph amounted to fear-mongering imagery.

“Enough,” Ms. Williams’s statement began. “If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.”

“This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry,” she added. “We will not be distracted.”

Clinton advisers said the attacks were partly an effort to knock Mr. Obama off balance before the debate on Tuesday.

They also said they were sending a signal to supporters that Mrs. Clinton was still resolutely fighting to win the presidential nomination, despite news reports in recent days about her dispirited campaign operation and her own somber outlook on the race.

To bolster her case at the George Washington speech, Mrs. Clinton stood on stage with a half-dozen retired military officials, including Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who introduced her. “I’m convinced that when the going gets tough, Hillary Clinton will never let America down,” General Clark said.

Mrs. Clinton pointed to her time in the Senate and in the White House as the first lady as evidence that she was the candidate who was most knowledgeable and prepared for the presidency.

I'm sure that to some of the female bloggers who are supporting Hillary Clinton, what I'm writing no doubt makes me a sellout to the memes of the male-dominated political system and the media. And if that's the case, so be it. I respect that someone might think that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate, and also that it might be important to them to have a woman president. Perhaps I have so much 1950's and early 1960's in my background that it doesn't seem as important to me. What I cannot agree with, though, is the rationale used by a caller to Randi Rhodes last week, that because black Americans were given the right to vote before women, they've been subject to less discrimination.

It also may very well be that when I find myself yelling at the television "Stop shrieking at me, dammit!" at her, I'm falling for the branding of Hillary Clinton as "shrill". But the fact of the matter is that this is a woman who hasn't had the kind of vocal training that would allow her to raise her voice without her throat tightening, and the result is that her tirades of the past few days ARE coming across as "unhinged" in a way that a deeper voice wouldn't. And if I, who was there for the early days of feminism, long before young women started blithely voting Republican because "Oh, they'll never make abortion illegal again", see it, so do the voters.

Last week, when Hillary Clinton said how proud she was to be up there next to Barack Obama, it was the kind of moment that could almost have made me support her. It was kind and generous without being one bit weak. When Hillary Clinton presents herself in such a way as to represent the best of what women are, rather than trying to out-guy the guys, she's a much more appealing candidate. It isn't that I find strength unappealing in a woman, it's that female strength just looks different. And what we're seeing out of Hillary Clinton right now isn't even strength, but desperation. It may be no different from the kind of desperation we saw out of Rudy Giuliani in the waning days of his campaign, but when filtered through the electronic box from which most Americans get their news, it looks as if she's about to shatter into a million pieces.

Last night Dee Dee Meyers was on Countdown talking about Hillary Clinton. This is a woman who wrote a book called Why Women Should Rule the World. We've long liked to believe that when women run things, the world is a kinder place. Perhaps in the absence of having to fight things like the glass ceiling, it would be. But as it stands now, Hillary Clinton is resorting to the worst tactics of men to try to gain the office she wants. And if that's what she's doing, then what advantage does a woman in the White House offer at all?


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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Jill, I so appreciate what you've been chronicling, and I agree with your perspective. I've been head nodding, but not commenting, and I apologize.

I have one small nit to pick, however. What do you base your generalized assumption on that when women are bosses, the world is kinder? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Competency knows no gender biases, however. Competency is based on the use of logic, reason and the application of critical thinking to the particular demands of the workplace or work to be done. Kindness is a personal quality and expresses much more vairation between people because it is not linked to a specific skill or behavior of competence. /inane rant

Blogger Bob said...
Obama can finish this a week from today. Clinton knows it. Everybody knows it. Hillary has to prove a shift toward her, not just that she slowed Obama down a little bit by throwing nails under his wheels. She had big leads in Texas & Ohio. They're disappearing in every demographic. I may be wrong, but I think she's capable of surrendering mext week.

Blogger danps said...
Great post Jill. Very well done.

Blogger Jill said...
Annie, it's not an assumption I necessarily believe. Women may not be misogynistic the way men are, but all you have to do is read Maureen Dowd to see that women are destructive to other women in different ways.

I don't subscribe to the notion that women would do a better job. I don't even subscribe to that old saying that a world without men would feature no wars and lots of happy fat women. I suspect women would find other ways to sabotage each other. I used that assumption to underscore that by trying to be "tough" in the same way that the boys are "tough", Hillary Clinton really IS just looking shrill and unhinged.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Very thoughtful and well put, Jill. A parallel might be drawn to the suffragettes who long argued that politics would be completely reformed when women got the vote. The temperance movement was tied to that, too.

But there's nothing inherent in gender that makes someone more ethical and incorruptible.

I believe this year, the glass ceiling's been broken for both demographics (even though not technically true) and the odds are solid that other women politicians will be able to gain the office without as much BS as has occurred this year.

In 2006, Nancy Pelosi became the third highest elected official in government. In 2008, Clinton has run a credible campaign, outlasting every white male in the race and making it one of the most competitive races of my lifetime (I'm 55). There are several women in political office right now that I think would be excellent contenders and excellent presidents.

But as you say, they can demonstrate their strength and intelligence in ways that are more effective and reassuring.

Clinton hit the right notes a few times this year. She'd be on her way to being President had she been able to sustain that.

Blogger adam k. said...
I just don't understand her anymore. What did she think she was gaining by the "shame on you" remarks? She is smart enough to know that sounding shrill and schizo gets her nowhere. She really might've gotten some traction with the debate comments if she hadn't just reversed them immediately after.

Anyway, I think the good thing about all this is that when we DO eventually get a female Pres or VP (crossing my fingers for Sebelius or Napolitano), people won't think it's such a big deal. Hillary was the guinea pig, and it was rocky for her. But it'll be smoother sailing next time. A competent woman WITHOUT Hillary's baggage? People will jump at that.