Monday, February 4, 2008

Where's the Sexism in this Contest? All Over the Place

1. Hillary did not merely ride Bill's coattails. That's way misleading. Look at her own record up to the WH. Pretty effing impressive if you ask me. Moving right along: Starting after the WH years, the reality is that she picked a state where she was a carpetbagger, worked her butt off, and won the Senate twice on her own merits. Bill's Harlem office doesn't mean Jack in Buffalo. She had visibility and name recognition. Besides, the coattails argument erases her contribution to Bill's two victories--contributions seen and not seen by the public.

OK, sure, she was well known because of the WH years, but don't forget, in her case, "well known" is hardly undiluted glory. As of Monica, if not long before, Bill's coatttails were thoroughly muddied. As a result, Hillary couldn't do anything right. If she stood by her man, she condoned his behavior. If she didn't stand by her man, she didn't stand by her man. Same old, same old. A woman in public is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't.

Also--and this is crucial: The Right spent $90M attacking her for Travelgate and Whitewatergate and the cookie episode and on and on for 8 years, followed by 8 more during her Senate tenure. That's a LOT of bad press. We're talking CONCENTRATE. No candidate has that to contend with. I doubt that any candidate ever has, with the possible exception of Lincoln's second run.

So tell me, you who say she is coattailing: What should she have done? Cancel her own ambitions because people would say she's riding his coattails? I think that's buying into a rightwing smear. I really do. It completely elides her own accomplishments AND the severe press/investigative obstacles she had taken on--is still taking on--for lo these many years. It also subordinates her own volition and career objectives to his shadow. That's hardly an enlightened feminist stance.

IMHO, to say that she rode his coattails to this candidacy is to completely overlook that 3/4ths of the story! Its not like she didn't travel to 75 countries, or whatever, and have to be seriously briefed politically, socially and culturally while First Lady for 8 years, and make highest-level international contacts, and sit in on highest-level assessments of it all. For all we know, she was the brains of Bill's best moves. It's not like that's never happened, is it? So shouldn't we give that possibility just the teensiest consideration? He's smart, but he's also charismatic. He hasn't had to be anything like as brilliant as she.

And puh-leeze. It's not like she was Mamie Eisenhower relative to his Ike, either. Of course she has experience, and it's legitimate.

However, I do admit that it's hard to see where she starts and he stops, and that, I think, is a real feminist issue now.

At least I feel, in myself, that I owe her a clear-eyed look at who she is independent of him, of his fuckups and his triumphs. For instance, I have to believe that she has learned a lot in the last ever how long it's been since she was in the WH.

To think that we know her now--through the crooked prism of Senate politics--is naive. IMHO. Take the Iran vote. If she had voted against it, she would have lost every pro-Israel Jew in the country.

What? We should blame her for manuvering to position herself for a run for the WH when every other politician in history has done the same thing? I think SHE is getting incredible scrutiny here, and on the "crying," and on the sincerity, and on the toughness, and on the "coldness," scrutiny that no man would EVER get or has ever gotten. Show me a man who's had to deal with Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer.

Bottom line. This means that you and I have to wade through six feet of sewage to get to the place with Hillary where Obama and the GOP guys are starting from. It's not easy.

I can't judge Hillary by the same standards that I would apply to a man because we live in a sexist world and because she has picked up a HUGE amount of collateral fire thanks to Bill. And then, adding to THAT, don't forget that Hillary qua female, qua woman, brought out the raving misogynistic Right. They're slithering all over the tube now, too, as they have been for the last 16 years. You think this hasn't had an effect on our appraisal of Hillary Clinton today? You'd be nutz.

Some days I'm amazed she's still walking around upright. Nixon would have said, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore!"


This doesn't mean that I approve of her every vote or utterance. There are consequences with me for playing politics with votes like Iran. And yes, I am angry that she did not show actual LEADERSHIP during the 2003-2007 years, even as I know that if she had, she'd be DOA because she is (a) a woman, and (b) Mrs. Bill Clinton.

I think it's this asymmetry--this sexism factor--that makes it so difficult for me to weigh her against Obama cleanly and clearly. I don't think it can be done easily. The last 16 years have added quite a few feathers to her side of the scale, and I don't mean in a good way.

And no, I do not think that, so far anyway, O has had a countervaling racism factor to deal with. He might yet, but he hasn't so far, IMHO. He's very "clean," in Biden's words.

This is tough going for me. I'm struggling to see this all clearly.