Thursday, June 19, 2008

Senator Clinton post-mortem

A bunch of articles in the current issue of New York magazine pick over the bones of the now-defunct campaign of the Senator from New York. In no particular order (other than how I accessed them), they are:

First, Patron Saint of Lowbrow Sinners. The cynicism drips of the phraseology of this male effete impudent snob (dare I say Thank You, Spiro Agnew, wherever you are? I dare). To wit: She could tumble into bed with the less educated and more prejudiced and just plain tasteless, the way Bill had spent a lifetime seeking relief from Hillary Clinton with girls who looked like Paula Jones. If that ain'tenough, he piles it on: The nature of appetites is to grow, so once the Obama campaign or presidency has failed, she will start getting ready for those crowds again, and her preparations won’t include bothering to lose those ten pounds she seems to have put on these past few months.

Next, a female spins, calling her riff: The Real Mick Jagger of Politics. First she describes herself and her "13-year-old son" as "both Obama fans." Son thinks the Senator looks like a racooon; Mom doesn't get it. Until finally she does, but, actually, thinks that "There is something absolutely riveting about Hillary Clinton. She has energy, heat, and, increasingly since January, a mesmerizing charisma." Not just any old charisma, though: "She is Mick Jagger — with the same tireless hunger for an audience’s love and the ability to feel revitalized by it rather than worn down. Who can take their eyes off her? And who would feel safe doing so?"

Third on the hit parade of New York snobs: Back to the Scene of the Crime. This one features a picture of Hil as Che; oy. Oh, and it is by Bernard-Henri Lévy, the latest incarantion of the French guy who studies America. Mon dieu. Here is starts: Many different reasons explain Hillary’s inevitable decline: a style too stiff, almost masculine, definitely very tough — somewhere between Eva Perón, Angela Merkel, and Madonna. Masculine? the monsieur says? Madonna, whatever else she is, he says is masculine? Merde. (That means shit in English, BTW.) He, from the land of Lacane, evokes Freud, and then descends.

Next, Like a Natural Woman. A curious use of the term: But when she struck out on her own, trying to reinvent the office of First Lady, she was labeled a dour, unscrupulous feminazi. When her marital troubles hit the news, a tsunami of gender fantasies washed over her: She was either a humiliated victim, a love-besotted fool, or a calculating bitch (why else would she have stayed in the marriage?).

Office of First Lady? It is not an office, but a role.

It’s a ubiquitous female strategy for success in any line of work that is a boys’ game. Keep your head down and your skirts mid-length; act nice even when your actions belie your words; avoid shows of strong feeling and cleavage; stress your good intentions; be good-natured about sexist slights and don’t truck too much with women’s issues.

Any rookie goes through the same routine: you gotta earn your stripes, listen and be quiet, look and learn. Keep you head down and your suit jacket on; speak politely and don't laugh too loud; avoid flashiness; stress your good intentions; be good-natured about condescending, racist and sexist remarks; and don't be too ideological. I went through it.

But in the presidential primary, the approach proved lackluster. She had difficulty holding center stage when her charming husband hovered nearby. She was a little tense, her speeches earnest but flat. Obama’s supporters touted his “charisma,” while Hillary’s were left with “competence.” The press ginned up the stupid “likability” issue—though you’d think reporters would have learned a lesson with the “likable” Bush—and Hillary found herself in yet another gender trap: the tough-minded (but not likable) woman.

Not the approach, but she proved lackluster. She used Bubba as a surrogate (and Chelsea, too). She used competence as a campaign slogan. People want to like their presidents. And candidates can be tough and likable.

The coalition wasn’t powerful enough. But as the party Establishment failed her, superdelegates deserted, black voters turned against her, Maureen Dowd’s hysterical jeers grew louder, and the “Clinton machine” let her down, the real Hillary emerged. For her detractors, she was always a monster of ambition and self-regard. But to supporters, she became an emblem of grit, resilience, and the ability to withstand the worst—qualities magnified and lit up in neon, inscribed on a female body.

The Establishment failed her? Deserted, turned against, let her down? She lost the election because the other candidate did better.

And it goes on, as do I. This one is something else: Evita and Her Juan. Tis one is off the chart: But that was the tragedy: till death do us part. If years from now Hillary Clinton will be regarded as a major figure in the history of feminism, she’ll still be inseparable, alas, from him: Evita to his Juan Perón.

He can figure out how it'll be years from now? And he goes further: Like Martin Luther King Jr., like Jay Gatsby, Mrs. Clinton had a dream: a woman in the White House (herself).

To put Gatsby and Senator Clinton in the same sentence as MLK is ludicrous.

It doesn't end, though I, perhaps, should. Just one more? OK. The Fall and Rise of Hillary Clinton is a long piece, and I've had enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment