Showing posts with label Hillary Clinton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hillary Clinton. Show all posts

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wait! Obama has a speechwriter?

A man named Jon Favreau hit the news a couple of weeks ago when the Washington Post identified him as “President-elect Barack Obama's immensely talented chief speechwriter” and reported that:

... some interesting photos of a recent party he attended -- including one where he's dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and another where he's placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady's chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer -- popped up on Facebook for about two hours. The photos were quickly taken down ...

Some observers were quite outraged and I believe correctly so. You can read Anglachel for a round-up of feminist objections and for her own deeper analysis. Reclusive Leftist has some pungent thoughts on the sight of three men on a news program telling women to get over it. And in the “politics make strange bedfellows” department, the Washington Times is disgusted and furious.

My first reaction however was surprise. I thought only Sarah Palin needed an immensely talented speechwriter to “repackage” her. Surely I read in Time magazine that Obama writes his own speeches.

Oh, I see. Now that Favreau’s been spotlighted - or maybe just because Obama is safely elected - we’re hearing that Favreau had a bigger role in endeavors like the Philadelphia race speech and the convention acceptance speech than previously reported. (In fairness to Time, they did mention Favreau in their article about “How Obama Writes His Speeches” - although they equated him with Axelrod in terms of influence - and they did say Obama “delivered” his Philadelphia speech - silly me for thinking they were implying he wrote it himself.)

In all seriousness, only total idiots ever believed Sarah Palin used speechwriters and Barack Obama didn’t. What is sad about the whole "Favreau groping a Clinton cutout" incident is Hillary Clinton’s response:

... Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines cast the photos as evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps.

"Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," he said in an e-mail.

I certainly agree with Anglachel that no purpose would have been served if Clinton had acted out some type of revenge fantasy in response. But there’s a lot of working room between going ballistic and letting it slide. As I said in response to Anglachel, Hillary Clinton could have said something like:

Mr. Favreau is quite young so perhaps he does not understand how disrespectful he was being to me, to women in general, to the Office of the Secretary of State, and to the man who chose me to represent the United States to the rest of the world. I trust that Mr. Favreau’s supervisor will explain the penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace and that there will be no more incidents like this.

Instead Clinton chose to dismiss Favreau’s behavior as essentially a high-spirited prank. By doing so, she undercuts all the feminists who have been expressing outrage over the sexist attacks launched by the Obama campaign and Obama supporters against her (and against Sarah Palin for that matter). If it’s acceptable - even cute - for the President-Elect’s anointed White House Director of Speechwriting to grope a cardboard Clinton, then isn’t a Hillary Clinton nutcracker just a clever gag gift?

I’ve written before about my disgust with Hillary Clinton's willingness to abet her husband’s sexist approach to women of the “wrong” class and about how I nonetheless slowly and grudgingly began to respect her during the Democratic primaries. Unfortunately her willingness (there’s that word again) to laugh off Favreau’s actions brings me right back to where I started with Hillary Clinton: she has no problem enabling sexist behavior as long as doing so benefits her and hers.



Fresh blood for the vampire by Camille Paglia. I love this article for many reasons but its relevance here is this sentence:

Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women -- an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

Admit it! You’re jealous of Jon Favreau!. This is Ann Althouse’s take on the the Washington Post’s recent story about Favreau as speechwriter. Althouse on the cardboard cutout incident is here.

So What If Sarah Palin Used a Speechwriter? by Betsy Newmark. Writing immediately after the Republican National Convention, Newmark points out that all politicians use speechwriters and concludes: “Big whippety doo.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

One tough cookie

[Comments are not allowed for this post. I’ve realized that some posts I do are in the nature of a cri de coeur and I would prefer not to see comments about them. You are certainly welcome to email me about this post.]

I loathed the Clintons for 16 years. Long before anyone had heard of Monica Lewinsky, a coworker asked me how I - a dedicated feminist - could so despise a genuine liberal like Bill Clinton. “Because,” I replied, “I went to school with guys like him. Now they’re all working as used car salesmen and sleeping with their secretaries.” Through all the years of his Presidency my view of him as fundamentally sleazy never wavered.

As for Hillary, my initial dislike was based on her having the bad taste to marry Bill combined with a disdain for her decision to subjugate her own brilliance and political connections to serve his interests. Not to mention her backing down from her decision to keep her own name when it conflicted with Bill’s political interest. My dislike grew into loathing when she so totally screwed up her universal health care assignment early in Bill’s first term. I believed devoutly in the importance of this issue and believed - still believe - that the secrecy with which she surrounded her effort was both wrong and impolitic.

What hardened my loathing for both of them once and for all was their destruction of feminism. True, institutional feminism had already begun to self-destruct with its embrace of people of color throughout the world who had suffered under the lash of white patriarchy. The inability of institutional feminists to see that this meant embracing male people of color who treated women worse than they had ever been treated by the white patriarchy made the political apparatus of feminism merely one more interest group that had outlived its ideals. That ideal, though, still had life and was still most accurately expressed in the original phrase: Sisterhood is powerful.

Then came Bill Clinton’s pitch-perfect Madonna and whore attitude toward women, updated for the 90s as a distinction between well-educated professional women and less-educated pink-collar women. The former were honestly respected as colleagues; the latter were sexual prey. This update was wildly successful as many well-educated professional women defended Bill against the claims of his “low class” victims. And, of course, at the head of the women in this well-educated professional defense brigade was Hillary. I found them both contemptible.

It was a member of that defense brigade of well-educated professional women that drove the final nail in the coffin of feminism. Molly Ivins went on the Imus show and mocked Gennifer Flowers by making fun of the low-class spelling of her name. To honestly believe Flowers was lying and say so would have been fine. To attack her on a class basis was despicable: if feminism did not mean that women stood together across the divides of class then it meant nothing. I turned to my husband and announced that feminism was now officially dead.

Then came the 2008 Democratic primary and I became one of those women who slowly, grudgingly developed a respect for Hillary Clinton. I suppose there was one earlier sign this could happen. When Hillary ran for Senator in 2000, I saw the portion of the debate where her challenger invaded her personal space. Like many others, I saw his actions as an attempt to intimidate. More important, though, I admired Hillary standing her ground mostly because I knew I would have stepped back. It was one very small “go Hillary” moment but it presaged what would come later.

In the Fall of 2007, however, I was in agony. It looked like the Republicans would nominate someone I simply could not vote for and the Democrats would do the same by nominating Hillary Clinton. Then came Iowa and my reaction was gratitude that the nominee apparently wouldn’t be Clinton and a “good for him” feeling about Obama’s victory. Then came the media’s response and my attitude changed.

The media seemed just a little bit too happy about Hillary’s defeat. Just a little too gleeful. Just a little too sneering. I still didn’t want Hillary as the nominee but I also realized I didn’t want her to go down to ignominious defeat. I didn’t yet articulate this feeling to myself in terms Cokie Roberts would later describe as that sense that here’s an older woman who has worked hard all her life and now some young guy is getting her promotion. I simply wanted Hillary to put up a decent showing. Call it team pride if you will. I couldn’t stand her but she was on my gender team so “go Hillary”.

Then Hillary cried. As I recall the incident, she was campaigning in New Hampshire, sitting at a large table with a group of people, and someone asked her how she was doing because she looked so tired, and she choked up. Instantly I was back in a meeting years ago. I’d been doing my first client installation, getting about 5 hours of sleep a night for what seemed like forever, getting no support from my company, and getting nothing but pressure and grief from the client. I held it together, though, and did my job with a stiff upper lip until I sat in a status meeting and someone said something nice to me. I choked up.

No, I still wasn’t a Hillary fan. But I’d been brought face to face with her honest humanity and that meant the media’s insistence that she had only cried because someone mentioned her appearance or she had cried as a ploy because no one as tough as her could cry honestly struck me as not merely sneering but bordering on vicious. So when Hillary won Iowa I cheered.

And that’s how it went from there. The more the media snarled the more I wanted Hillary to win. It wasn’t reaction to the media, though, it was admiration for Hillary. Again she stood her ground when I know I would have stepped back. For all her endless list of serious faults, this was one tough cookie.

If she had won the nomination, would I have voted for her in November? I honestly don’t know. I do know that sometimes when I look at the two candidates we have I find myself with the sinking feeling that Hillary would be far better than either. When the candidates talk about FISA or energy policy or taxation, I find myself wanting to hear what Hillary would have to say on the issue. And I find myself often missing her grasp of both detail and big picture, her complex humanity, and most of all her grit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The speech I wish she'd given back then

[This is Old News. It appears exactly as I wrote it on May 11, 2008.]

I wrote this mentally last night and refined it after listening to the talking heads discuss some of the same issues this morning. I am particularly indebted to Cokie Roberts for her validation of my niggling little sense that there was a women’s side to this.

Here’s the speech I wish Hillary Clinton could give:

Many people are speculating about why I continue to run for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination. Some of the speculation is pretty wild but the real answers are very simple. Let me spell them out for you. Partly I continue to run to honor the women who support me. Not just the women who have voted for me over the last five months - although I owe them special honor - but also the women who have supported me my whole life either directly by being in my life or indirectly by coming before me and paving the way. Many people forget how very far women have come just in my lifetime; even more people forget how very far women have come in the history of this country. I remember every day and I believe I honor that historical perseverance with my own refusal to concede defeat.

Partly I run because I truly believe I am the Democratic candidate with the best chance of beating the Republicans in the Fall. And it is vitally important to beat the Republicans. This country will be ill-served by another four years of the policies of the last eight.

Most importantly, though, I run because I believe I am the best choice to be President of the United States. I offer the best policies and the best platform. I am best suited for the job in terms of my ability to do it and in terms of what I will do with that ability while in office. I make no apologies for this belief. Anyone who does not believe he or she would be the best President has no business running for the office.

A few days ago I referred to the fact that Senator Obama’s support among white working class Americans appeared to be slipping. I was stating a fact and one I believe is very important for reasons I will explain in a minute. Certainly, I phrased it clumsily but I have been horrified to see how my remarks have been taken as evidence that I am racist. No one who knows my history, not just in the Senate but throughout my adult life, can seriously believe I am racist. It simply is not true. I am not the person I see described in so many newspapers and on so many talk shows. Let me repeat. I am not that person.

I realize, however, that I apparently sound like that person and I regret that very much. I’ve given much thought to this and I’ve come to a conclusion. For the remainder of my campaign, I am going to stop talking about the issue of electability. In fact, I’m going to stop talking about Senator Obama altogether. I am going to focus on what I have to offer, what my ideas are, what I can bring to the Presidency. This is partially an acknowledgment of the fact that it is almost impossible to talk about race-based issues - even statistics - without sounding racist myself. It is also a re-emphasis of my most important reason for continuing to run: my belief I am the best choice to be President.

Before I leave this topic behind me once and for all, I do want to sound a warning. What I was getting at - however clumsily - is the question of what the Democratic coalition will look like on November 4, 2008. I am not the only person worrying about this. The recent dustup between Donna Brazile and Paul Begala - both of whom I deeply respect - touched on the same issues and with the same rancor.

It is my belief that there are two large and important groups that are beginning to feel they may not be welcome in the new Democratic coalition that is being discussed. The first group goes by a lot of different names: white working class voters; blue and pink collar voters; ethnic voters; Reagan Democrats; Middle America. Whatever you call them, they have been one of the backbones of the Democratic Party and - as the Reagan Democrat name suggests - when they turn away from the Party, the Party suffers. This group is hearing that it is somehow not well-educated enough, not well off enough, simply not hip enough to belong to the new Democratic Coalition.

The second group that is beginning to feel they may not fit into this new Democratic Coalition is people of a certain age. Those who feel this group might not fit into the new coalition usually refer to them as Baby Boomers. A more honest description would be “anyone born before August 4, 1961”. This group is dismissed as having betrayed its own political and social conscience and thus causing all the ills of the world. This is nonsense, of course. The Baby Boomers were no more perfect than any other generation, but the fact that the next President of the United States will almost certainly be either an African-American or a woman is proof enough of its accomplishments. The reality is that this group is not young enough to belong to the new Democratic Coalition.

It is vitally important that the Democratic Party find a way to make room for these two groups in whatever new form the coalition takes, partly for political reasons and partly on principle. The political reason is simple: it will be very hard to win the White House in the Fall if you lose these groups. The Reagan Democrats have already shown they will vote Republican when they feel the Democrats have lost touch with what is important. The older voters are, in fact, older which increases the chance they’ll vote Republican anyhow. Convince them they’re not well-thought of in the Democratic Party and it makes their move across the aisle that much easier. And then there are women. The Democratic Party believes women - both working class and older - will not side with the Republicans and they may very well be right. But it is not inconceivable that working class and older Democratic women will decide to sit the Fall election out if they feel their value is not respected in the new Democratic Coalition.

Equally important - more important in the long run - the new Democratic Coalition should find a way to make room for these two groups as a matter of principle. The nobility of reducing black-white conflict and red-blue conflict is lost if you do so by stirring up class conflict and generational conflict. Replacing racial and ideological divisions with divisions of class and generation certainly counts as change but it has nothing whatsoever to with hope - or healing.

Let me make it crystal clear that my comments about the shape of the Democratic Coalition are not directed at Senator Obama. I have seen no evidence that Senator Obama himself encourages or desires the un-welcoming of Middle America or Baby Boomers. In fact, if it were Senator Obama who was promoting this exclusionary form of the Democratic Coalition, I could tell you that the issue would disappear if I were the nominee. That is not the case. The idea of a new Democratic Coalition is coming in large part from Democrats newly registered and newly energized by the Democratic Primary and by those who write about these new Democrats. That the make-up of the Democratic Party will change over time is inevitable; I just hope it does so by greater inclusiveness rather than by having the new force out the old. I sincerely believe Senator Obama would join me in this hope.

Finally, I’d like to talk about rules, a discussion which will bring me back full circle in just a moment. I’m not going to rehash the arguments about Florida and Michigan but I do want to make one point. I cannot begin to count how many officials and commentators have insisted that “the rules are the rules” and castigated me for attempting to have some or all of the delegates from these states count. So I’d just like to point out that - under the rules - there is no reason for me to stop running. The rules of the Democratic party established a primary season that runs from January to June; specified the number of delegates needed to win the nomination; ruled out winner take all state primaries; created super delegates who can vote as they please; and set a convention date months from now. Under those rules, I can still win the Democratic Party nomination. It might be highly improbable but it’s not impossible. And I believe that as long as it’s possible, it’s worth fighting for.

Thank you.