Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Hillary phenomenon

The first that I heard that Hillary Clinton might be running for President was from conservatives.  They said she was running, that she was extremely liberal, that she would be awful.  They painted her as some kind of demon, really.

I’m going to call her “Hillary,” even though that sounds sexist, when politicians are usually called by their last name, because, otherwise, you cannot tell if I am talking about her or Bill.

I was amused that they portrayed her as so much more conservative than Rudy Giuliani when he was running against her for Senate.  Giuliani is a New York City Republican.  I found it dubious that a New York City Republican is more conservative than an Arkansas Democrat. 

My suspicions were confirmed, when I started seeing photos of him dancing in drag in a chorus line on a New York City stage, in an outfit that left his legs essentially bare.  I thought of those conservative Republican housewives in Kansas who had been induced to donate money to him because allegedly he was the conservative choice and wondered what they would make of these photos. 

Then of course there was the fact that he was publicly cohabiting with his girlfriend prior to his divorce being official — and publicly stated that it was o.k., because his medical condition rendered him impotent, so he couldn’t have sex with her — as if that made a difference or we wanted to hear it.  I again thought of those conservative rural housewives and wondered what they would make of this.

I suspect they were not feeling too happy about the people who told them that Giuliani was conservative.

Yet, this continued.  Conservative fundraisers would decry the allegedly liberal Clinton and drum up donations from those who did not know better.

But, equally, liberals started thinking she must be great if the conservatives were making such a commotion against her.

She was eventually elected senator, because Giuliani had health issues that forced him to drop his campaign.  He was radioactive, as I recall. That was different: the radioactive candidate.

But the chorus about her being so liberal and contemplating a presidential run continued. 

Whenever these rumors would circulate, the press would ask her if she was running — and you could see her thinking about it.  Would she have thought about it without the rumors?

And what was the motivation of the rumor mongers?

Once she became Senator, it immediately became clear that she was as middle of the road as they come and and as eager as could be to embrace causes that were non-controversial — like compensation for 9-11 victims.  Things that were more controversial were not on her agenda.

Kirsten Gillibrand, her successor, has been quite different, loudly proclaiming her belief in gay rights, for instance. 

In the Senate and as Secretary of State, Hillary became known for working quietly and effectively behind the scenes.  She earned the respect of everyone on both sides of the aisle and conservative Senators started acknowledging that she was someone they could work with.

I suspect that they knew that all along.  I suspect that they began decrying her alleged liberalness, just like Br’er Rabbit  told Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear that he did not want to be thrown into the briar patch.  He screamed that so loud and so often that they decided to do just what he stated he didn’t want, which was, in fact, what he did want.

For me, Hillary’s greatest weakness is lack of charisma.  Ultimately, it was lack of charisma that made her unpopular as Bill’s wife in Arkansas and what made her lose to Obama.  Curiously, Obama's charisma seems to have diminished since he became President, but still, I think he has more than she does.

Charisma gets people elected.  Sometimes commentators decry the cults of personality that seem to surround leaders, but I think it’s important for a President to have a great personality.  Charisma  helps a President get things done when interacting with others, and makes for a good impression in international negotiations.

Also, I feel that she has basically been a figment of the conservative imagination, the straw woman that they put up to distract us from someone who might be better.

She may end up as the Democratic candidate this time, but I think we should focus on finding someone else.  She is a better back office person than a candidate.

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