dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

The Problem with Billary

Joe Klein gets it just right:

It may well be true that any Democrat is going to have to handle that sort of sewage in the general election, but I've now--belatedly!--figured out that the real audacity in Barack Obama's campaign--far more than his positions on the issues, which almost seem an afterthought--is his outrageous belief that the entire country, not just Democrats, wants to see a straight up election; that the entire country is tired of the pestilence of tactical tricks that the Clintons learned from their co-dynasts, the Bushes. (The latest example being their sudden, sociopathic emphasis on the importance of the Florida primary, a contest all three candidates had agreed to eschew at the behest of the Democatic National Committee.)

For all their differences, the Bushes and the Clintons share a fundamentally shameless, almost indecent, ruthlessness that I find very hard to stomach, even in people with whose politics I sympathize. Time to turn the page.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

You are mistaken.

Grant, I understand that the "bitch" rhetoric makes people uncomfortable, which is why I think it needs to be on the table. It's the elephant in the room. It's the word that crops up whenever people talk about Hillary around the coffee table, and I hear it from women more than men.Until people grapple with the bitch factor, we're going to have it cropping up every time a woman runs for national office.I have a general idea, still somewhat half-baked, that our presidential campaign structure favors men-speak rather than women-speak. Think: You make short stops in many places, and your news coverage really depends on your ability to speak in soundbites and make off-the-cuff wisecracks. Not all women--certainly not Hillary--can do that well. It's just not the way women speak. In fact, I would submit that what makes women good political leaders, their ability to sustain a dialogue and listen to all participants rather than make unilateral decisions and say things like "I'm the Decider," makes them poor stumpers on the campaign trail. One of the benefits of having a serious female presidential candidate is that it's forcing us to listen in "stereo" rather than "mono." To both men-talk and female-talk. I'm also unhappy with charges that the press has treated Hillary unfairly--as if the press were some sort of monolithic entity, which, if you've ever had to attend a press conference with a dozen or so more reporters from different media and news outlets you'd know. If Hillary is being more scrutinized because she's a woman, it also means she's getting more press coverage. She could turn that to her advantage, though, in my view, she has not done so.I think Hillary has a somewhat bitchy style overall (Barbara's statements to the contrary duly noted). I don't know if that's good or bad. The women I've worked for who have been called "bitches" were usually high achievers, usually right, but not well loved for a variety of reasons, some fair, some not.As a voter whose two favorite candidates have dropped out, I need to be able to acknowledge what I see as Hillary's unattractive stump style, and then get beyond it and start seriously comparing her to Obama, who is far more poised and engaging, but may have less substantive ideas.Bottom line: What I see on this thread are people trying to sort out issues from non-issues and, for us Democrats, to choose between two front runners who both have some good qualities, but who have shorter track records than one might wish.OK, I'm done now, and will get off the thread.

I think b should be as foreign to polite discourse as n and c are. Imagine if you said (paraphrasing Sean): I only call blacks n when they are particularly nasty. That's the difference in how women are treated -- it's not only permissible to use sexually charged epithets but even those who don't defend those who do. So yes, whatever you think of HRC, it is an elephant in the room. No one is ever going to beat back their instinctive reactions, whether sexist or racist, but denial that they exist (qua Christopher Hitchens) is not helpful. Moreover, building on them through the use of coarse and degrading language polarizes people, for instance, I am not a defender of HRC (go back and look at my first post) but I cannot help but defend her from the way she has been treated. I am simply not interested in a dialogue with, and I frankly trust the motives of, those who use such language. They therefore are not finding common ground with me even though it surely exists.

Obviously, that should have been "distrust" the motives of those who use such language.

I'm sure we all wish political discussions could take place on the high ground. "Bitch," to most people, is a degrading word, has negative sexual connotations and all like Barbara said. I have a somewhat different take on the word, but I won't go there again.But, and sorry to be back here again, I think people are getting hung up on the word "bitch" and how it doesn't fit in with the highbrow tone of this blog rather than looking at what it means as applied to Hillary.When I hear Democrat women call Hillary a bitch and ask HOW she's a bitch, it usually turns out that people mean "divisive," and using the epithet indicates just HOW divisive they think she is. Most people who don't like her feel she won't be able to work with Congress and the country will stall for four years if she's elected. In my view, that's the opposite of being a bitch, i.e., somebody who gets stuff done, even if people resent her for it.In addition, some of those who use the word "bitch" can't forget the fact that Hillary said she wasn't a "stand by your man" woman who stayed at home "baking cookies." To a lot of women, it indicated, perhaps wrongly, that Hillary had nothing but contempt for women who weren't out there pursuing careers outside the home and holding their husbands to uncompromising feminist standards. Well, she knows better now, if indeed, that's what she was trying to say.

I am not buying it. It's a double standard and people should be called on it. Until they are forced to use actual words to express real thoughts instead of epithets, our discourse will continue to be completely inapt, prompting anger and hurt feelings rather than real reflection.

I'm not trying to sell anything.And I thought I WAS calling people out on the whole "bitch" question by asking them to explain what they meant. And what I found was that there ARE reasons behind the epithet that have little to do with gender or campaign style.Health care has been THE number one struggle for those of us out here in the utland for more than 10 years. And joblessness (and therefore access to the means to keep health care) is going up even as we speak, and with them foreclosures, not on big over-priced McMansions, but on modest homes that people can't pay mortgages on because they've lost jobs.As the economic frustrations here grow, there's a lot of anger about the health care debacle Hillary led years ago. I think it's fair to say many women believe she squandered the chance to get their vote when she squandered a chance to help them eight years ago with their health care struggles because she refused to compromise on her plan. Certainly, it's not nice to call Hillary a bitch, but that epithet, coming from lifelong women Democrats ought to be of some concern to the party.Moreover, it wasn't nice for people to call Nixon a crook, either. But, in the final analysis, were they far wrong?

I still say the biggest myth is the notion that Hillary messed up on health care. She was the only one who confronted the problem big time. It is not a question of how good her plan was. The point is insurance companies did not want to lose money and so they spent a fortune ridiculing her in countless ads. William Kristol warned the republicans to oppose her since such a step would give democrats a big advantage. Amazing how distortions have become truth on this issue. Are we that naive that we think the lack of health care in this country is Hillary's fault. If they thought her plan was no good, why didn't her critics come up with an alternative.

Senator Clinton was not merely "dismissive", nor "bitchy" to those who serve her, but downright "rude" and "crude" according to the Senate cloakroom person who took care of her personal services the whole time she has served as Senator (whom I know extremely well)... This person is so upset by his presumption that she will be the next President he has withdrawn from all federal political activity (after being politically very active for twenty-six years), and doesn't even respond to the Congressional invitations to help out at the State of the Union address (he has since retired from his old job of twenty-six years). I call that "traumatized"--and he is, in fact, an otherwise sweet soul.

Jean, I didn't mean to seem so harsh. The level of acceptable derision directed at women bothers me. Even if the person has an underlying substantive reason for disliking a woman in power, it's still unfair (and unfairly tolerated IMHO) to scorn her as a woman in a way that it would not be appropriate to scorn someone based on ethnicity or race.

Pages

Share

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.