THE most famous woman on the planet has a confounding problem. She can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton took advice from two men — Bill Clinton and Mark Penn — and campaigned like a man. Worried about proving she could be commander in chief, Hillary scrubbed out the femininity, vulnerability and heart, in image and issues, that were anathema to Penn. Consciously tamping down the humor and warmth in Hillary and playing up the muscularity and bellicosity, her strategist modeled Hillary on Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher.
“In analyzing the current situation, regardless of the sex of the candidates, most voters in essence see the presidents as the ‘father’ of the country,” Penn wrote in a memo. “They do not want someone who would be the first mama, especially in this kind of world.”
Trying to project swagger, she followed her husband’s advice and voted to authorize the Iraq war without bothering to read the unpersuasive National Intelligence Estimate — a move that she now surely knows helped cost her the election. Bill Clinton’s philosophy after 9/11, as Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. reported in their book, “Her Way,” was encapsulated in what he told a group of Democrats in 2003: “When people feel uncertain, they’d rather have someone who’s strong and wrong than somebody who’s weak and right.”
Hillary followed this maxim on the day of the war vote in the Senate when,as Gerth wrote last year in ProPublica, she “went further than any other Democratic senator — and aligned herself with President Bush — by accusing Saddam Hussein of giving ‘aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda.’ ” Gerth asserts that Clinton’s aversion to the subject of Iraq kept her from engaging fully as the nation’s top diplomat during the period when Iraq was crumbling and the Islamic State was rising.
Hillary saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion after she fell behind to a feminized man denouncing it. After losing Iowa and watching New Hampshire slip away to the tyro, Barack Obama, Hillary cracked. She misted up, talking to a group of voters in New Hampshire when a woman asked her how she kept going, while staying “upbeat and so wonderful.”
Her aides thought the flash of tears would be a disaster, that she would seem weak. But it was a triumph because she seemed real. As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz wrote in his campaign book, it “let a glimmer of her humanity peek through.”
Hillary always overcorrects. Now she has zagged too far in the opposite direction, presenting herself as a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van, so self-effacing she made only a cameo in her own gauzy, demographically pandering presidential campaign announcement video and mentioned no issues on her campaign’s website.
Source: The New York Times |