February 8, 2006

"The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself."

Should I talk about Maureen Dowd's column? Not only is she behind the TimesSelect wall, but she's got a sudden big spoiler for the movie "Matchpoint," which I've been meaning to see. Damn it! But the topic interests me: Is Hillary Clinton angry?

Ken Mehlman recently called her angry. Was that misogynistic? Dowd assumes it was. While it's a classic move to fault women for being weak and for being strong, and that's an unfair trap that we need to notice and reject, we need also to avoid the opposite problem of claiming that every criticism of a woman is misogynistic. If women are going to run for high office, we have to deal with strong criticism. Mehlman only said "I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates... Whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger." Slapping the label "misogynistic" on that is too easy.

But here's Dowd's real point:
Hillary's problem isn't that she's angry. It's that she's not angry enough. From Iraq to Katrina and the assault on the Constitution, from Schiavo to Alito and N.S.A. snooping to Congressional corruption, Hillary has failed to lead in voicing outrage. She's been too busy triangulating and calculating to be good at articulating.

The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself.
This chimes with the Kerry complaint quoted in the previous post. HC seems to be preserving herself for the presidential run, holding back, knowing that the Mehlmans will snap back whenever she speaks up. The Democrats want her to expose herself more, to help them in this election year. And, really, she should. How does that carefulness -- "triangulating and calculating" -- establish that she is strong enough to be President?


tommy said...

Hillary has failed to lead in voicing outrage.

Yes I've noticed a distinct lack of outrage lately, there is a void in the position of outrage leader. But exactly what job is voicing outrage a prerequisite for?

Icepick said...

Maybe Hillary is right to avoid getting too outraged over some of these issues.

For example, she might not want to wave the corruption banner because Republicans could hit back on some questionable items from her past, e.g. her remarkable ability as a cattle futures trader.

Getting steamed about Alito doesn't look like a winner either. Most people who followed the story seemed to feel Alito should be confirmed, and those that didn't won't care.

Now Hillary could probably score points on Iraq, but to do so she either has to repudiate her previous decisions concerning Iraq or argue that it was the right thing to do but badly executed. Her own party won't stand for the second arguement, even if it is a better (and more consistent for her) line of thought.

Finally, let us remember that she is the junior Senator from New York, running her first re-election campaign. It works well for her tactically and strategically to let other Democratic party leaders step to the fore and get smacked around. Look how good she looks compared to a pompous blowhard like Biden, who also wants the nomination in '08. The more time he gets at her expense, the better she looks.

Gerrimandered districts and the particular Senate seats up for election will probably trump Republican incompetence this election cycle, leading to bad mid-term results for the Democrats. If so, Hillary can lead the charge against her own party's leadership in the '08 cycle, arguing for a return to the Clintonian Third-Way, although that will no doubt be re-packaged.

The only way I see this going badly for her is if a figure like Feingold or Obama leads the Dems to a big win this fall. Then she loses a lot of ground to her rivals. My guess is that she's getting some top-notch advice from a former President she knows, and that her strategy is the best one to follow (for her) at the moment.

Goatwhacker said...

I would imagine one person's "triangulating and calculating" would be another person's "reasonableness and practicality". Hillary's goal is to become president, an event I'm sure she believes is in the best interests of her party. In that sense, refusing to be portrayed as an extremist is to both her and her party's benefit.

She is in sort of the same position as Lieberman and McCain, namely politicians that do not necessarily toe the party line, leaving them open to criticism from their own party but possibly also drawing respect from the middle and opposition. Strength is not just shouting support for your party's positons, but sticking with your own views.

The assumption by both sides is that she's just being calculating, the implication being is that she doesn't really believe in what she is doing but just acting in a particular way in order to get elected. Is there really evidence to support that? To me she seems more consistent than John Kerry.

Palladian said...

Katrina? Is that still an issue? If you want to get elected the last thing you should do is listen to Maureen Dowd. I certainly hope the Democratic party hasn't permanently recast itself as the party of OUTRAGE. We don't need outrage. We need leadership. America is smart enough to realize that, which is why people like Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot and Howard Dean lost their presidential bids. The last thing we want is an angry emotionalist at the helm. Hillary certainly realizes that. I think she's vulnerable for a lot of reasons (for instance the fact that she uttered this line: ""We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." is reason enough for me not to vote for her) but she's one of the better candidates the Democrats have at this early stage.

Icepick said...

"TimesSelect can't marginalize Maureen Dowd. Maureen Dowd has already marginalized herself."

Okay, now that that's out of the way, I fell better. I hate it when an obvious joke just hangs around NOT being said.

Icepick said...

Goatwhacker: The assumption by both sides is that she's just being calculating....

I HOPE she's being calculating. Principles are good and necessary, but a leader needs to be capable of some cold merciless calculation as well. I don't want her to be the next President, but she may well BE the next President. I hope she has all the requisite tools.

Gerry said...

Hillary is in a bit of a box here, but is a box of mostly her own creation.

There are examples of her voicing outrage; I have heard the tapes. Perhaps she is not doing so often enough to please Kerry (although I suspect that his criticism has more than a slight amount of self-service involved). Perhaps she is not doing so often enough to please Maureen Dowd. However, she has done so in the past, and the problem is that when she has, she has lapsed into sounding excruciatingly shrill. One can be boisterous in criticism without being shrill, but it is not clear to me that Hillary has mastered this art.

Further, it plays into a perception about Hillary which is partly a creation of her own handlers. When things went down with Monica Lewinsky and her husband, Hillary was put in an extremely difficult position. If she stood by her man, it would lead to questions of if she was allowing herself to be taken advantage of by her husband. If she did not, it might cripple her own political ambitions. And that's just looking at the political side of the equation; surely on a personal level things had to be conflicted and difficult as well.

So what was the picture that was painted about her during this time, with more than a little help from her handlers and from her detractors? It was of a woman who outwardly was supportive of her husband and committed to her marriage, but behind the scenes was not letting Bill get away with it without consequences. Public: dignity. Behind the scenes: justified anger (and perhaps a thrown ashtray or two).

It worked at the time. I think that most people thought to themselves, that is how I would have hoped to have handled the situation-- with grace in the public eye while not being treated like a doormat behind the scenes. I think people liked the idea of Bill catching hell from her; they thought that was the right penalty for his transgressions.

But there are always tradeoffs, and one of the trades here was that it helped to develop the characterization of her as being very controlled in public, but capable of being very angry when out of the public eye. Throw into this mix the tapes of her being shrill, and you now have a political liability. When she gets angry in public, people assume she is angry a lot. And when they hear it in the shrill form it has taken when she has tried it so far, they think Bill deserved to be subjected to that, but we do not.

It also helped formet the view of her as being calculating.

It is going to make things very interesting in 2008. She has a lot of assets to bring to the Presidential race, but also a lot of liabilities. Some are unfair, but some are very apt. How well she does at overcoming them will determine if she can secure the Democrat nomination.

Semanticleo said...

All this 'triangulating'. Tsk Tsk.

If we were to hold every political
candidate who 'said one thing, then
did somethin' different' after the
election as criminals, we would have
to release all the pot-smokers from
federal prisons to make room for
the new inmates.

She's just playing the game the way
it's platyed if you intend to win.

Why should she be held to a higher
standard than the Rove/Bush manip-

Henry said...

Hillary probably also remembers that the last Democrat to win the presidency was an obscure Governor who nobody gave a hoot about until the election year primaries.

Hillary already has name recognition. Already she's the Democratic face in the State of the Union crowd that people recognize (it helped that she was always smiling). She can afford to be patient. The 2008 primary season is not going to be fought over Katrina, Alito, or the NSA. It will be fought over other stuff that hasn't happened yet.

Palladian said...


Why dost thou write on blogs as if thy words
As poetry flow out from thy hand,
When in fact thy lines do not even scan?
Dost thou feel that the guise of poetry
Gives more solemn weight to thy weightless words?

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with many of the previous posters. She has her eye on the ball, and Kerry, Gore, et al. don't. They get carried away by the moment, and end up leaving a strong impression of being out of control kooks.

Every time either Kerry or Gore opens their mouths and join into with the DU and Kos contingents, they lose ground on any presidential aspirations. Both have legitimate claims at another run, yet neither will get the nomination, because they would lose worse this time than they did before.

I don't think it does Sen. Clinton any real harm, but probably a lot of good, to be seen as controlling her emotions and not making a fool out of herself, as many in the leadership of her party seem to be doing these days on a regular basis.

Esp. in a time of war, this country is not going to elect a child president. They want maturity, and she is evidencing a lot more of it than are Kerry, Gore, Kennedy, Dean, et al. And, yes, part of maturity is controlling your emotions. Most of the Democratic leadership apparently can't.

Jacques Cuze said...

Those on the left don't like her -- as Suellentrop acknowledges -- because she's not far enough to the left.

Reread Ivins, this is not why people dislike her. I will give you a hint -- reread her 3rd and 4th sentences.

I enjoy your advice to her that if she ignores her base, you will consider her to be presidential material.


And then you can just complain about the dance -- ooh, she's triangulating, Dick Morrisily -- but the inference is there. You've got your head in the sand if you can't see it. I think you can see it, though, but you just feel bad when anyone points at it. So great, happy sliding to another loss in '08.

--Althouse then

Democrats want her to expose herself more, to help them in this election year. And, really, she should. How does that carefulness -- "triangulating and calculating" -- establish that she is strong enough to be President?

--Althouse now

I am glad to see you have conceded my point, and now agree with Molly Ivins. It would be far more courteous and respectful for you to just use my name in yours posts when you concede the point.

I have to run, but I am sure you will agree I am generally right about most things I write here.

Enjoy your day.

Crank said...

"Angry" seems a very odd word to throw the "misogynist" flag on. I'm not sure I've ever heard a female politician called "angry" before - shrill, nasty, mean, hysterical, but not angry. Angry is, in fact, the stereotypical charge against male politicians - Angry White Male (remember 1994?), Angry Left (think: Howard Dean), etc. How often have you heard Rush Limbaugh called "angry"? Calling a politician angry is, essentially, accusing them of having a surplus of testosterone.

Mehlman, being a sharp guy, chose his words carefully, knowing of course the torrent of charges of sexism that Dowd, Anna Quindlen and Eleanor Clift unleash any time Hillary is criticized. (There's no Hillary trait more maddening than the coterie of her media defenders who always, always equate any criticism of Hillary as an attack on all women).

Of course, it's always savvy for the party in power to characterize the opposition as angry, as the Clintons did relentlessly in the 1990s, since it causes them to fear taking you on too strongly.

Semanticleo said...

"Both have legitimate claims at another run, yet neither will get the nomination, because they would lose worse this time than they did before."


See your point.

But do you think the above applies to
the 'reasonableness' of Lieberman
as well? Or, are there limits?

Semanticleo said...


Stick to the simple declaritive
sentence, as in previous post.

I'm sure you can find some substantive
arguments against my comments, despite
any problem with my prose.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: I can see why you are confused by those two quotes, but they refer to different things. I think HC should actively help her party and be strong, but not by going left, as you and MI would like.

nunzio said...

HRC is laying low b/c that's what her husband told her to do. She always does what her husband tells her to do.

The reason Dowd doesn't realize this is b/c she doesn't have a husband.

PatCA said...

Her "carefulness" is designed to snag her the nomination, but it will not aid her in the general election (in a post 9/11 world).

HC is smart and plays the game well, but it's the corporate, or bureaucratic, game. If she were in the business world, she would triangulate her way to some CEO slot but I don't think she will appeal to the electorate. HC should set her sights on the Supreme Court and forget about politics. She would then have a cool, NARAL and feminist-approved job which would be "equal" to Bill's.

Let's face it, most people voted for Bush because he was willing to go to war for us. You know, war, which involves killing.

Elizabeth said...

Katrina? Is that still an issue?

Palladian, don't worry about it. It's all just the boring stuff now, like fixing the broken levees, finding homes for thousands upon thousands of people, restoring medical care and schools, you know. Nothing for you to fret about.

RogerA said...

In fact, some of the issues Elizabeth cites are still there from the three hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004. I think Palladian's point is valid. But, doncha know, New Orleans is SO different than Florida.

Palladian said...

I meant is it a partisan issue that somehow wounds the Bush administration any more than it wounds anyone involved in the government at any level, Elizabeth. Calm down. It's everybody's problem, not some pawn issue. I wish the politicos would realize that we're all in this together.

Elizabeth said...


There's plenty for Bush to deal with still, starting with holding him to promises made in his Jackson Square speech, but much now is in the hands of Congress, which is where Hillary is relevant. I was sarcastic, so I apologize for that. But if you listened to the State of the Union address, you might well think Katrina, or more accurately, the flooding after Katrina, is not still an issue.

I don't think it's simple enough to call Katrina a partisan issue. There are certainly partisan aspects, but there are also bi-partisan and non-partisan efforts to respond. It's a matrix.

XWL said...

I am beginning to believe so long as there are activist billionaires willing to waste their money and aging hippies wanting to recapture past glories no Democrat will enter the White House other than as a guest of a Republican President.

The 'blue' states will get bluer over time, but the 'red' states are the ones with families and growing populations. The strategies that the money-base of the Democratic party espouse are losing strategies when it comes to the Electoral College. (maybe that's why Sen. Clinton mused about switching to popular vote, then she could tack to the left, win just the urban areas and gain the presidency, but that will never happen).

So long as everyone believes that Sen. Clinton's moderation is a pose, she'll have trouble on both flanks. However, if people begin to be she's been telling the truth these past six years as she's moderated her message she's in deep trouble in the primaries.

Either way in '08 the Democrats will run with a moderate who noone believes is a moderate (I don't see Sen. Clinton being beaten from the right in the Democratic party), or a liberal who wins the primaries by out-liberaling every other contender. Either candidate will be deeply handicapped in the general election.

I don't see this dynamic disappearing anytime soon either.

RogerA said...

Elizabeth and Palladian: with respect to "Katrina," you are correct: it is genuinely a lot more complicated than just putting money into it--The whole emergency response system is broken, and at the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security appeared to be totally inadquate to the task--if they could not deal with Katrina, which, admittedly was complex, they will even more difficulty dealing with a pandemic flu. This is genuinely a bipartisan issue and if our political system is so divided as to make emergency response a partison issue, there isnt much hope for us all.

ChrisO said...

I think people are forgetting that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, then won by just 2.5 percent in 2004, the smallest margin for a sitting president since 1828, and remarkable in a time of war. The notion that this country has turned Republican is more triumphalism from the Right. Democratic Senators represent 55 percent of the population. The middle holds the key as always, and those who think the middle has suddenly become a Republican gimme are fooling themselves.

Thorley Winston said...

I think people are forgetting that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, then won by just 2.5 percent in 2004, the smallest margin for a sitting president since 1828, and remarkable in a time of war.

No we just don’t find it particularly interesting since electoral votes rather than the popular vote are what matters in an election. Although I suppose some might think it interesting that Vice President Gore lost the electoral vote in 2000 (including failing to carry either his home State or that of President Clinton) despite serving during a time of relative peace and prosperity.

Democratic Senators represent 55 percent of the population.

Again, not terribly interesting since the House of Representatives is the House of Congress where representation is actually determined by proportion and is controlled by Republicans 231-202 (with two absences).

Steven said...

By winning a majority, however small, of the popular vote in 2004, George W. Bush did what only one Democratic candidate has done since the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Comparitively, the Republicans have won a majority five times in the same time period, and no candidate received a majority four times.

Certainly, the center is not a Republican gimmie. But the record shows the center is less of s strech for Republicans to win than Democrats since the 1968 national political realignment.

This becomes especially apparent on considering the one Democratic majority and three Deomcratic pluralities of that time period. Carter was a born-again Evangelical Christian, from the Deep South, running against the guy who pardoned Richard Nixon. Clinton was a Southerner and a DLC chairman. Gore was a Southerner and DLC founder.

So, yes, the Democrats can win the center -- but only when they run a centrist. The choice for American progressives is between a DLC president and a Republican president, because those are the only ones American voters will elect. Heirs of the 1968 New Left need not apply.

MJS said...

Ms. Clinton (I don't know her personally so I don't feel reasonable calling her Hillary) seems to be taking the most prudent -- and likely most successful -- political course by "triangulating." Looking across the broad spectrum of politics, Ms. Clinton has high negatives and very strong, loyal supporters. She cannot afford much higher negatives if she wants to be president. The simple fact is that what is acceptable to the portion of activist wing of our party that already doesn't supporter her is largely unacceptable to the swing voters Ms. Clinton will have to convince. What John Kerry wants (who, in my opinion ran an excellent campaign against a President whose economic numbers should have led to a landslide) and what the activist left wants cannot guide Ms. Clinton. She is taking a lesson from Bush and Reagan, create personal loyalty during the primaries and try to stay away from the fringes enough to move to a pragmatic, tough sounding center.

Why is this strategy important? Because the Democratic left simply has a tin ear on "value" and "security" issues. There are claims (see Hacker, Frank, et al) that most Americans agree with the most extreme of our positions -- ignoring the nuances of views that indicate we are further from the middle than we would like to be -- or that Americans are stupid. It appears that Ms. Clinton, probably on advice from her husband, seeks to avoid those traps.

She also knows she must appear strong. In that light, she sometimes has a poor ear for what sounds shrill and angry and what sounds strong -- as Gerry notes above. Margaret Thatcher had the right mix, we have yet to see whether Ms. Clinton can learn the same lesson. Maureen Dowd, however, does no one any favors by claiming that sexism and hatred of women underlies criticisms of Ms. Clinton's style. Sometimes she does sound angry. Right now, that is the posture of most Democrats, who hate Bush so much that they almost -- well, they do -- lose a sense of rationality. Further, Ms. Dowd, who fancies herself an intellectual, when she really makes only smirking smart-aleck (funny at times), simply undermines real claims of sexism when she labels "angry" misogynistic in this context. If Melman were really misogynistic, he wouldn't have called her angry, and we all know it.

Frankly, expressing outrage right now seems petty and childish. Bush (like Clinton) is a mediocre president who will have his successes and failures judged by history. But deposing a horrible dictator, tax cuts that probably help prop up the economy after 9/11s and at least putting a spotlight on education with the "No child left behind" -- when we have largely left minority children out in the cold in the past by assuming we can't demand results from schools -- strike me as policies we can all agree were more positive than negative. On the other hand, his aggregation of executive power, his lack of leadership during Katrina, his failure to sack Tenet and Rumsfeld when each has proven unequipped for the jobs they were in. He has spent too much and cut too little.

But the hatred and outrage that the left seems to want -- which, as close as I can figure, is caused by Bush's failure to accept the prevailing world views on the left -- is unwarranted and inappropriate. It is also a political loser. The GOP is at a historic low in popularity, with multiple problems, but the Democrates aren't gaining materially. Maybe the folks are tired of outrage and want some indication that we understand what they really think and go through every day -- and not what Maureen Dowd thinks.