January 27, 2007

The problem with a woman running for President.

I'm watching Hillary Clinton doing her town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. A man -- Representative Leonard Boswell -- is introducing her. He ends by waving his arm around and saying: "We wish you every success." Not a peep out of the audience. He goes on: "Let the conversation begin!" Still nothing! He adds "God bless ya... we're glad to have you here" and, finally, elicits a cheer.

"Thank you all," she yells in that harsh tone her voice gets when she's going for volume. "Well," she says, now properly modulated and holding her hands out, palms up. "I'm Hillary Clinton." She leans forward and laughs, like it's a big joke that she actually is Hillary Clinton. The crowd laughs, either because they get the "joke" or they actually are jazzed up at the experience of witnessing the grand personage in the flesh.

"I'm running for President, and I'm in it to win it." Has she been going around saying "I'm in it to win it"? This sounds clever for half a second, and then you get distracted thinking about what other possible reasons might lead a person to run for President. And then I find myself in a pit of irrelevance musing about the mind of Dennis Kucinich...

She has some material about how ordinary people aren't making enough money these days, unlike rich people, who make too much money. Democrats are required to say this. To me, it sounds like patronizing the audience. You folks are the good, deserving people. Elsewhere, there are bad people taking way more than their share.

Next, she talks about how a woman can be President. Americans are "good at breaking barriers, and I wanna see us get back to doin' that." Droppin' those gs is really gettin' to me. Kerry did that too, didn't he?

"We need strong leadership and smart solutions to deal with our problems."

Okay, enough generalizations. It's time for the town hall questions... the conversation...

The first question is about whether a woman can be President. Clinton's response sounds natural and decent enough, and I'm thoroughly bored with this issue now. Of course, a woman can be President, but we shouldn't elect her President just to prove the point. She's a specific person, now get on with it.

The second question comes from a doctor who wants to know what she's going to do about obesity and diabetes in the United States. I pause the TiVo and the expression on her face seems to show exasperation at having to respond to this sort of thing. I unpause and see the gears click into place: It's time for Universal Health Care tape loop. The system is screwed up because it's easier to get insurers to pay if you need to have your foot amputated than if you'd like to visit a nutritionist.

There's a question about education from a teacher, who informs us that her job requires her to deal with "raging pubescent hormonal individuals" -- 8th graders -- and the hard thing is she's going through menopause. She says this in a stand-up comedian style, and I get the feeling that she thinks Hillary is going to offer her some special menopausal camaraderie. Hillary does not. Bill may have told us about his underpants, but Hillary isn't going to let us in on the extent of her need for Tampax.

The next woman complains about how "women's work" -- she does air quotes -- is underpaid. "How do we change the culture" to value this work? The obvious answer is: not through the presidency. Hillary talks at length about women's work, the culture, etc.

How I'd have loved to hear something like: You know, what's ironic here is that I'm a woman, and you're undervaluing me, asking me questions about women's things, and not treating me like someone who is offering to take on the work that genuinely belongs to the office I'm seeking. How is a woman supposed to become President if all you ever picture her doing is taking on the caregiving responsibilities that have typically belonged to women?

I can't endure the whole event, not in one sitting... but I do vlog about it...

ADDED: Wait, it will take me a minute to get the vlog up. Meanwhile, the show was almost over, and I did watch it to the end. All the questions were on womanly subjects. I predict trouble if HC can't get people to think of her outside the traditional role while she's trying to get hold of a nontraditional role.



Wickedpinto said...

I watched a lot of her meeting (random, I just saw Kerry say ON THE SENATE FLOOR! that he isn't running for president, how BIG OF YOU! to use the senate floor to make an anti-bush campaign speech from 2 years ago) Anyways, I watched a lot of Hillary's whatever it was today.

Before I comment on hillary specificaly, let me say this about women presidents. I don't care. a woman will be president one day, not because whoever is the first woman president will not be "revolutionary" or "groundbreaking" or a "change in the male dominance that women have absorbed" or any such thing, but rather because the ceiling HAS ALREADY been shattered. The first female president won't be world shaking, it will be a natural action based on the innevitability of American life.

People in the US will not soil themselves if there is a woman president, we will accept it, because it is no longer a major thing, the only thing "significant" about a female president isn't about the US finaly electing one, but rather that whoever is the first female president will be the first. THAT IS ALL that is significant (granted significant enough, but it won't change america, America has already changed) but it won't be Hillary.

Back to Hillarie's little (and STUPID! campaigning in IOWA) people will quickly get tired of being guilted into being attracted to a politician who CONSTANTLY mentioned that she's a "woman. . . . . . .and a Mother. . . . . ... . . " and BLAH BLAH BLAH she didn't say anything.

She's like the SNL sketches where Keenan Thompson would play Star Jones on "The View" "I am a LAWYER!!!"

Same thing with Hillary "I AM A WOMAN, and a MOTHER, and a LAWYER!!!"

okay, I heard the spiel, I'm done with it.

Anonymous said...

Ann has stated many times (hasn't she?) that even if Democrats are elected.....nothing's gonna change.

Same old same old , status quo.

So, if we know that.....what else is there to say, except to marvel about her being a woman, how incredible it is....her womanhood, a woman President. The woman thing...

Not much else to talk about.

Peace, Maxine

ASX said...

After reading all of your posts about Hillary, I have one thing to say.

Wow, you really hate Hillary Clinton!

It's so personal.

Palladian said...

Why do people assume that because a woman criticizes a candidate, it must be personal. Do you two have a personal problem with George Bush? You're always criticizing him! Liberals all must have personal problems to be criticizing George Bush so much!

It seems to me that the criticism here is with Hillary's campaign and the way people react to her. Pelosi, Hillary and Obama need to be careful. If they spend so much time and energy explaining and celebrating the fact that they're special because they're [insert demographic here], then they will fail.

"I personally think that sniping at Hillary for the next two (or possibly ten) years is beneath you. Please use your creativity wisely."

In other words, shut up. Don't speak about the most over-saturated candidate for president because, well, because we don't want you to.

Come to think of it, this blog's nattering nabobs criticize Althouse all the time! What the hell is wrong with you guys?! It must be something personal! You must be jealous!

Anonymous said...

ricardo, admit it: on a "deep visceral level" don't you want to see a cat fight between Hillary and Ann?

--A total smackdown: scratching, kicking, biting.

Men love it when women fight each other.

Anway, it's crunch time. Hillary has her feelers out, and her people are very displeased with the Althouse Blog.

It's gonna be a fun two years.

Peace, Maxine

Joe said...

I don't think her sex has anything to do with her negatives. Her knock is the absence of core values. Something shared by Congressional Democrats on the war - they don't want to be seen as supporting it, nor do they want to be responsible for losing. One night Brit Hume asked the panel what they thought were Hil's core values on foreign policy. Pause - and they all burst into laughter.
BTW "in it to win it" is a NY lottery ad slogan. I can't decide if her campaign knows that or not.

Anonymous said...

Hillary's having a "conversation" but at this juncture, there's nothing much to talk about.

Maybe she shouldn't have announced this early, ya think? If she'd held back....at least there'd be something to discuss.

What we need is some sort of Memogate, or Swift Boat Veterans....but that type of thing usually doesn't happen till the 11th hour, and so, what we're left with is a woman insisting on "conversation" with absolutely nothing to say!

Peace, Maxine

Ann Althouse said...

I don't like or dislike her, but I question her front-runner-itude!. Why her? What did she ever do? She needs to prove it! This "I'm a woman" business is absolutely nothing! What I hate isn't her, but this attitude of entitlement and the way the manipulation works on other people.

Palladian said...

And, if one is honest, her horrible, hectoring, dentist-drill voice is pretty unbearable, especially when she forgets to modulate and slips into her imitation of Mrs. Portman, my sixth-grade English teacher, barking and shrieking her way through sentence diagramming.

When you played that little clip on the vlog, it startled the hell out of me.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I really wonder what Hillary will do about Bill. He's a better speaker, an accomplished politician, oozes charisma, and successfully upstages her in every relevant political category. What if he's being unfaithful and he's caught in a public way during her campaign? Does she divorce him? If she can't stand up to him how can she stare down islamofascists bent on our destruction? Does she send him out internationally to do the ex-president's tour? Every time they appear together, we have that same sinking feeling that the 1976 Republicans had at their convention when Ford was narrowly selected over Reagan: oops! We picked the wrong candidate.

Joe Baby said...

That sense of entitlement will rule her campaign, by the way.

And when her opponents don't lay down and grovel at her feet, there will be scorched earth. Hillary is not a natural (her smile looks like it's ratcheted down with one of those garage-door springs), and if her opponents don't naturally succumb, it will get ugly.

And if her posse ever gets scared that the thing is getting away from her, all bets are off.

The only thing I'd ask is that she stop clapping for herself like she's one of those fat men wearing a mustard-colored uniform adorned 70 medals at a May Day parade.

Anonymous said...

Hillary's patented campaign stunt -- the listening tour, the conversation -- evidently is designed to allow to take center stage without ever saying anything. She can talk freely about small-ticket issues, and strike a pose of concern about, oh, 8th grade teachers going thru menopause, but can straddle in just the way the DC Democratic leaders have been straddling since the 90s. She can strike the "We need to change direction in this country," pose, and have a reasonable hope no one notices you haven't figured out what the new direction should be.

That said, the "horrible, hectoring, dentist-drill voice," and the smile that "looks like it's ratcheted down with one of those garage-door springs" probably can't be overcome. I think we elect people partly on the voice we want to hear for the next four years. Not that one.

Sloanasaurus said...

As much as I despise Hillary's liberalism, I would prefer her any day over Obama. Even though she would be the first woman president, she seems to be more of a traditional American candidate than Obama. In general, America has done well with traditional candidates - we should stick with them.

somefeller said...

"I don't like or dislike her, but I question her front-runner-itude!. Why her? What did she ever do? She needs to prove it!"

Well, I suspect the reason she sees herself (and others see her) as the front-runner is because the polls of likely Democratic voters over the last few years have consistently ranked her as the leading choice for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, much to the chagrin of the more left-leaning antiwar netroots crowd and the conservative Hillary-hater crowd (two groups she is fortunate to have as her adversaries). A consistent lead in the polls tends to give a person front-runner-itude. If that lead disappears, which is possible, the front-runner-itude will disappear, too. But for now, she's done all that one needs to justify that attitude - lead in the polls.

boston70 said...

I also watched this on c-span today.
I am ambivalent about Hilary. I do think she is too focused tested and risk aversive.

I do think she is smart, talented, but too tightly scripted. Also, from what I have read she seems to be surrounded by a well oiled operation. I don't know if she is capable of being spontaneous.

Also, I too, found all of the women's questions a problem. I specifically was watching a couple of older gentlemen behind her during all of those questions and they seemed bored and over it. I actually felt bad for these two men sitting through this meeting.

If these "conversations" are going to turn into a bunch of women venting their issues this will turn off many voters, me included.

Her assistant, though, the dark hair woman who was pushing through all of the autograph seekers was absolutely fabulous. Great hair, makeup, body and suit. I actually thought she looked a little too put together for an audience in Iowa. I thought she needed to tone down her NYC fabulousness a little bit.

"Middle America" can detect a NYTimes reading, latte drinking etc. etc. a mile away. She looked just a little to Sex in The City for this crowd but I did think she was actually stunning.

Hey whats up with the word verification in the blogger comments section? I thought you did away with that.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to see word verification again if it means you don't have to moderate comments anymore.

Un-moderated comments "zkqicq" ass.

Wickedpinto said...

She's a woman, and 1/2 black by injection (after all BILL! was the first black president, EXACTLY HOW PERSUMPTUOUS WAS THAT!?!?!?!) and any sort of other BS guilt campaign she can put together.

But who cares, none of it will be researched cuz she's not just a Dem, she's a clinton.

AllenS said...

"The second question comes from a doctor who wants to know what she's going to do about obesity and diabetes in the United States."


What is she supposed to say? What an idiotic question.

Tim Sisk said...

"Dentist drill voice" classic. I think that those annoying tics can be overcome, remember GW Bush's Alfred E. Newman smirk? Sure it has crepted back, but Bush seemed to be able to contain it during the actual campaigns. Hillary's annoying voice comes out when she speaks loudly, particularly in front of a cheering crowd. If she'll learn to trust her mics, we probably won't hear that.

Her cautiousness on the issues, however, I think will prevent her from winning the Democratic nomination. I don't think they'll elect a "safe" candidate a la Kerry again.

Anonymous said...

I watched some of the Iowa meeting.
It was like watching paint dry. I have had about all I need of election politics for the time being. At this point I am far more intrested in the politics of governing, and getting something done for a change.

I also watched a conservative forum with Laura Ingrahm, Michelle Malkin,and Kate O'biern. It was almost as bad as Hillary's event.Not a shrill,dentist drill voice in the bunch.Just a lot of whining about how conservatives never got a break in the press and how and why they had lost their way, as well as the election.Pathetic!
I don't much care for Hillary Clinton or Bill for that matter, but if it comes down to a choice between her vision of things or the vision of these right wing pundits and others of their ilk, I'll choose Hillary's in a heartbeat.

My only hope is that something will change between now and 2008 and that we all will have a better choice to make.We all deserve better.

Joe Baby said...

A big question that has occurred to me ever since Al Gore ran for Prez:

Does Bill Clinton want Hillary to win?

Sure, yes, the trappings of office and all that...but I think there's also a competitive angle...and Bill certainly doesn't want her to win based upon her own people/ideas.

Maybe this explains why he continues to put himself in positions where he is questioned...and not by Rush Limbaugh, but by Canadian media, which is not predisposed to hate the Clintons.

Look up Belinda Stronach. Her shamelessness and political ambition must be extremely attractive to a man like Bill Clinton.

Paco Wové said...

Jace says:
"We all deserve better."

We do? Why do you think that? If we deserved better, don't you think we'd produce better?

If we're producing dismal candidates, I think it's more likely a symptom of a dismal social and political culture.

Anonymous said...

She has a big problem in this campaign; there's nothing to talk about!

She can't talk about Heath Care--that ship has sailed and she's just reminding people of her failures.

The New Deal/Basic Bargain stuff...that falls flat because we are not in an FDR-Jimmy Carter Depression. The Index of Leading Indicators is up. Interest Rates are stable. Nobody cares about a "basic bargain" when there's not so much as a whiff of recession in the economy.

Foreign Policy: What foreign policy? She had none. No conversation to be had with that.

Iraq: Maybe, but she wouldn't be taking office till 2009. Who knows what Iraq will look like by that time. Anything she says now about Iraq feels obselete, and superfluous given what might happen by then.

Face it----she doesn't have a lot to say. This isn't like the book tour where all she has to do is sign books...

---or the listening tour, that was completely different, she was a sitting First Lady then, and the State of New York was enthralled.

This time out, she's got to deliver and come up with something....and for the next two years.

You just know she's got to be miserable knowing that for the next two years, she's basically on-the-hook.

You get the feeling she'd much rather be sitting in a Manhattan high-rise reading her Sylvia Plath book....than putting up with this nonsense.

Two long years of shaking hands of the unwashed, simpleton masses--bobbing for apples---gamely attending bake sales, trying to put on a smile....

She's miserable, trust me. This isn't the book tour, or the listening tour anymore!

Peace, Maxine

Kirk Parker said...


"What is she supposed to say? What an idiotic question."

Well, "What an idiotic question!" as a rejoinder would be a refreshing change, wouldn't it? However, it would also just about be the definition of impolitic, so I wouldn't expect to hear it.

But as long as we're dreaming, let me dream of Hillary possessed by the spirit of P.J. O'Rourke: "I'm sorry, sir, you must be in the wrong room. The Des Moines Department of Health meeting is across the hall."

esmense said...

I thought your point about the questions being posed to Clinton was a very interesting one. It's something that people of good faith should be able to discuss without regard to partisanship.

But the dreary personal, partisan sneering at Clinton you allowed yourself to indulge in in your vlog is silly, of zero usefulness in terms of political debate, and all too common (in more than one sense of the word) and expected. This kind of very personal derogatory commentary is always popular of course -- because it takes no brains or subtlety to perform and can be aimed at anyone with equal ease. Are you really so sure that your own speaking manner is without irritant and above parody, dear? That your own human foibles, self-delusions and self-satisfied airs are any less transparent and easily ridiculed as Ms. Clinton's? Or any and every other mere human being brave enough to step forward in the public arena?

Richard Fagin said...

Hillary gets asked the questions she does in interviews and press conferences because of her fan club in the press.

A lot of people like Sen. Clinton's views on domestic issues, particularly health care and child rearing.

If the press were serious about determining her real views on other important issues, however, such as the worldwide war on Islamofascists, they'd ask her. What her fans in the press understand clearly is that Sen. Clinton's answers to such questions would reflect a profound distrust of, no, an animus toward, the American Armed Forces, and a core belief that projection of American power is itself a major cause of trouble in the world. She's still a 60s radical at the core. Expose that and she's sunk as a presidential contender.

Anonymous said...

"What is she supposed to say? What an idiotic question."--Allen

Well, the questions really aren't very substantive, are they?

Stuff like...."my husband and I work like dogs but we still can't afford a new home. How will you help us?"


"I'm going through menopause and my employer won't pay for hormones, is there anything you can do?"


Very reductive, common and shallow.

And she's always got her standard, cliched replies:

"We've got a program for that"....
or ... "I'm concerned about that too, and we need to do a better job".

After about the 50th time hearing that, and it's only been a week since she announced.....it becomes a little mind numbing.

Why doesn't someone ask her who she's going to pick for her Cabinet? Who's her running mate? Why'd she vote for McGovern?

She gets the dumbest questions, and the sort of constituents she's cultivating....it makes you wonder.

Peace, Maxine