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July 11, 2005

Now, Just What Is It We So Dislike?

The last Democrat in my family of traditional blue-collar, union-dues-paying family asked me recently just what it was I so disliked about Hillary Clinton.

I told her I would answer her question when she could make me a sensible answer as to why she detests (not "dislikes" but utterly and purely "detests") George W. Bush.

Her answers were not surprising. Bush was "a moron," and "a Jesus-freak," and a "nazi," and a "gay-hater," and a "swaggering cowboy," and a "liar."

"These are not reasons, these are pretexts. Beyond the caricatures you've embraced," I stopped her, "what is it you hate, really, and why?"

She refused to try again. It was, she insisted, my turn to explain my implacable distrust of Hillary Clinton.

"Well," I began, "I think my reasons may be built upon something a little more solid than name-calling and partisanship."

"You dislike her because she is a strong, powerful woman, and you're not, " came the accusation.

"Ummm, no," I answered. "Firstly, I am not convinced she is a strong woman – she seems very propped up by an adoring press from where I sit. But I am myself a strong woman, why would I dislike that attribute in another?"

It's not the "strong woman" issue. It's not the She-Shoulda-Left-Him-for-Cheating Issue. It's not the Ice Queen Issue, the Sexism Issue or even the 60's Radical Issue (although that remains very troubling.)

It's the condescension, stupid.

It's the "you people are so stupid, you voted for that moron Bush," sniff.

It is difficult to respect someone who seems to completely disrespect you, and Hillary tends to show nothing but disdain for the suburban woman she so badly needs to have on her side.

It's not just the little-woman-Tammy-Wynette-baking-cookies remarks (remarks which, in retrospect seem to have said more about her own horrified self-awareness than anything else) that has turned me – and so many like me – off. We suburban woman have become accustomed to being looked down upon by deluded white men who think they can do without us, so those same shots coming from a deluded white woman were yawn-inducing. Same disregard, different gender.

We didn't mind Hillary so much when she wore the headband over the dirty hair, although we are happy to see her lately cleaned up and looking fabulous. We didn't mind when she took on the Health Care issue; it seemed like a prime job for a policy wonk, until her secretive tactics and final proposal scared the hell out of us. We didn't even mind that she was disinterested in the traditional hostessing duties of a First Lady. Many of us would be loathe to engage in small talk and dinner parties endlessly, endlessly.

The fact is Hillary's inability to dazzle middle class women has nothing to do with any of that, regardless of how some might happily promote the idea.

Hillary Clinton lost us, seriously lost us, when she started acting like one of us, or more correctly, when she started thinking she could make us believe that she was one of us. In truth, before she ever made us roll our eyes at her empty new "centrist" rhetoric, she lost us with those pink suits.

Not that we don't like pink, mind you. We mind that she thinks we can't see past pink.

The first brazenly pastel episode we paid attention to was the Hillary-As-Princess-Diana-Talking-Cattle-Futures stunt. Wearing a bright pink suit with black piping, Hillary hosted a cozy sort of news "meeting" (it couldn't be called a press conference since everyone, including Hillary, was seated and smiling) wherein she addressed questions about her successful foray into trading cattle futures. We listened and watched as Hillary morphed. She went from being a "brilliant" woman with a "steel trap" memory and a "hands-on" manner to being an almost bubble-headed, pinkly-smiling little woman who had nothing at all to do with the transaction that bore her name. She could remember nothing, really. "You know, I don't know anything about this stuff…the nice man took my check and the next week he brought me back another check, and that's all there was to it…I am just a simple woman, please help me," was – essentially – her answer.

All any of us could think was, "sister…if I'd made $100,000 in cattle futures in a week, I'd sure as hell know how it came about. If I'd made only $10,000, I would remember every detail."

We have never been able to forgive Hillary for that coy bit of disingenuous blather. Or for the pastels. We find it grating that she wear black in Manhattan, but pastels in the suburbs, as though we hicks cannot appreciate the sophistication of basic black, or worse, that we're so intellectually deficient that we don't realize what she is trying to do, how she is attempting to soften her image. She thinks we're so stupid that a pink suit (or a sweater thrown over the shoulders of her suit…wha????) will blind us to all of her reality.

Women outside of the coastal enclaves are media-savvy. We know when we're being played to and we find it insulting to be treated like superficial twits who can be won over by a soft-color palette and a few "aw, shucks," nasal twangs.

We're smart enough to know that Hillary is a lion, that she has always been a lion. So when she puts on the lambikin soft colors and throws the sweater over the shoulders… of her suit…it offends our sense of who Hillary is, and who she thinks we are. She seemingly doesn't realize that because we know she is a lion, her silly, soft-lit photos clatter with noisy metallic bangs of condescension. And that visual racket overpowers anything she has to say verbally.

She cannot make us believe she is one of us, because she has never been one of us. Hillary has never been a woman who worked her way through college by waiting tables or ringing up sales. She has never had to mediate between two or more squabbling children as she's driven on the Long Island Expressway hoping the sound she hears beneath her is not her muffler, falling off. She has never had to put her children with virtual strangers and hope for the best as she went off to clean an (anti-Bush, pro-Hillary) house in the Hamptons, in order to earn enough money for pre-school tuition. She has never planted her own garden with a child "helping," or stood at the fence trading ripe tomatoes with a zucchini-growing elderly neighbor. She has never rushed home from work of a Wednesday evening to start cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 17 family members, with or without help.

And that's actually fine. Hillary doesn't necessarily have to be one of us. But if she's never had the least sort of inclination to live a middle-class suburban life, in all of its mundane moments and small glories, then she really must stop telling us how we should choose to live it. Most particularly, she should stop telling us that it takes a village to raise a child. Most of us feel quite competent to do that by our own lights, and as educated women we believe our lights are at least as good as hers.

For Hillary to win our respect - if at this point such a thing is possible – she is going to have to stop pastel-pandering to us, because we frankly cannot tolerate the presumption of naivete' that such pandering betrays. Then, she is going to have to talk to us, not at us, and she's going to have to come up with something more substantial than vague feel-goodisms about supposed "common ground" on life-and-death issues, which may (or may not) exist and which mean nothing to us if her words are not followed up with action.

She's going to have to say something true to us…because so far she simply hasn't. She has said almost nothing we want to hear.

And what do we want to hear? We want to hear that there is room in Hillary's world for women who do not wish to climb corporate ladders, who find their deepest fulfillment not in boardrooms but in the garden with the kids and the ladybugs and the loving partner. We want to hear that our sons and daughters who have volunteered to serve under President Bush in a time of war are not simpletons who have been led astray but patriots who defend a nation against an enemy her own husband couldn't be bothered to engage.

We want to hear that those of us who cannot afford to send our children to private school, as she could, can have a real option to do so if we are unhappy with our local schools. We want to hear an acknowledgement that we contribute to the economy with our cottage industries and our entrepreneurial energies, and that we contribute to our communities with our civic work, our volunteer hours and our carpools.

We want to know that when the world breaks, as it broke last week in London, she has a the capacity to do something more than merely make political hay of the issue, using the deaths and injuries of innocents to promote herself and – once again criticize the only American President who has tried to do something constructive in the face of Islamofascism. We want to see something like statesmanship over partisanship. So far, again, she hasn't shown it.

As loving mothers and compassionate people, we want to hear that "reproductive freedoms" have humane boundaries, that they don't have to include a descent into the absolute savagery that is "partial-birth abortion."

Hillary seems not to realize that this is a big issue for us, that suburban moms are not comfortable with late-term abortions. She needs to surprise us and move from talking about some pretend "common ground" to actually walking on at least that portion of the road with us. It would help us believe that she has the ability to move beyond rhetoric, which we have never seen her do. It would also give suburban women their props, recognizing that our values and concerns bear consideration and promotion, that our views are both relevant and well thought-out.

It comes down to respect. Hillary does not have to be like us. In fact, she could not be like us if she tried; she is the wrong sort of animal. She is a lion and we are Mama Grizzlies. If she is as smart as the press vaunts, she will respect us. We middle class suburban women have our own good instincts. We know when we're being dissed and we know when we're being "handled," and honey…we don't like it.

Of course, even if Hillary Clinton could do all these things, we suburban women might still be inclined to distrust her…if only because the press trusts her so unquestioningly, so devotedly, so terrifyingly. While we watch the press train their cameras on President Bush only with the greatest reluctance, and all-negativity, and we don't like it, we also understand that a press which is unable to find a flaw in a potential president is a press willing to participate in a move to tyranny.

For that reason alone my suburban sisters and I may never be able to trust this woman, not for a moment.

And my Democrat sister will never understand. Because she does not wish to

Posted by Thecla at July 11, 2005 04:22 PM

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What a great start! Welcome, Thecla.

I don't dislike Hilary (well, I might), but I strongly dislike her ideas, which we remember from before the makeover. The 60s liberalism of which she is surely made will be the death of American strength, character, and honor; and will drive the nation further from the moral imagination derived from a comfortable intertwining of faith and governance.

I wish we'd have a woman president, but one with ideas that will benefit America.

Posted by: Jim Jewell at July 11, 2005 09:12 PM

Thecla, you hit the nail on the head.


What you described is the essence of the failure of HRC as well as the strength of
one of the greatest powers in this country, moms.

Anyway, mark my words, your essay will prove to be 100% if HRC decides to run for
POTUS in '08.

Until then...

Be well.


Posted by: BJ at July 12, 2005 12:19 AM

Well done!

I'd just like to say that the Hildbeast's trick of draping a sweater over the shoulders of her suit is nothing new. When I was a kid, my father used to grouse about Tip O'Neil and other fatcats taking off their Armani suitcoats, loosening their $100 ties, and rolling up their sleeves to make it look like they were good ol' working class boys. She's doing the same thing.

Frankly, I've never bought into the 'strong woman' thing from her. I know that the fawning press corps likes to repeat this meme, but when you get down to it, she played the fawning wife to a serial philanderer just to get the goodies, such as the use of Air Force One when making campaign tours. I've always felt that if she was REALLY a strong woman, she'd have dumped that lying SOB years ago and made it on her own.

Posted by: docjim505 at July 12, 2005 09:19 AM

Please correct me if I’m wrong. You don’t like Hillary because:
1) You thing her wardrobe choices insult suburban women.
2) You think her public comments insult suburban women, yet you never once describe what she actually says. Instead you choose to ascribe to her an insulting quote that came from yourself.
3) You think she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and never had to work for a living, but you are mistaken. In fact her father worked in a fabric store and her mother was a homemaker. Growing up she was active in her church, where she says her eyes were opened to issues of social justice. As a law student her thesis focused on the rights of children. As an adult she worked many jobs (including as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund) and raised a child as a working mother. Most members of congress and our current president did not have to work so hard and climb so far to arrive where they are today.
4) You think her supporters all own houses in the Hamptons, code for “rich east coast elitists”, thus perpetuating your self-imposed inferiority complex. In fact, there are many millions of anything-but-wealthy democrats throughout the country, including the midwest (my family included). Most democrats opposed the 3 Bush tax cuts that the Republican congress legislated. These tax cuts overwhelmingly favored the ultra-rich and contribute substantially to our federal budget deficit, which is larger than that created under all other administrations in the history of our country combined. This deficit is equivalent to a tax increase of $26,000 per man, woman and child in America and will have to be paid off somehow.
5) You say “she really must stop telling us how we should choose to live [our lives]” but provide only an empty accusation, no evidence. Then you proceed to either speak for all suburban women or to tell them how they should live their lives with your rhetoric about abortion.
6) You accuse her of “pandering” to you and then of saying “almost nothing we want to hear”. Does that mean you want a politician who doesn’t pander or someone who does? Along those lines, I don’t hear any of the other national politicians speaking for the majority of working women, so I think you single out Hillary simply because she is a democrat.

In summary, you have engaged in the same vague, unsubstantiated accusations you accuse your sister of, all in the name of partisanship. If you think democrats lack specific criticisms of the Bush administration, then you aren't talking to enough democrats. Perhaps I can provide you with some specifics.
1) As I said in point 4 above, the Bush administration has disregarded all semblance of fiscal conservatism by spending us into oblivion. The ultra-rich have benefited from this disproportionately, and the rest of us and our children will presumably have to pick up the bill sometime later. This is reckless and irresponsible.
2) Bush and Cheney misrepresented the need to go to war in Iraq in a multitude of ways. Saddam had no demonstrable connections to terrorist organizations waging war on the west. Saddam was not linked to 9/11 in any way. Saddam did not try to buy fissile material from Niger. Saddam was not hiding WMD from us when we attacked him.
3) The unprecedented preemptive war we launched against Iraq and the failure to find WMD there means the Bush administration is either frighteningly incompetent or, even more frighteningly, liars. It’s either one or the other. Some people have argued the latter is true based on revelations in the Downing Street memo, Bush’s inclusion of the Niger uranium claim in the State of the Union address even after the claim had been refuted, and by testimony from a former member of the NSC, Richard Clarke, who said Bush and Rumsfeld both wanted to attack Iraq shortly after 9/11, despite any evidence of Saddam’s involvement. Bush has made unseemly jokes about not being able to find “those pesky WMDs” even as our troops die in Iraq due to his folly and the war serves as a recruiting tool for new members of Al Qaeda, according to the CIA.
4) Political partisanship has trumped national security. Valerie Plame was outed by “senior administration officials” in acts that increasingly look like payback for her husband’s public accusations of prevarication by the administration.
5) Bush touted his No Child Left Behind policy, then underfunded it.
6) The administration’s environmental policies have catchy names that sound like they have made our air, water, and forests cleaner and healthier but in fact have ceded use of these resources and the monitoring of their polluting to the same corporations who despoil them.
7) The administration has rejected global warming treaties, stem cell initiatives and other science policies because it subordinates the science on which they are based to politics and religious beliefs held by a minority of the population. It ignores scientific evidence to such an extent that 20 Nobel laureates protested the administration’s science policy in a collective letter to the president.
8) The Bush administration has paid numerous reporters to espouse presidential policy in weekly columns or on t.v. without acknowledging that they were being paid to spread propaganda (Armstrong Williams was only the most publicized case). The fees for these “endorsements” came from public tax dollars. The Bush administration also refused to give press passes to reporters who were known to question the veracity or decisions of administrative personnel. At the same time it awarded press passes to people who had no prior news experience but who publicly endorsed administration policy and criticized democrats at press conferences (e.g. Jeff Gannon).

Is that specific enough for you? Or perhaps like your sister, as a democrat I will never understand because I don’t wish to. I’d certainly like to try if you’d be willing to explain why I am mistaken.

Posted by: dem at July 13, 2005 01:55 AM

I love Hillary - I don't really feel all the arguements about her being "fake" because she is trying to mold her image a little. That's called PUBLIC RELATIONS. Everyone knows that politicians, celebrities, any public figure will do some image restoration work when they feel that they need to appeal to different groups of people. That is standard procedure folks.

She's not giving up her feminist beliefs, she's just showing the public that they can embrace femininity and feminism at the SAME TIME. Novel concept, I know. But I think it is fabulous and is a message that more people need to hear.

Go Hillary!

Posted by: MEP at August 16, 2005 11:41 AM

This is pure garbage and whoever wrote this lie knows it..

Posted by: petwil at November 2, 2005 08:19 PM

This article just shows how distorted the author is in the actualy reality of Hillary's situation. Hillary is a brilliant woman who isn't trying to decieve or condem the American suburban women because they voted for Bush. Where ever you got that notion is ridiculous. Second, so many people have made comments about the stupidity and ignorance of the American people for voting for President Bush. Some people really oppose his policies and I think that they are allowed to express that. If you had any common sense you'd be able to see past your bullcrap and recognize what an amazing leader Hillary Clinton can and will be. You're just afraid of her and her capabilities. You're working under a fearful conspiracy should try to look at her from a different angle and you'll be suprised at how positive she really is.

Posted by: Kelsey at February 10, 2006 08:50 PM