Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Hillary Clinton Paradox

Recently Ezra Klein conducted an lengthy interview with Hillary Clinton, a woman who has been subject to unrelenting attacks by right wing conservatives for decades even as she has often been among the most admired women in various surveys.  Klein suggests that issues about Clinton's "honesty" are less the results of her own actions that the right's constant attacks that depict her as someone other than who she is in reality.  The attacks have been akin to the Nazi tactic that believed that if one tells a lie often enough, in time the public will believe it to be true even if it is totally false.  The American right - and the Christofascists in particular - have also long used this approach against LGBT Americans (i.e., that we are predators and/or threaten society) and the black community.  Here are highlight from Vox.com that look at the interview:
This is an effort to answer a question I’ve been struggling with since at least 2008: Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail?
I’ve come to call it “the Gap.” There is the Hillary Clinton I watch on the nightly news and that I read described in the press. She is careful, calculated, cautious. Her speeches can sound like executive summaries from a committee report, the product of too many authors, too many voices, and too much fear of offense.
Polls show most Americans doubt her basic honesty. Pundits write columns with headlines like “Why Is Clinton Disliked?”
And then there is the Hillary Clinton described to me by people who have worked with her, people I admire, people who understand Washington in ways I never will. Their Hillary Clinton is spoken of in superlatives: brilliant, funny, thoughtful, effective. She inspires a rare loyalty in ex-staff, and an unusual protectiveness even among former foes.
This is the Gap I set out to understand. While reporting this story, I spoke to dozens of people who have worked with Clinton in every stage of her career, going back to her time in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Every single one acknowledged its existence. Many were frustrated and confused by it.
So, too, is Clinton herself. We spoke for 40 minutes on a hot day in Raleigh, North Carolina, and it was clearly on her mind as she looks at the daily polls.  As you watch this clip, remember this is a real human being — a human being who really believes she’s dedicated her adult life to helping others — trying to understand why most Americans say they don’t like her: “It’s always amusing to me that when I have a job, I have really high approval ratings,” Clinton said. “When I’m actually doing the work, I get reelected with 67 percent of the vote running for reelection in the Senate. When I’m secretary of state, I have a 66 percent approval rating.”
Her explanation for the Gap is simple enough. “There’s a lot of behavioral science that if you attack someone endlessly — even if none of what you say is true — the very fact of attacking that person raises doubts and creates a negative perspective,” she says.
There is something about her persona that seems uniquely vulnerable to campaigning; something is getting lost in the Gap. So as I interviewed Clinton's staffers, colleagues, friends, and foes, I began every discussion with some form of the same question: What is true about the Hillary Clinton you’ve worked with that doesn’t come through on the campaign trail? The answers startled me in their consistency. Every single person brought up, in some way or another, the exact same quality they feel leads Clinton to excel in governance and struggle in campaigns. . . . Hillary Clinton, they said over and over again, listens.
Modern presidential campaigns are built to reward people who are really, really good at talking. So imagine what a campaign feels like if you’re not entirely natural in front of big crowds. Imagine that you are constantly compared to your husband, one of the greatest campaign orators of all time; that you’ve been burned again and again after saying the wrong thing in public; that you’ve been told, for decades, that you come across as calculated and inauthentic on the stump. What would you do?
When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, she tried to do something very strange: She tried to campaign by listening. It was called her “listening tour,” and the press did not like it. . . . . By the time she finished those listening sessions around New York, she really knew more about New York, about the issues there, about what was on people’s minds.”
Let’s stop and state the obvious: There are gender dynamics at play here. . . . “Listening is something women value almost above everything else in relationships,” says Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown linguist who studies differences in how men and women communicate. “The biggest complaint women make in relationships is, ‘He doesn’t listen to me.’”
Talking is a way of changing your status: If you make a great point, or set the terms of the discussion, you win the conversation. Listening, on the other hand, is a way of establishing rapport, of bringing people closer together; showing you’ve heard what’s been said so far may not win you the conversation, but it does win you allies. And winning allies is how Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination.
One way of reading the Democratic primary is that it pitted an unusually pure male leadership style against an unusually pure female leadership style. Sanders is a great talker and a poor relationship builder. Clinton is a great relationship builder and a poor talker. In this case — the first time at the presidential level — the female leadership style won.
[T]here’s one group Clinton absolutely can’t stand hearing from: the press. She believes the media offers wall-to-wall coverage of trumped-up non-scandals that ultimately prove hollow. She resents the fact that when the stories finally fall apart, the press just moves on, but the damage lingers in the public’s view of her. And, well, she’s right. Whitewater, Travelgate, Benghazi — there’s no politician who has been at the center of so many scandals that have turned out to be worth so little.
Her answer is that the media abdicated its role as gatekeeper of a civil, substantive discourse. “I do think — and I keep saying this, because I believe it — I think the media environment where people are rewarded for being outrageous, for yelling at each other, for saying things that are untrue without being held accountable for it has contributed to this attitude of divisiveness and separation,” she said.
 She sees the loss of public trust in her as caused by the same force that has led to the loss of public trust in everything else: a press corps obsessed with controversy, uninterested in substance, and incapable of or uninterested in policing the boundaries of decency and truthfulness.

I have to say that I largely agree with Clinton's assessment of the press.  Nowadays, it's all about sensation and scandal and much needed policy discussions and planning get thrown down the toilet.  The press has helped turn politics into a form of ugly reality TV and the nation has been the loser for it. 

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