Monday, February 04, 2008

Conveniently Timed Election Eve Tears

As the father of two highly intelligent and talented daughters, I am all for women’s rights and believe that a woman should be able to hold any public office in the land. In fact, I could easily see my younger daughter running for office – she’s smart, tough at times and surely can hold her own a debate and argument (she’s debated her parents on just about everything since age 4 or younger). Nonetheless, I have to look at Hillary Clinton’s second bout of tears with great cynicism. Through all the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment hearings, Hillary remained dry-eyed. Now, facing the possible prospect that Obama will catch or pass her in tomorrow’s primaries, she shows up conveniently crying on camera again. What gives? If elected, is she going to be in tears in the White House when faced with a difficult situation or is this a campaign stunt? I agree with much of Andrew Sullivan’s analysis ( and agree that Hillary needs to either run on her own without Bill’s meddling or give it up. If she cannot rein him in, nobody can. Here are some highlights from Andrew’s remarks:

The second bout of public tears just before a crucial primary vote - after no evidence that Senator Hillary Clinton has a history of tearing up in front of the cameras - provokes the unavoidable question: should feminists actively vote against Clinton to defend the cause of female equality? What marks a true feminist is a woman who gains democratic office through strictly meritocratic means.

Think of Margaret Thatcher: a woman who came from lowly beginnings to master a chemistry degree and a legal career in the 1940s and 1950s, who won a seat in parliament single-handedly and eventually became a three-term prime minister for the Conservative party. Yes: the Conservative party. You think she didn't have to deal with prejudice and chauvinism? More than Hillary Clinton will ever know. But she never engaged for a second in the gender politics and nepotistic shenanigans that Clinton has. Thatcher had a rich husband but he was not a stepping stone to politics. She had two children, but never used them for public attention or photo-ops. She did it all - indisputably - on her own merits. Hillary Clinton could have done the same.

But it became clear pretty soon that the Senate was indeed merely a stepping stone back to the White House. It also became clear that she had absolutely no qualms about using her husband's former office, unrivaled party clout and acute political skills to advance her current, long-planned campaign. Bill was wielded as an attack-dog, in an unprecedented abuse of the prestige and honor of the Oval Office in the service of a campaign proudly dealing in blatant nepotism. It was an act of corruption by a corrupt dynasty fearful they couldn't win re-election without pulling every lever they had.

There were also, of course, the now famous New Hampshire tears - to evoke sympathy. And the blunt appeal on gender grounds alone. And the refusal to disavow the use of her husband for her own political purposes, even as he told lies and cast racist aspersions about her opponent. And, on the eve of Super Tuesday, the tears again. Can you imagine a male politician breaking down in public the day before a crucial vote - and expecting it to help? One day, there will be a woman worth electing to the White House. But not this one.

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