Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Old Enough to Know Better

What's expected of a woman is different from what's expected of a man. Usually what's expected of a woman is much more. That is unfair. This country has been unfair to Hillary Clinton for a long time.

She chose to be a public figure, and surely didn't shy away from the spotlight. She expanded the role of First Lady from its historic duties, and she never fit the old fashioned view of a woman's place in the world. Amazingly, she was actually on the vanguard merely by having a career of her own. She was accused of being abrasive in a way that wasn't feminine, and perhaps she was, as her personal defects later led to huge embarassment, as in the Health Care debacle.

Later, when her loyalty to her own personal ambition and to the alliance of her marriage caused her to defend Bill's abhorent behavior, she become a brief pariah of the feminist movement, Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man writ large. What is expected of a woman during adultery is so schizo, especially a public figure, as to also be enormously unfair. Yet there is a flip side to all of this:

What would be expected of Hillary Clinton if she were a man? Would she still be in the race? Would her mischaracterizations, half-truths and damn dirty lies be tolerated even half as much as they are?

The truth of it is, as much as I have felt bad for Hillary Clinton in the past 15 years, she is not a good person. She has repeatedly dissembled, switched, or voted against her conscience (to the extent she has one), in the interest of her further success. Many Democrats cowardly supported the Iraq invasion, but few fought for it as strongly as Clinton, even going so far as to debate anti-war groups outside her Senate office. The Clintons have long had a hang up with using belligerence to distract from scandals or their own shortcomings, as far back as Bill bombing a Sudanese medicine factory in an attempt to get Lewinsky out of the news cycle.

Yet with 4000 dead, tens of thousands of Americans scarred and wounded and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, with more of this shit every day, not to mention one madman replaced by thousands, well, such a strident advocacy for this clusterfuck should be enough to disqualify someone from the Presidency. Not to mention her steadfast refusal to acknowledge the mistake for more than a year. I bet if you pressed her now she still wouldn't really.

This really strikes at the heart of the argument against Hillary. This idea she has the experience and judgement to be President unique among the two candidates.

Hillary Clinton has been a Senator for 8 years, and a practicing one for six. For that entire period she has been triangulating and compromising with her future Presidential run in mind. What contributions can she point to? Co-sponsoring of any major legislation? Again, her greatest accomplishment was her full-throated support for the Iraq invasion.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has been a legislator for 11 years, with serious accomplishments on both the state and nationa level. He's taken a major lead on issues like Nuclear proliferation and Lobbying reform, and made alliances across the aisle with Senators like Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel. If you examine their governing records it's clear who has established a better case for the Presidency.

So in the face of all of this, what does Clinton do? She has her surrogates repeatedly play the gender card, suggesting that every slight, loss, or suggestion she leave the race is a criticism of her gender. She has aides like Lanny Davis go so far as to suggest her opponents are telling her to "get back in the kitchen".

She wants to be judged as an equal except when it suits her. She wants us to admire her for a toughness that is supposed to assuage our desire for a strong masculine prescence, except when we're supposed to be touched by her feminine moments of vulnerability. She plays into the different set of standards for a woman, where we all know that if I man had broken down and cried for what seemed to be the selfish reasons of possibly losing a primary, they'd catch hell for it (See: Ed Muskie).

Yet every day, Barack Obama gets closer to being the Democratic nominee, and hopefully the next President. But Hillary Clinton can still do enormous damage to him, and to the part. She can distract him from beginning to form a cohesive message against John McCain, and she can bare the social, racial and economic rifts in the Democratic party. I would rather lose the general election than win with her racist coalition, if it comes to that.

It won't though. The truth is, we are seeing the end of a strange and sad era in American politics. What's best for this nation and what's best for the Clintons are finally in opposition, and it is time for them to leave the stage. For most, this is a cause for rejoiciing. If Barack Obama is sworn in as President in January 2009, it will be one of the proudest days in the history of this nation. There are some who will not rejoice, and who will even stand in the way. The walls are closing in on them. Cry baby, cry.

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