Sisters, We Have a Problem!

Unsettling Discrepancies in Clinton’s Campaign Are Undermining her Core Constituency: Women

Wouldn’t it be nice – for once – to be able to support a female candidate without reservation for a top political job? Even though “nice” is not a political category. Take Hillary Clinton in the race for the nomination as the Democrat’s candidate for the US presidential election of 2008. It would be liberating and refreshing.

But sisters, we have a problem.

The writing was on the wall already in January. Or should we say, the sound was in the air, when Senator Clinton made a comment about her much-publicised tears prior to the primary in New Hampshire Jan. 8: “I found my voice.” It didn’t make sense: Whose voice was she using up till then? Bill’s? Her campaign managers’? Her pollsters’?

It makes even less sense now. What is her voice? The breaking one after the Iowa caucus when she pleaded not to question her authenticity: “It’s about our country. It’s about our kids’ future. It’s about all of us together.” Or the shrill one of her recent outcry, attacking her remaining opponent: “Shame on you, Barack Obama!”

In cold blood, one has to point at several aspects why we have a problem with Hillary Clinton as a candidate for the Democratic nomination.

From the start of the selection process Republicans went to great length to advertise Clinton as the sure winner of the Democratic nomination, to make her appear inevitable. The hidden agenda was clear: She would be the easiest nominee to be defeated by any Republican because her adversaries, they felt, would get out and vote just to prevent her return to the White House. No one else polarizes more; no other Democratic nominee would unite the Republican side as much as Clinton. She would be the Republicans’ dream opponent.

On all accounts, including her own biography (Living History) and Carl Bernstein’s critical A Woman in Charge, Senator Clinton has a hidden agenda of her own: The need either to salvage the legacy of a Clinton presidency from the inglorious shadows of Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky-affair or to prove to her husband that in the end she can be the better US-President. It is an unsettling thought that a Hillary Clinton Presidency would be influenced by a basically dysfunctional family set up. After eight Bush years of son vs. father drama, the US and the world urgently need a reprieve. Is the drive to get even with your spouse – or your father for that matter – a valid motive to seek the highest office in the US? The lessons of the last eight years: Surly not!

One could have dismissed comments like these, as inappropriate hyper-psychology of politics were it not for two incidents during the recent Clinton campaign. One was Bill Clinton’s unashamed admission that he “will talk Hillary through everything” once they were back in the White House. The other was a news item about her decision to take him out of the campaign in South Carolina till he took her to a separate room for some discussion after which she reversed that decision – much to the dismay of her entire team. He subsequently undermined her strategy by playing the race card against Obama.  What does that tell us about the mechanisms of a third Clinton administration?

One has to be extremely sceptical about her one compelling argument to keep Obama at bay: She has the experience he is lacking. For once, none were more experienced in US politics than Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld when they came to power again in 2000. And their “experience” all but ruined George W. Bush’s presidency.  Secondly, an unsettling discrepancy has surfaced in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. On the one hand she sold herself as steeled in political combat, as experienced from day one, as someone who already has seen all there is to see in US politics. On the other, she does not hesitate to play the girly card, selling herself as the discriminated woman every male opponent wishes to keep out of the White House. Which is it now?

It is this inconsistency more than anything else that causes such profound and unsettling ambiguity: It would be splendid to see a woman in the White House for the first time. But it should not be Hillary Clinton. She is no more entitled to win the election than anyone else just because she is a woman – even though she seemed to claim that entitlement. And has done so from the beginning. It simply does not suffice, especially not in the difficult years ahead.

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