Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Hillary Problem

A few weeks ago, before Super Tuesday, I was in quite a quandary. It's no secret that I am a huge Obama supporter, so much so that I have been volunteering for his campaign. However, when it seemed that Hillary might very well win the nomination, I was struggling with what I would do if she were the nominee. Don't ask me why I was worried about this months and months before the general election. I guess I was just on election overload.

A couple of years ago, if you had asked me if I would support Hillary in a presidential bid, I would have answered unequivocally yes. These days, though, I am not so sure. I am concerned about her electability. I believe she would have a very difficult time getting things done due to the animosity the entire Republican Party seems to have for her (and vice versa). Her condescension turns me off. I believe we need a fresh start and break from the past. And I really, really do not like the way the Clintons handled South Carolina.

In an effort to help quell my unease with Hillary, I started reading Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge. This biography is reputed to be one of the fairest and unbiased ones out there. After all, it is Carl Bernstein.

The book is an incredibly rich and detailed portrait of Hillary's life. It is extremely well-written and easy to read. I am only about 2/3 of the way through, but it is hard to put down and I expect I'll finish it in the next couple of days.

The problem is, the more I read,the less I like Hillary. For the first third of the book, she is very much a sympathetic character. That changes though, once she and Bill launch his political career. And it gets steadily worse the deeper in you get.

On the bright side, she comes across as very, very intelligent, genuinely interested in bettering the country, and a devout person of faith. On the downside, she is controlling, tunnel-visioned, rigid, paranoid, deaf to criticism or dissention, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect and further her career and her husband's, even if it takes something of moral or ethical ambiguity.

The one thing that really bugs me, though, has to do with how she has handled his affairs and what that says about her view of women. Even before she and Bill got married, she knew of his wandering eye. She thought long and hard about marrying him. She chose to marry him because she loved him. It seems she thought the pay-off would justify the risk. That’s her choice and if she is willing to put up with it, who am I to fault her?

What I dislike is the way she handled the affairs, even from the very beginning. Once Bill began running for office in Arkansas, his extramarital affairs became a real issue. Very early on, she chose a stance on the issue and has stuck to it throughout their entire political career. She chose to publically vilify the women involved, depicting them as women beneath her, women of questionable character who were just out to make a buck.

The issue came up during the very first campaign Bill launched. When Bill ran for Congress (and lost), he had an affair with at least one staffer. It was well-known by everyone in the office and other staffers served as accomplices by ushering the woman out the backdoor when Hillary pulled up. Of course Hillary found out about the affair and Bernstein writes this,

“Hillary made it know that she thought women from Bill's past, and by implication any other still in his orbit, were intellectually from another world than her Bill's, and thus represented no serious competition. This would be her condescending assertion through many an election season, the degree of venom and how publically she expressed it often dependent on the commensurate political danger to him and embarrassment to her."

From this point on, she had to deal with the issue of Bill's women, who were numerous. Bernstein writes, "The question of Bill's other women would become a prominent feature of the Clinton electoral landscape and, when raised by opponents or when the women themselves surfaced, Hillary would set the strategy of response: to attach the women as gold diggers and lying opportunists trying to capitalize on her husband's prominence."

Hillary's stance is all the more important because she truely ran his campaigns. So when she set a position, that is what the campaign took.

What bothers me is that Hillary is supposedly a voice for women and yet, she would publically disgrace the other women and not her husband, when she knew he was as guilty as they were. Yes, the women were wrong in having an affair with a married, but she married him knowing who he was and knowing it would not stop. Doesn't that say something about her too?

I would expect her to be angry at the women, but it seems hypocritical to me for her to bash them and not her husband, in fact bashing them to help her husband get ahead. In her campainging, Hillary directly appeals to women, but it seems she is ready to throw us under the bus when it would benefit her.

In addition, she apparently feels she is somehow above the rest of us too. Does she really respect and want to help women, or does she just use us to get what she wants? The whole thing just bugs me.

What do you guys think?