Hillary’s Sexism Opportunity

National Journal
Major Garrett
See more stories about...
Major Garrett
June 10, 2014, 2:53 p.m.

For­get the book tour, Hil­lary.

Do something in­ter­est­ing.

Start by end­ing the con­strict­ing and un­pal­at­able ob­ses­sion that the pres­id­en­tial glass ceil­ing is yours and yours alone to break. It isn’t. The longer you pre­tend oth­er­wise, the longer your road to the White House will be­come. The glass ceil­ing halts the pro­gress of all wo­men — not just yours.

Your prox­im­ity to it, his­tor­ic­ally, mat­ters a great deal. Be­ing the closest wo­men to the ceil­ing who hasn’t broken through simply isn’t enough to jus­ti­fy or even ex­plain a second run for the White House. As you learned in 2008, be­ing “in it to win it” leaves gaps a plucky rival can ex­ploit.

This isn’t about cam­paign ad­vice. For thou­sands of genu­inely im­port­ant reas­ons, I don’t give cam­paign ad­vice. I’m not ad­voc­at­ing on be­half of mak­ing the cam­paign more in­ter­est­ing, either. It just seems to me, hav­ing covered Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign in 2008, the book tour she has just launched — and the book it­self — has the same re­pet­it­ive dull­ness and pen­chant for pablum that ham­strung her first bid for the White House.

In­stead of get­ting trapped in the eco­nom­ic glue of pre­tend­ing to hav­ing been “dead broke” after leav­ing the White House, why not, Hil­lary, go to every city on your tour and identi­fy the wo­man there who ought to con­sider run­ning for pres­id­ent? What could be the harm?

More im­port­ant, what could be the gain?

First, it would take you off your self-built ped­es­tal of in­ev­it­ab­il­ity. Noth­ing is in­ev­it­able. See ‘08.

Second, it would sug­gest you know you’re not all that and a bag of chips — no one is, by the way. Hu­mil­ity was a char­ac­ter­ist­ic Hil­lary only showed when she was way be­hind in ‘08. And crowds ate it up. The feisty, down-on-her-luck, and bat­tling Hil­lary had something ut­terly ab­sent from her cam­paign ap­pear­ances in Iowa, New Hamp­shire, Nevada, and South Car­o­lina — all the way through Su­per Tues­day. That Hil­lary’s hu­mil­ity came too late is ax­io­mat­ic. The point is, Hil­lary be­came reach­able, touch­able, and even lov­able (some­what) when she stopped buy­ing her own nox­ious in­ev­it­ab­il­ity myth.

Third, it would give Hil­lary something she’s rarely de­veloped in her pub­lic life — a repu­ta­tion for be­ing clev­er. There’s noth­ing more dis­arm­ing in polit­ics or life than a power­ful per­son shed­ding that power in fa­vor of the flat­tery of oth­ers. The best weapon a seem­ingly in­ev­it­able politi­cian can em­ploy is to shed the aura of in­ev­it­ab­il­ity. There is no oth­er politi­cian in Amer­ica for whom this is truer than Hil­lary. If Hil­lary says lots of wo­men — right now — are ready to be pres­id­ent she doesn’t make her­self weak­er by com­par­is­on, she makes her­self stronger by speak­ing on be­half of qual­i­fic­a­tions.

Fourth, it would give Hil­lary a chance to be bi­par­tis­an in a gal­van­iz­ing way — not in the in­sip­id way her book pre­tends. In­stead of try­ing to peddle a bunch of sloppy and in­co­her­ent dreams for “in­clus­ive polit­ics and a com­mon pur­pose to un­leash the cre­ativ­ity, po­ten­tial, and op­por­tun­ity that makes Amer­ica ex­cep­tion­al,” name some Re­pub­lic­an wo­men qual­i­fied to be pres­id­ent. Hil­lary need not agree with the po­s­i­tions of Govs. Susana Mar­tinez of New Mex­ico or Nikki Haley of South Car­o­lina or Mary Fal­l­in of Ok­lahoma, or of Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire or Susan Collins of Maine. She could say they all are daft on the ideas she holds dear and would love to de­bate them to prove how wrong they are, but un­der­score that each has the ba­sic qual­i­fic­a­tions for the pres­id­ency. Flat­tery in polit­ics need not ring pos­it­ively true. Fre­quently it doesn’t, but even in its fals­ity it can re­shape im­pres­sions and scramble polit­ic­al ac­tions. No one right now has more ca­pa­city to do this than Hil­lary.

Ima­gine, for just one second, if Hil­lary had said at Tues­day’s book sign­ing in New York something highly com­pli­ment­ary of Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand of New York? So com­pli­ment­ary that it egged on a ques­tion about wheth­er Gil­librand was qual­i­fied for the White House. Can you ima­gine the thun­der­claps if Hil­lary had cas­u­ally said, “Yes. And she’s not the only one.” Who else? “Come to my next book sign­ing.”

Fol­low along my ad­mit­tedly sub­vers­ive train of thought as we trundle north to Bo­ston. How about Hil­lary say­ing Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren ab­so­lutely, pos­it­ively has the qual­i­fic­a­tions to be pres­id­ent and would make a great can­did­ate? Sud­denly, the ques­tion isn’t wheth­er Hil­lary is threatened by the pro­spect of an in­sur­gent, draft-War­ren move­ment; it’s now about how Hil­lary is the ad­voc­ate for a Demo­crat­ic Party brim­ming with qual­i­fied wo­men can­did­ates for pres­id­ent. With one ut­ter­ance, Hil­lary would take the wind out of the idea of a War­ren in­sur­gency, one of its most al­lur­ing qual­it­ies at the mo­ment, and win her­self a laurel for equan­im­ity and fem­in­ist truth-telling. It might even score grudging points from fence-sit­ting pro­gress­ives. This is what is known as a clev­er stunt. Hil­lary has hardly ever pulled one off. It would be a start­ling bit of fresh air.

Then there could be Sen. Amy Klobuchar in Min­neapol­is. And Sens. Claire Mc­Caskill in St. Louis, Debbie Stabenow in De­troit, and Di­anne Fein­stein and Bar­bara Box­er in Cali­for­nia. The list goes on. Or at least it could.

There is a trick to polit­ics that the best prac­ti­tion­ers use in­stinct­ively — cre­ate the im­pres­sion you’re humble and reach­able when you are not. Hil­lary is ap­par­ently in­cap­able of this in­sight and demon­strably in­cap­able of de­ploy­ing this tac­tic. Rather, she ex­ults in the sep­ar­ate­ness of polit­ics — the joys of pipe, drape, rope, and dis­tance. Her team is im­pec­cably cap­able at trans­lat­ing the crude lan­guage of mus­cu­lar­ity to crowds, the press, and even those who seek to rally to her side. This comes from a sense of al­ways bat­tling in polit­ics, first on be­half of Bill and then on be­half of her­self as the wo­man who … just “¦ might “¦ make “¦ it. That had to be a heavy bur­den, and it showed all through ‘08. Un­til then, Hil­lary was way be­hind and had no plaus­ible reas­on to con­tin­ue. The sheer im­prob­ab­il­ity, bor­der­ing on math­em­at­ic­al ri­dicu­lous­ness, of her post-Su­per Tues­day cam­paign earned for Hil­lary something she’d nev­er had be­fore—sym­pathy.

Hil­lary can­not draw on that now. And noth­ing in this blood­less book rol­lout has the slight­est chance of cre­at­ing any. What Hil­lary can do is rhet­or­ic­ally widen the pres­id­en­tial view­find­er, cast­ing an ap­prov­ing light on oth­er wo­men in polit­ics, re­gard­ing her­self as only one of many qual­i­fied, en­er­get­ic, and in­ter­ested wo­men who could lead the na­tion. Hil­lary would give the ap­pear­ance of shed­ding the pres­id­en­tial am­bi­tions her book tour now burn­ish to a near-blind­ing gloss. She would nev­er give up those am­bi­tions; she would merely shed the off-put­ting ap­pear­ance of them.

And then Hil­lary, for once, could de­light in be­ing judged on her ap­pear­ances.

The au­thor is Na­tion­al Journ­al cor­res­pond­ent-at-large and chief White House cor­res­pond­ent for CBS News. He is also a dis­tin­guished fel­low at the George Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity School of Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs.

What We're Following See More »
TAKATA RECALLS COULD TAKE YEARS TO COMPLETE
Airbag Recalls Target 12 Million Automobiles
5 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."

Source:
INVESTIGATION LEADS TO LEAKER’S RESIGNATION
Secret Service Disciplines 41 Agents Over Chaffetz Leak
36 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.

Source:
#NEVERTRUMP’S LONELY LEADER
Romney Talks Cost of His Futile Anti-Trump Fight
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”

Source:
CONGRESS DIVIDED ON DEBT CRISIS PLAN
Puerto Rico Relief Stalled on the Hill
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."

Source:
LAWMAKERS RECESS WITH NO PLAN IMMINENT
Congress Slow-walking Zika Legislation
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching. ... Instead of racing to fund efforts to thwart a potential health crisis, lawmakers are treating the Zika debate like regular legislation, approving Thursday the establishment of a House-Senate committee to hammer out differences in their competing bills."

Source:
×