Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to bump into President Obama later this week — that much is fairly mundane. But when asked in an interview with Radio Europe 1 whether he’d prefer to meet with Hillary Clinton, formerly the secretary of State, things got weird.
“It’s better not to argue with women,” Putin told an interpreter, playing on a stereotype of women as irrational, weepy creatures who presumably can’t be trusted to handle complex things like diplomacy. “But Ms. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements. Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement.”
Next, he beat his bare chest. OK, he didn’t do that. But he did suggest it’s unfeminine for women to be powerful, just generally. “When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak,” he said. “But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”
No word yet on what German Chancellor Angela Merkel thinks of this.
Putin, who has been photographed shooting a gray whale with a crossbow, hunting shirtless, and tranquilizing a tiger, has developed something of a cult of masculinity around him. His particular trope of patriarchal alpha masculinity has played well not only in Russia, where gender roles have been notably slow to progress, but abroad.
Just a guess, but a Hillary Clinton presidency might teach him a few things about diplomacy. And not just between nations, but between sexes, since women, particularly strong ones, are apparently so foreign to him.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.