The Clinton Effect

I feel like I should say something about this.

You’ve all seen the video of Hillary Clinton telling a student in Kinshasa, Congo that she doesn’t know what former President Bill Clinton’s view is on a Chinese loan offer to the government of Congo.  (See the video on Mark Riley’s site.)

People are criticizing Secretary of State Clinton for snapping, not being poised, even for having a “meltdown.”[1] People are also defending Secretary Clinton by claiming that she was jet-lagged, tired from traveling, etc.

Neither of these responses is very helpful.

First of all, so what if her tone was a little rude by uber-sensitive American standards? Claiming that she was tired might be understandable, but it trivializes the real issue.

Second of all, ignore the fact that the question was translated incorrectly and the student was actually asking about President Obama and that it was sorted out later, because Secretary Clinton didn’t know that at the time. She didn’t say this exactly, but she’s right: Former President Clinton’s view on this issue is completely irrelevant. She is the Secretary of State. She represents our nation on these matters. To ask her for the opinion of the President (or a former President) is to not recognize her as a diplomat.

Hillary Clinton has been in politics for decades, it’s no wonder at this point that she interpreted that question as sexist. Of course she was offended by it. I think the pseudo-question was kind of inappropriate[2] and quite possibly sexist, but it’s the media response that is really the most disturbing part of all of this.  Isn’t it always?

People are so unsympathetic to Clinton it’s almost comical at this point how deeply in denial this country is of its sexism. I get that some people just don’t like Clinton’s politics, maybe her personality rubs people the wrong way, but what seems obvious to me is that we just notice different things about women than we do men and still pretend we don’t. Clinton’s wardrobe scrutiny is one obvious example, but I also cannot recall hearing anyone accusing a male politician of sounding like a bitch, or that his tone sounded too harsh, or his response too sharp, or for having a “meltdown.” There are behavioral double standards that we refuse to acknowledge.

And yes, people recently criticized President Obama for using the word “stupidly,” but that scrutiny was different. It was his word choice that was at stake, not his delivery. Never mind the fact that his word choice wasn’t exactly incorrect, that entire situation was the exact opposite of calm and rational.

Will anyone come to Hillary Clinton’s defense? Will anyone acknowledge that it is patronizing to ask her a question about her husband’s opinion while she is on duty as Secretary of State? If someone wants the opinion of the former President, they can ask him.

No, of course not. This incident isn’t going to open a dialogue about sexism. She’ll just be accused of not being up for the job, of over-reacting… in short, of being a woman.


[1] Which is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s the term they used on “Inside Edition.”
[2] The actual question being asked about our acting President was not exactly inappropriate, though if the White House had an official position on the issue, Secretary of State Clinton is the one to ask.

14 thoughts on “The Clinton Effect

  1. The whole reason that Hil had a “meltdown” and pitched a big Princess Bitch Fit is that she is acutely aware that everybody is acutely aware that she is where she is because she is Bill’s wife. Why is she still letting him hang around? I haven’t heard the wardrobe stuff. Is it because she has a big ass?

    • It probably didn’t help that this happened right around the time that Bill was “rescuing” journalists from North Korea. (Isn’t that Jimmy Carter’s job?)

      As for the wardrobe scrutiny, during the Democratic nomination campaign race, it seemed like no event or debate would go by without some comment on Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe choice. Remember Cleavage Gate ’08? Yet, not once did a political commentator suggest that Dennis Kucinich should wear pinstripes to make him appear taller, and he needed all the help he could get. All of her pantsuits look the same anyway, I don’t see what the big deal is.

  2. No, because I always watch Wheel of Fortune beforehand. Although the intellectual level is probably the same. Wait, I forgot Memphis’s Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy schedule is all messed up and you have to be unemployed to be able to watch Jeopardy when it’s broadcast.

    • Which probably makes me the extent of the Memphis area Jeopardy watching demographic. Though I confess, I also go out of my way to watch Wheel of Fortune. It makes me feel smart despite its lack of legitimate intellectual content.

  3. Thank you for this blog – the whole thing made me upset, too. It was especially disturbing to hear females in the media blame it on jetlag, etc. without even mentioning the possibility of sexism. I even heard one respected journalist (I think it was Andrea Mitchell) on the Today Show blame it on Clinton’s “bad hair day.”

    Relatedly, I also hate it when the media and others are so quick to denigrate Islamic societies for sexism without even glimpsing into their own society. Today on Here on Earth (NPR) they were discussing Muslim immigration into Europe, and the author of some book said they were having a hard time “assimilating” in part because of their views toward women, which he said are in great contrast to views in Western societies where women are equal to men (okay, he added “under the law,” but still – he didn’t even begin to consider the ways in which that is not true). Luckily Jean Feraca gave him what-for, so that made me feel slightly better.

    • Ugh, amen sister! I love it that 1) There is apparently only one Western view on the treatment of women and 2) Said view is one of equality. To make that even better, men and women aren’t equal under the law. The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was never ratified because not enough states approved it in a timely manner. Not that it would change anything were it ratified, but still.

      These are the same idiots who say that racism isn’t a problem in our country anymore. Who are these people? Because they need to come here, follow me around for a day, and then decide whether or not our society promotes equality. I can walk around the block and get a healthy does of racism, sexism and classism… and I supposedly live in the “hip and liberal” part of town.

  4. So, why did Obama send Bill to get the two journalists as opposed to Hil? Could she not command the respect from Kim Jong Il? Haven’t seen em, but I bet Hil’s balls are bigger than Bill’s.
    I bet Bill jumped at the chance to go get them because he figured that they would allow him to induct them into the Mile High Club out of gratitude.

    • Technically I don’t think it was Obama who sent Bill to North Korea. It was supposed to be humanitarian intervention and not official state business. Not that there’s much of a difference, of course.

      I think you’re right though; I don’t think Kim Jong Il would have met with Hillary. A former President garners more respect than a Secretary of State (particularly when it’s a female SoS, even if she does have bigger balls).

  5. Pingback: Why I’m not Chivalrous « The Poverty of Philosophy

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