International Writers Magazine: US Politics
shines in Gail's Universe
days before the Ohio and Texas primaries, Gail Sheehy shook hands
with Hillary Clinton. It was, ". . . a full five-knuckle handshake-one
of the strongest I've ever felt." Moments later Sheehy knew
Hillary "would never throw in the towel until the last possible
moment." She was tough, manly tough, and Gail Sheehy wants
everyone to know it.
Gail Sheehy (Hillaryland
At War, Vanity Fair, August 2008) would have us believe Hillary
Clinton lives in a parallel universe; one side occupied by a "natural
warrior woman never more energized than when facing a towering foe,"
the other side by a charming "humanistic" woman forced to
wage a war to help mankind. Hillary, Sheehy reports, is not at all abashed
about this. When first given a chance to attack Obama's character, the
senator is quoted as saying, with no apparent ironicism: "Now the
Hillary Clinton equates her warrior side with the male persona, and
doesn't mind being described as "the only candidate with the testicular
fortitude to be president." To Hillary, such ballsy fortitude sanctions
total war, where nothing is forbidden, nothing is distasteful. Even
campaign speeches alluding to her feminine side, including lies of a
frightened Hillary ducking Bosnian sniper fire, and the tale of an unborn
baby dying in a taxicab after the mother was twice turned away from
hospitals for lack of up-front money, she regarded as ineffective sob
stories. As an aide explained: "A woman running for president can't
be a person with . . . you . . . with emotions." Never mind the
When her true femininity did shine through, her eyes filling with tears
after defeat in the Iowa Primary, Hillary worried she hadn't acted strong
enough to be elected commander in chief. So she quickly reverted to
her second universe, the forceful and the tough male. Sounding like
George W. Bush, she hawkishly explained the United States could easily
nuke Iran. She also thought we should extend the nuclear umbrella to
include Saudi Arabia. Her vote for the Iraq War? Nothing to do with
lack of toughness, just another Bush mistake camaflouged by deceit.
When campaign focus switched to domestic policy, Hillary became even
more male, slugging down tumblers of whiskey in working class bars.
No Ivy League theorizing from her bar stool. The senator from New York
was but another fella alarmed over lack of job opportunities and inflation.
In the end, however, after 17 months of running for President as a man,
in a delayed concession speech, Mrs. Clinton reverted to the real Hillary.
Although oportunistic and agressive, deep down she exemplifies humanity.
Her unsavory acts have to do with daring to "compete at this level."
Actually she an exceptionally compassionate, willing to share her energy
and commitment for the common good.
Hillary's nasty but necessary male qualities, according to author Sheehy,
stem from l6 years of batterings by Republican innuendos. Being called
everything from a murderess to a lesbian, have jolted her psyche into
an eventual "lockdown" of emotions, and fuelled her agressions.
This is not bad. Politics is a horrible business and to succeed one
must do horrible things. Hillary accepted with little question the advice
of campaign manager Mark Penn, as well as husband Bill, that she campaign
as more man than woman. Her mistakes were not in the advice, rather
in not always following that advice.
And so, with a tribute to Hillary Clinton's female goodness, the profile
concludes with a misunderstood Hillary fighting for what is right. Politicians
running for high office all do the same things. Some simply do them
better than others. The ends justify the means.
Upon finishing this puff-piece profile, the reader is immediately struck
by Sheehy ignoring the irony that she herself has set up. Hillary's
female supporters, thrilled a woman might be elected president, saw
their candidate throughout the campaign act like a man. But let us give
Sheehy a break. Perhaps her sophisticated sensibilities came into play.
Why explain the obvious? And couldn't it well be they didn't even notice?
Let us move on and ask how l6 years of "Republican batterrings"
are able to so change a psyche it transforms itself at will? Can a person
try and be someone else and lie and lie without arousing suspicions
of sociopathy? What happened to that basis of personality theory, the
formative years? Sheehy doesn't go there. She does make reference to
Hillary's father planting an "internal whip" inside his daughter,
but never follows up on the idea. Let us, however, give Sheehy another
benefit of the doubt. She previously wrote a biography of Hillary, and
either didn't want to repeat herself, or devote limited magazine space
to her subject's psychology. The profile's framework, the metaphorical
parallel universes of String Theory, replaces the psycho-babble.
Ignoring those objections, there are still terrible problems with Sheehy's
piece. Indirectly she has stated that American politics is, in a word,
hopeless. Nothing of consequence matters. The future can't help but
be as sad as the past. There is mention of Bobby Kennedy's campaign
in 1968, but only within the context of a recollection personally experienced,
a nostalgia that stops at being nothing more than nostalgia. Certainly
the past is buried, even an almost obligatory comparison between Hillary
and Richard Nixon, unmentioned. Thirty or so years ago critics used
Nixon's personality changes to either prove a new maturity, or reveal
aspects of the same old trickiness. Either way he was judged by a code
of conduct. In fact, Nixon was not close to being sociopathic, the white
house tapes filled with lines such as "It would be wrong, but let's
do it." Sheehy has no such words escape Clinton's lips. No need
for them apparently because there is no code of conduct in her universe.
Hillary is described as a tactician "staggeringly smart" and
vitally aware nobody dares compete for the presidency without doing
what she had to do. To win a candidate must be what they are not, say
what they don't mean, and lie and lie. If ideas or true character are
interjected in a campaign, they are only tactics to fool people. Voters
can't see through a pose, even, as in Hillary's case, a pose of gender
change. Nixon's oft repeated philosophy that one enters the political
arena just to be there, is not contested. It is a given.
The result is, unsurprisingly, an unconscious nihilism. The reader knows
it is only a question of time before Hillary returns to the campaign
wars. And as there was always a new Richard Nixon, there will surely
be a new Hillary Clinton. At this date what will shape her personality
is unkown. She may return to what she famously vowed she would never
be: the baker of cookies. After conquering the urge of domesticity,
this lady Don Quixote has now learned the politicaly practical and necessary,
but not lost the female mystique.
Such future tactics, advocated by campaign aides, encouraged by Bill
Clinton, sanctioned by Hillary herself, and in retrospect framed by
another Gail Sheehy, means a third universe will arise. And there, inside
an androgenous world, a battered and cruely treated Hillary will again
retaliate against her foes. The angle is all.
Morford August 26th 2008
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