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The International Writers Magazine: US Politics

Hillary shines in Gail's Universe
James Morford

Three 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 fun starts."

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 lies.

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. Bottoms up!

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.

© James Morford August 26th 2008

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