Monday, February 4, 2008
"Look, the only people for Hillary Clinton are the Democratic
establishment and white women," said Bill Kristol yesterday on
Fox News Sunday, one of the many "news" outlets to expose
Kristol's reliable sexism. "The Democratic establishment would
be crazy to follow an establishment that led it to defeat year
after year," Kristol continued in his woolly, repetitive style.
"White women are a problem, you know. We all live with that."
Bill Kristol has been much criticized for his war mongering,
arrogance, poor writing and lack of fact checking. But at least
the guy is honest. He considers women a problem -- especially
white women. And he feels confident enough as an alpha male to
be open about it. "I shouldn't have said that," he demurred. But
he can say anything he likes and still fall eternally upward.
He's a white man, lord of all he surveys -- including Hillary
I, too, have been watching Hillary Clinton with admiration,
love, hate, annoyance and empathy since she appeared on the
national scene 16 years ago. (Can it be only 16 years?)
I've had a hard time making up my mind about her. Perhaps that's
because I identify with her so strongly.
I'm hardly the only woman who sees my life mirrored in hers.
She's always worked twice as hard to get half as far as the men
around her. She endured a demanding Republican father she could
seldom please and a brilliant, straying husband who played
around with bimbos. She was clearly his intellectual soul mate,
but the women he chased were dumb and dumber.
Nothing she did was ever enough to stop her detractors.
Supporting a politician husband by being a successful lawyer,
raising a terrific daughter, saving her marriage when the love
of her life publicly humiliated her -- these are things that
would be considered enormously admirable in most politicians and
public figures. But because she's a white woman, she's been
pilloried for them.
She's had to endure nutcrackers made in her image, insults
about the shape of her ankles and nasty cracks from mediocrities
in the media like Rush Limbaugh, Chris Matthews and Kristol.
When she decided to run for the Senate she was called a
carpetbagger. When she won the hearts of her most conservative
constituents by supporting their actual needs, the same
poisonous pundits who said it couldn't be done attacked her.
Nor are poisonous women pundits any more kind. Maureen Dowd
regularly gives her a drubbing. And "progressives" from Susan
Brownmiller to Oprah Winfrey sport Obama buttons.
I, too, was a bluestocking from a woman's college, straight-A
student, Phi Beta Kappa, who found my voice as a writer while
exiled to the boonies with a husband who cheated. With every
book I published, I saw more clearly how uneven was the playing
field for women. We were let into the literary world on
sufferance. Unless we wrote unreadable academic tracts that
nobody bought, or mysteries or romances or something called
"chick lit" (whatever that is), or biographies of Great Men, we
were booed off the stage.
I chanced to get famous for my work. Hillary got famous in
the unspeakable role of "First Lady," which Jackie Kennedy
Onassis thought sounded like the name of racehorse. If she
seemed uncomfortable in her skin, if she kept changing her hair,
her image, her style, her way of speaking, how could we blame
her? She was trying to be self-protective. Who wouldn't be if
constantly attacked by a beastly press?
Little by little, she loosened up. She learned how to dress
and speak and smile and relax on the podium. I've watched this
whole process with immense admiration.
Fame in America is unforgiving. And she had to grow
comfortable in the spotlight -- something very few people can do
without having a nervous breakdown or drinking or popping pills.
Hillary made it without self-destructing. She was a tower of
strength to her husband, who seems to have little impulse
control, and her daughter whom she obviously loves and whom she
never exploited even in the worst of times.
She cannot have enjoyed her husband's playing around. She
certainly never condoned it. But he was clever enough for her,
he supported her dreams, and they both loved their smart and
Besides, what does anyone know about anyone else's
marriage? As a novelist I understand that I can't even invent
the complexities most people live with, the compromises
made, the deals negotiated and renegotiated. If it works, let's
say hallelujah, rather than pick and quibble. It took me three
marriages to find my soul mate. Maybe Hillary was luckier.
In the 1990s, when they became "Billary" as president, she
gave her all. When the White House beckoned, she was true blue.
When he took the hardest job in the world, she helped. And when
he rewarded her by letting some tootsie do whatever it was they
did in the Oval Office, she got really mad.
But she was wise enough to know what it did and did not mean.
She did what smart European and Asian women have done through
the ages: She kept her marriage but changed her focus to her own
As a senator she has learned compromise and negotiation. She
has gotten to know red America as well as blue. If she could win
over the rednecks in upstate New York, she can win over any
American. She knows this country is full of "security" moms as
well as soccer moms. Since she is a woman, she has to show she's
ready to be commander in chief. Hence her "triangulation" on
Iraq and her signing the absurd Lieberman-Kyl resolution, which
calls on our government to use "military instruments" to
"combat, contain and [stop]" Iran's meddling in Iraq.
By the time it came up she must have known the Cheney-Bush
war profiteers would never embrace even partial peace. She had
to win over her America and theirs .
Who ever got elected in the United States without moving to
the center? Not Ralph Nader the narcissist, nor Ross Perot the
spoiler, nor certainly Adlai Stevenson the "egghead," nor Ronnie
Reagan the red-baiter from Hollywoodland. Dubya presented
himself as a "compassionate conservative" and our dopey press
bought it. They inflicted him on us because they thought Al Gore
was a nerd. The right-wing media barons happily smeared the
better man for no good reason. Noam Chomsky predicted all this
25 years ago, when he said that the concentration of the media
would rob us of real news.
It certainly has. We can read all we want about Britney,
Paris, Heath, Tom Cruise, the Spice Girls and all their buds --
dead or alive -- but we can't read about how many children have
been maimed in Iraq, or their dead and legless or armless
mothers and fathers who were shocked and awed. But we know it's
happening. And we feel the great weight of our complicity.
You will point to Hillary's complicity. You will quote
crazy-like-a-fox Ann Coulter, who claims to be voting for her.
You will also quote left-wing bloggers who love Barack Obama,
and MoveOn.org peaceniks (I am one) who see no evil in him (nor
do I). But I see little experience either. Obama is smart and
attractive. Maybe he'll be president someday.
He was lucky enough not to be in the Senate when the Iraq war
resolution was floated after then-Secretary of State Colin
Powell lied about WMDs. That was the true tragedy of race: a
black man lying for a corrupt white administration that was
using him as a token, much as they use Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice now.
Obama is also a token -- of our incomplete progress toward an
interracial society. I have nothing against him except his
inexperience. Many black voters agree. They understand tokenism
I understand my hopeful friends who think an Obama button
will change America. But I'm sticking with Hillary. I trust her
because all her life, her pro bono work has been for mothers and
children. And mothers and children -- of all colors -- are the
most oppressed group in our country. I trust her to speak for
our children and grandchildren -- and for us. She always has.
Erica Jong's 20th book is "Seducing The Demon." She writes
poems, novels and non-fiction and blogs for the Huffington Post.