Monday, June 9, 2008

The Review You've All Been Waiting For: Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge

There are some judgements we pass too quickly - some stereotypes we too readily accept - and the view "guilty be association" tends to harshly label some because of other's imprudence's. We have to be careful where we're getting our information, what conclusions we are drawing and why. If we are to make informed decisions - well, logically wouldn't it stand to reason we should be informed?

The 2008 Race for the Presidency, or in this case the nomination to race for the Presidency, has created in America something of a political conundrum. One is hated because of his race, the other because of her gender and husband, another because of his, dare I say, "crotchety" attitude and "too close to Bush" personae, yet another because of his religion, and that is just a very generic, all be it plausible, explanation of America's choices for the next President of the United States. Most friends I consult about the political choices respond "I'm not voting - I hate them all" or "picking the lesser of 3 evils" and even "Sigh...I'm moving to Canada." Well my friends, I understand. I do. I've been both intrigued and frustrated with the constant political commentary that has been on every local and national newscast, on the cover of every major news magazine and newspaper, the crux of late night TV jokes, and the topic of debate on every day show since November. Watching this race unfold has been both exciting and discouraging, at times full of hope and other times, riddled with fear. Fear for the Future. Hope for Change. Political Divides and societal unrest. Need I really mention "a sign of the times?" Perhaps a topic for another day.

All of that said, I undertook the task of researching my political candidates. I wanted to be informed. I wanted to make an informed decision. Rather than relying solely on CNN or FOX...okay just CNN (really folks, FOX?) show me who these candidates are, what they believe, and where they will take this good country, I dug a little deeper. I checked out websites, I read newspapers, and yes, I did still watch Anderson Cooper 360 (who wouldn't? He's However, I didn't feel I was getting the whole picture - the real picture. And living in Utah meant it has hardly likely I would see my political party supported by the candidates I was most considering. Through all my following of the political race, and although I had decided to support one Barack Obama initially, I began to be more and more intrigued (even surprised and occasionally impressed) by one candidate - one candidate that if you told me last year I would consider being the best choice for President - I would've mocked you relentlessly and denied it until I was blue in the face. That candidate is Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I became interested in Mrs. Clinton after watching her, along with all the other candidates, campaigning in various states, hoping for the Democratic Nomination to go up against McCain in November. I was further intrigued when I watched a sound byte of her at a conference in some state nearly succumbing to tears as she spoke of the future of this nation and her desire to push it forward. What? Hillary Clinton has emotion? Posh! It's a ploy! A scam! I found I wasn't as interested in Hillary Clinton the presidential nominee, but Hillary Clinton the woman. What is this woman like? What is driving her? Is she really the heartless demon spawn I always believed her to be - pushing her political agenda forward and grappling for power? What IS her story? I wanted to know. And I pondered it for quite sometime. Instead of watching her on CNN with disdain, I began to have actual interest in what she was saying, what she wanted to do, and why in the world she was running for President. As most women have thought about Mrs. Clinton at one time or another - how can she still be with that man (Bill Clinton - to the slow person)? This question was one of my most pressing. She, clearly being an assertive, independent, down right frightening woman of political means and success, stays married to someone who not only took advantage of the trust of a nation, but of a wife and a daughter. Was it just for political gain? Because that doesn't make much sense considering he wasn't the most "popular" President of his time. Or, maybe, does she really love him? Really? Could she have the same insecurities and vulnerabilities all women fall victim too when with a philandering spouse? "He hits me - but I know he loves me...He cheats on me, but I know he loves me." Come on Hil!

Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge" was my choice for ascertaining who Hillary Rodham Clinton was, who she is, and her future potential as President and as an influential figure for all women. It's one of the most well-written, insightful, shockingly objective, factual yet personal and intriguing books I've ever read. Academic, thorough, and even suspenseful at times, it was a heavy read, but a good read, and one that changed my opinion and perspective of Mrs. Clinton. In fact, it clenched my desire for her nomination (which point is moot now - but that's not the issue here - the issue is change), and my desire for her to be involved in the leadership of this country. As I read I found myself sympathizing with Hillary Rodham. There were times when I cheered her on, times where I admired her determination and focus, and other times where I was disappointed in her pride and quickness to anger. The most surprising emotion impressed upon me was empathy. I started to identify with Hillary. I "felt" where she was coming from. Through her college years at Wellesley and later Yale, to her career as a lawyer, her unwavering commitment to her marriage and her daughter, her foundation of faith (she's a devote Methodist), her consistency in prayer and devotion, her intellectual hunger, her political journey, even her love for her husband, was both staggering and refreshing. Mostly it was real - it was something any woman could find a common cause in - a common journey we all travel. Career vs Family. Feminism vs Tradition. Hillary Clinton is a woman split. What most people don't know about her is she's very traditional and moderate. Because she's a woman, and clearly a Democrat, she's painted in the media and elsewhere as extremely liberal, to the point of "crazy man eater wack job" when in all reality - she's much more moderate than "they" say - Barack Obama (okay really - WHO resigns from a church? I don't care if your minister is nuts - who resigns from their church?!?!?)?

I mentioned that I found myself identifying with Hillary as I read about her life and this was the most astonishing (not to mention unexpected) realization of the entire 564 page experience. She's an advocate for women, children, and families - first and always. When I was considering law for my future educational pursuits - I wanted to be a public defendant specializing in the rights of women and children - those even in our "modern" society who don't have the rights and privileges of the law that they should. Hillary's work and study at Yale and beyond was focused on this. She worked with and is part of the Children's Defense Fund, she's always lobbying for women's and children's causes - and she believes that those whose voices are silenced by tradition, fear, abuse, social disparity, etc need someone to speak out for them. This is what I found most impressive about her personae. I also admire her commitment to marriage as an institution (yes, even to Bill Clinton) and to her daughter. I know many woman can identify with the struggle of women to find their path - picking motherhood and education and career and wife-hood - and trying to balance it all with a pretty smile, flawless skin, and a tight butt is daunting, neigh impossible to do perfectly. And Hillary had to do it perfectly in the public eye.

The other surprising aspect of this biography was it's "love story-esque" plot that threaded throughout the majority of Hillary Clinton's life. She and Bill met in their law school days at Yale - and Bill was always a philanderer. It's mentioned in the biography many times that he had an affinity for blond, big haired, big busted, women and could "not control" his sexual appetites. Well - be that as it may (and clearly no excuse what so ever) - Hillary stayed by him. She helped him, she supported him, she had her own political desires and societal agenda - but the magic (yes magic) of their relationship is that they shared this deep desire to support the common good and always foster change. Now, I feel when Governor Bill Clinton and his First Lady moved to Washington when he was elected President - much of their "common good" social agenda was shaken, and political corruption and intrigue began to work it's way into the good intentions of, at least, Hillary Clinton's aspirations for her husband's time in the White House. However, I came to find most (not all) of her intentions for political gain were for the betterment of the nation. And this desire coupled with her concrete beliefs in marriage and family, kept her in her marriage...and keeps her in her marriage even now. That, and she loves that guy. No, really. She does. There are handfuls of accounts given in the biography from friends, colleagues, those who worked both in the Governors Mansion and in the White House about this endearing affection she has for him, and he has for her. In many instances Bernstein describes how "Hillary lights up whenever he walks in the room..." and that this reaction continued up until the Lewinksy era. They are compatible, two peas in a pod, two sides of the same coin, and this support, admiration, can I say respect (hmmm - loosely put to some, but real to others), commonality, love for a daughter, and the fact that "one can't live without the other - they need each other - they'd be lost without each other" was one of the most fascinating discoveries, for me, about Hillary Clinton the Woman.

Now as for a Woman In Charge - well, that might have to be saved for "Part 2." Suffice it to say, I judged too harshly. Doing research, keeping an open mind, and not passing quick judgement based on CNN sound bytes and Times opinion polls, is something every American interested in this historical political race should consider: taking a little more time - getting a little more involved - and making a more informed decision. If anything, you might find out something you didn't expect, even something surprisingly refreshing. I did. And that's the beauty of being informed.


JenKneeBee said...

I LOVE Hillary. And I have a really hard time with people who haven't taken the time to look at her life and what she stands for and instead, make fun of her because she's a woman who wants to make a difference as a leader.

That being said... now that she's essentially out of the race, give Obama a second look too. His stances on the issues are remarkably similar to Hillary's and he's not being bought by lobbyists or PACs like John McCain is.

Anonymous said...

I read bernstein's book. And Obama's two books. I believe I understand the concept of empathy, I really do. But how could anyone even consider voting for hillary (yes, I know we are past that point now) after reading Bernstein's book? She is ego-centric, politically deaf, manipulative, devious, her senese of entitlement, righteousness, I could go on and on, but why bother? She has some admirable characteristics but envsioning her as president would make me sick. All her faults came to fore as she became desperate when she realized she was going to lose the nomination. To be fair, she would be better than Bush or McCain, but that's not saying much. she clearly lacks the judgment and temperment to be president. I am sinply astonished anyone could think otherwise after carefully reading such a well-researched book.


Andrea said...

Well honestly the point was that my view changed - and it changed because I decided to be more informed, to look at the other side. I agree with much of what you say about her negative qualities - it is mentioned in the book several times that she has a very "Holier than thou" attitude at times - and the whole "Snipper" incident is fresh in my mind - but I did find more empathy with her "as a woman" with things woman deal with daily. I mean - it's no surprise that she is STILL a politician and all the negative connotation that entails. I'm starting "Dreams from my Father" soon - and hoping to get a positive feel from Barack as well. I hear Bernstein is writing a Barack Bio and I'm very much anticipating it to be just a thorough and objective.