February 23rd, 2007

Thoughts on Hillary and other female heads of state

The Clinton-Obama Democratic matchup is study in contrasts, so far.

We know Hillary only too well; one of her problems is that of too much exposure. Obama is the proverbial blank slate. They’re both trailblazers, demographically speaking, but of different types: she, a woman and ex-First Lady; he, an African-American with a multicultural past. Hillary possesses many interesting and useful traits, but charisma seems not to be one of them. Obama has almost nothing but charisma.

Commonalities are that they are both smart, and they both lean to the Left, as does the party itself these days. Who leans more heavily to the Left is anybody’s guess.

If I were forced to choose between the two–and “forced” it would have to be, because I have no interest in voting for either–I think I’d go (albeit very reluctantly) for Hillary’s toughness over the sketchy touchy-feely (but so far, empty) “inspiration” of Obama. This, of course, could change, if he fills in the blankness with something of substance.

I’ve never hated Hillary, and still don’t. And yes, I know, that’s not a very strong endorsement, nor is it meant to be. But I well understand the hatred for her. She emanates the same vibes that made people hate Leona Helmsley (remember her?), Martha Stewart, and any other woman who is perceived as both coldly ruthless and powerful.

We’ve had so few female heads of state that comparisons are hard to find. Actually, I amend that thought: there have been many female heads of state, but most of them aren’t widely known, and most ascended to power through a sort of inheritance–the death of a husband or father.

Even the very-well-known Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir were somewhat in this mold: Gandhi filled a power vacuum her father Nehru’s sudden death left open, and Meir ascended to the office of Prime Minister when chosen by her party after the sudden death of former PM Levi Eshkol. Both were political beings prior to those events, particularly Meir, but there’s little question that the openings left by the deaths of prominent men facilitated their rise in an atmosphere in which women leaders were by far the exception rather than the rule.

Interestingly enough, Hillary fits very well into that mold. Her career has been closely linked to that of her more conventionally electable husband. And now, although Bill is still very much alive, he’s “dead” in the political sense. Since he can no longer run for President, Hillary has taken on the mantle.

Margaret Thatcher is the one woman leader who seems to have climbed to the pinnacle without the help of a father or husband who was a political predecessor, or the sudden death of a political colleague creating an opportunity that otherwise would not have existed. Of course, she was elected not through a direct process of people voting for her, but voting instead for her party, (as is always the case in Parliamentary systems). But still, she was elected under her own steam.

Thatcher was certainly in the mold of a woman perceived as exceptionally strong and rather cold, and was hated by many in her time. But (at least to the best of my knowledge; and I don’t pretend to be an expert on Thatcher) she was not perceived as corrupt or amorally opportunistic, as is Hillary. Instead, Thatcher was hated for her policies, and for her no-nonsense firmness in implementing them. Thatcher was devoted to conservative ideas, and was unusually and rather firmly consistent about them for her entire life. Her iron qualities seemed to be less in service of self-aggrandizement than in service of her political cause. But iron she was.

Hillary’s iron has been shown more in the cause of getting first her husband and then herself elected, at least so far. And she’s tainted by the brush of her own possible corruption as well as Bill Clinton’s moral failings, and her own compromises in service of his career and the preservation of their marriage.

As far as the latter goes, I have some sympathy for the position in which Bill’s philandering placed her. Despite his lengthy history of infidelity–of which she no doubt knew–the Lewinsky affair during his Presidency must have violated some important pact between them. I’m not sure of the nature of that agreement (no, they haven’t taken me into their confidence), but it certainly must have included refraining from misbehaving in such a way as to get caught and jeopardize both of their political careers. And if she’d left him at the time, her calculation was probably that it would have jeopardized them still further. Call me naive, but I also believe she was wounded in the personal sense, as well.

The idea of Bill in the White House again, if only as a spouse, must fill many with dread–just as it fills many with glee. He’s a polarizing figure of great intensity. Perhaps that’s why many Democrats prefer the blank slate of Obama. He may seem to be a lightweight, but at least he carries no real baggage.

22 Responses to “Thoughts on Hillary and other female heads of state”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    Maybe they also think that light weights are easier to influence and manipulate, because they will owe the “biggems” more than Hillary would have.

  2. Fausta Says:

    he’s “dead” in the political sense
    Not dead yet. He might run for Senator.

  3. Lee Says:

    In fact, Bubba could be appointed by the Governor when Hillary vacates the seat. Won’t even have to run.

  4. armchair pessimist Says:

    Remember the hoopla around the simple, uncorrupted peanut farmer from Georgia? Here we go again.

    Maybe we’ll get another Reagan out of it come 2012, but it will have to go through the Obama blues first.

  5. Sloan Says:

    We were promised and got “two for the price of one” in 1992. I can’t believe that anyone could believe that we won’t be getting the same thing in 2008. Her successful nomination and her achieving the presidency will depend on how the public perceives Bill’s portion of the new “partnership”. Hillary is no Lurleen Wallace. I can’t see her putting up with too much interference from her husband. By the same token, as much as he loves the limelight, I can’t see him staying in the background for very long. As much as I dread the situation, it could be very amusing.

  6. Harry Says:

    Call me naive, but I also believe she was wounded in the personal sense, as well.

    OK. You are being very naive.

    The former first lady is a political calculator par excellence. She has none of her husband’s charm, but every bit of his honesty.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Harry, I agree with your last paragraph. But I still think it doesn’t preclude a certain amount of personal wounding. She thought she knew what he was capable of, but I think she was still surprised by his brinksmanship, recklessness, and total disregard for the risks, and the awful position it would place her in. I still believe that not all of those feelings were political; I think some were personal. In short, I think–on some level and in some way–she still loved him and felt betrayed, despite all her knowledge of him.

    As I said, call me naive.

  8. J.H. Bowden Says:

    Obama is *not* a blank slate. Anyone from Illinois knows this.

    Check out my post on his Marxist record here. The man practically is a living Willie Horton ad. His votes present a clear picture on his economic and social views. This is like the Dems running Mondale or Dukakis again, except they’re running a guy with a middle name Hussein who thinks the jihadists are benign and American force is wicked.

  9. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    I recall saying in 1992 how I liked Hillary and Tipper better than their husbands during the campaign. That Mrs. Clinton seemed ambitious seemed only par for the course, and hardly a problem. My dislike for her developed in counter-reaction to her deification by some on the left. It became increasingly irritating to be told that conservatives didn’t like her because she was a Strong Woman. Those of us who worshiped at the feet of Margaret Thatcher found this risible.

    Yet it became one of those things that people – usually but not always women – said with complete confidence, and all criticism of her was marked into that column and ignored. For some people she is as much a blank slate as Obama, as everything that she has done has had no impact on their desire to see her as representative of all Strong Women.

    As Eeyore so wisely said, many years ago “Pathetic. That’s what it is, pathetic…As I thought. No better from this side.”

  10. Lee Says:

    Oh, don’t worry, anon. I’ve “attended” to him, and find him wanting.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    As I said, call me naive.
    neo-neocon | Homepage | 02.23.07 – 8:38 pm | #

    You’re not naive, you’re just optimistic about human nature. In the sense that all humans can be wounded. Why do I call that optimism… hrm maybe because I tend to think of utopian views as pessimistic. The belief that humans are static, that they cannot grow, is pessimistic for me. The belief that people are fallible and can fall or climb, is optimistic to me.

  12. Al Fin Says:

    Yes, neo, you are naive. Hillary’s calculator works very well, and nothing Bill did as President surprised the calculating lady. She may have hoped for better, but realistically, her calculator would never lead her to expect better.

    As for Obama, Hillary will use whatever is necessary to squash the annoying flea. She may need the support of those who actually take Obama seriously, so she will not bring out the heavy hardware unless she absolutely must. If Obama demands the scorched earth treatment, Hillary is capable of dispensing it, and dealing with the consequences as required.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    Hillary knew that Monica didn’t want to testify. Even her calculations are not 100% accurate.

  14. probligo Says:

    What about Bandaranaika (Sri Lanka?)

    The present Head of government (forgotten the name) of Iceland?

    Both were elected to office.

    And you might like to consider Auntie Helen in NZ – four elections on the trot.

  15. jgr Says:

    Of course, Bill was always aware of his Kennedy-esque stature!? Nonetheless, it says so much about the desperate shape of American leadership politics that we even turned to him in the beginning. And were willing to turn our heads whenever he did as he pleased, with whomever he pleased.
    Or that his wife, simply and only because of her relationship, could be elected Senator, not of Arkansas, but New York!

    Or that she should presume that SHE must CERTAINLY deserve the Presidential office. And that WE must EVEN consider it!

    It says a lot about Clinton hubris.

    And even more about the disordered state of American public life.

  16. Jone Lewis Says:

    Interesting perspective (and thanks for the cite).

    You might want to change an unintentionally-ironic link on this posting for Margaret Thatcher — as of today, it goes to a biography of Leona Helmsley.

  17. Poole Says:

    As first husband, Bill Clinton would probably conduct frequent, if not regular, press conferences. IF he is also a US Seantor, then his press conferences would be more popular than the pressers held by the White House.

    How would Hillary feel if the cable news devotes 1 minute to her statements and 5 minutes to those of her husband? Being upstaged by Bill – again – would be himiliating when it is not useful to her.

    My guess is that if Hillary is elected, Bill would prefer being an Ambassador-at-large so that he can be the face of the administration to the rest of the world.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Jone Lewis: Thanks. Link fixed.

  19. renmin Says:

    “Possible corruption” on the part of Hillary? You are way too kind.She did in a year what is rarely done in a lifetime by a commodity trader.Buys skates and learns how to skate on Saturday.Wins Gold medal on Sunday.I say this as a successful trader. Hillary’s deal was a commodity scam.Her patron was a lawyer for Tyson Chicken, who allocated some of his his winning trades to her.The firm used was REFCO which was fined by the authorities at the time for poor record keeping. This was a bribe and an ill disguised one at that.The Feb.20 1955 National Review had an analysis of this.http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n3_v47/ai_1670 9018

  20. renmin Says:

    Date wrong.Feb.1995 National Review.It is too easy to be sloppy.

  21. la regione calabria Says:

    la regione calabria…

    neo-neocon » Blog Archive » Thoughts on Hillary and other female…

  22. Pajamas Media » Does Bill Harbor Ill Will Towards Hill? Says:

    [...] majority of previous female heads of state (with the exceptions of Margaret Thatcher and Gold Meir) have come by their jobs through their personal rather than professional relationships with men in power, either father or [...]

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