Sunday, August 12, 2007

Collins & the Dems’ Girl

What I’m about to say may qualify me for membership in The Last To Know club, but I’ve just discovered Richard (Dick) Collins, pundit and founder of, a website dedicated to educating the public about Hillary Clinton’s liberal record.

No kidding. I didn't know about Collins or the site.

I just “met” Collins at where his latest column, You Go Girl , begins:

Hillary Clinton's strategy for winning the Democratic Presidential primary seems pretty clear at this point. In a time when Democrats are desperate to win the White House, and in the most favorable climate in a decade, she is promising them what they want: a candidate who can fight and win.

But at Tuesday's AFL-CIO debate Senator Clinton chose an odd way to express it:

"For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine and I've come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."

Your "girl?"

First of all, that had to sting Senator Edwards. Hasn't his entire campaign been about being the Democrat's girl? Doesn't the candidate with the best hair win?

More seriously, this interesting phrase seems to hint at the continuing struggle Mrs. Clinton has in controlling her image. Much of the controversy that has followed her quest to become the first female president has been played out in an awkward tension.

On the one hand our politically correct culture insists that a woman running for president has important social and political implications. And feminists of almost all stripes would see a Clinton victory as a step forward for women.

And yet the actual substance of much of the news coverage is not serious.

Remember the silly debate about whether using her first name was actually a not so subtle sign of disrespect because nobody called her male counterparts by their first names? Leaving unsolved the question of how to refer to both the candidate and her rather politically significant husband without confusion. And the stories about her ever-changing hairstyles or the "cleavage" question haven't been particularly flattering.
And then there’s the continuing struggle Hillary Clinton and her staff have had trying to explain how her Arkansas-based Rose Law Firm billing records for much of the Whitewater period "disappeared" for two years only to mysteriously reappear on a table in - of all places - The White House.

Lucky for Clinton the same press corps that wanted to know about President Bush’s National Guard service records from thirty years ago isn’t much interested in asking about her billing records.
But let’s get back to Collins and the girl Hillary/woman Hillary conundrum.
This focus puts Hillary in an awkward position. Clearly she needs the support of women and the attraction of being the first female president in order to win.

Yet, "vote for me because I am a woman" seems shallow and demeaning.

There is also the challenge that few people think of Hillary as particularly feminine in her demeanor or style. She isn't known for her sweetness and charm.

But like it or not, charm does matter in elections. So she has attempted to soften her image and dampen her reputation as a cold calculating, and often vicious, politician.

The anger and bitterness of the far left, however, is often pulling in the other direction. They don't want charming or graceful, they want confrontational and insistent. They want red meat and a candidate who won't back down.

Add to this the necessity of appearing to have enough "gravitas" to be commander in chief, and it gets to be a tricky juggling act.

All of this led to Hillary's odd comment on Tuesday. The first part insisted that she is the fighter the party needs - the only candidate that can defeat the "right-wing machine." While the last phrase attempts to communicate that she isn't uptight about her femininity.

The mini-furor over this comment reveals yet another straddle for Hillary to pull off.

One between older feminists who insist on eliminating any differences between men and women – "gender is a social construct" – and those younger women who view anything freely chosen as empowering for women – "You go, girl."
There’s more to Collins’ column here.

I’m going to start following Collins and visiting

I’ll keep you posted on what I think.

I’m interested to hear what you think of Collins' column. I also hope some of you visit and share your impressions.


Ralph Phelan said...

I find the hypocrisy and double standards of the press annoying.

But Senator Clinton's use of "girl" is totally innocuous. The outrage is what the press would do to a Republican who said it, and that is not directly Clinton's fault.

I'd much rather talk about her political philosophy as illustrated by specific actions as a Senator (Such as proposing bailing out people and businesses who made foolish choices about taking out/issuing impractical mortgage products).