"Vogue" profile of Hillary Clinton

HRCSoSVia RealClearPolitics, check out “Her Brilliant Career,” a flattering profile of Hillary Clinton, by Vogue writer Jonathan Van Meter, who accompanied the Secretary of State on her trip to Africa this past summer and met with her several times over the past few months.  (The on-line version is apparently shorter than the one that appears in the December 2009 issue of the magazine.)  It’s a little breathless and celebrity-lite, like most Vogue profiles, but it contains some interesting news.  For example:

  • Hillary Clinton watches Mad Men, and says, “That’s how it was! . . . [t]hat’s why the women’s-liberation movement was so shocking. It was like news from outer space.”
  • The Secretary of State comes to The Building without makeup, and then puts on her own face.
  • She claims that she never expected to be asked to be President Obama’s SoS:

“I was stunned after the election when President Obama asked me to consider this,” she says. “I really was very unconvinced. I did not think it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to do it. I just really had a lot of doubts, and I kept suggesting other people: Well, how about this person! How about that person! This one would be really good! But then a friend of mine called me and basically said, ‘How would you have felt if you’d been elected and you’d called him and asked him to do this?’ And that really made a big impression on me. How do you say no? And so…I said yes. And here I am.” She laughs and picks up her fork and stabs a kiwi out of her fruit salad and pops it in her mouth.

I ask whether she knew that Obama was going to invite her to join his administration. “Philippe kept saying, ‘He’s going to offer you Secretary of State.’ I said, ‘Philippe, that is ridiculous! It is absurd.’ ” “I witnessed it,” says Huma.
“You witnessed it,” says Clinton, shaking her head in disbelief.
“Not going to happen, not in a million years,” says Philippe, gently mocking his boss’s reaction at the time.
“Not going to happen,” says Clinton.
“Fun days,” says Philippe.
“For you, maybe,” says Clinton with a mordant laugh.

Now, I’m not one who assumes that everything that Secretary Clinton says is untrue (“including and and the,” as Mary McCarthy once famously said about Lillian Hellman) but in this case, I don’t believe her.  My bet is that SoS was in fact the one job in the Obama administration that she wanted, and she didn’t dare to think she was actually going to get it.  Perhaps insisting that “I didn’t want to do it” is a way of distancing herself from her own ambition.  (And we all know that women who have an ounce of political ambition are “problems” to be “solved” by humiliating them, don’t we?)

0 thoughts on “"Vogue" profile of Hillary Clinton

  1. I don’t know. I always thought “distancing yourself from your ambition” was an old republican tradition in the vein of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, publicly professing that they had no desire to seek office even as they ascended to the heights of power. Perhaps it’s a testament to Hillary Clinton’s comfort in the halls of American political power that she can adopt this very traditional, formerly male, and very republican sort of noblesse.


  2. Can’t the Jacksonian tradition and the old republican tradition persist alongside one another? Maybe we could at least agree that ambition-denying republicanism (even if it’s blatantly dishonest) is at least classier than Jacksonian bluster and swagger.

    I certainly won’t deny, however, that even the so-called liberal media generally displays horrid gender sensibilities. And that’s not classy at all.


  3. I can believe her that, at one pretty big level, she had to be thinking “Even knowing I do want to be SoS, would this be the wise thing? The smart thing? How can I mesh in with Barack Obama and Joe Biden? Will I just be a lightning rod for them to use and discard? Will I be able to make a difference I feel proud about, in the end?”

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to have her life and know that you’re always being scrutinized. And that, no matter what you do, someone is going to try and crucify you.


  4. Janice–what I came to like about her is that she knows everyone thinks they know a lot about her, and that everyone’s a critic, and that she doesn’t care. She’s got nothing to lose personally–whatever shreds of privacy or pride she had, she lost in the 1990s as First Lady. Washington already did its worst to her, so she’s just going to do what she’s going to do, and she doesn’t care what the editorial board at the WaPo (just for example) thinks.

    Unfortunately, too many Dems care far too much about what the chattering classes have to say about them.


  5. Two comments: First, I really do wonder about HRC’s ambivalence about taking the job. I think it’s hard to know the mindset of someone who came *so* close to winning the nomination (and I firmly believe she would have won the presidency if nominated) and didn’t make it. Moreover, that’s not something she can talk about publicly. The way our political culture is (indeed, American culture in general) she’s not someone who ran a very successful campaign who came in second to someone who ran a better campaign: she’s a “loser.” And talking about how losing influences one’s political decision making is something that I think public figures are loathe to do, for that reason.

    It’s hard to say if that might have made her less willing to re-enter the Senate as a “junior” Senator from her state, or made it more difficult to take on such a high-profile new job. But I imagine that factored into her calculation somewhat, even if we may never know how.

    Second: on comparing her to Palin (via the link): I wonder if there are other reasons Palin needs to deny her own ambition. Specifically, her religious values. She has been very clear at certain points to suggest that her decisions about her political future will be guided by God. (If He opens the door, she’ll rush on through, etc.) I think that her sense that she is or may be called by God to a political life is a big part of her appeal to her followers. (And I think she believes she has a calling as well, though I can’t of course read her mind.) So it would be pretty untenable for her to admit that personal ambition, not a calling, is driving her decisions.

    That is separate from how the media treats her, of course. Different people may have different reasons for decrying her “ambition.” Moreover, there’s more than enough sexism working against her in terms of both the “liberal” media’s treatment of women and conservative gender politics. But the religious element separates Palin from HRC in certain critical ways.


  6. I preferred Clinton to Obama as the Dem nominee, and as I observe Obama’s performance as POTUS, this preference is reinforced. Obama is way too much a fucking people-pleaser, and his abject need for approval is pathetic. Not giving a single flying fuck what other people think or say about you is a key character trait for an effective POTUS, and Clinton’s got it.


  7. John S.–I agree that Clinton would have won. But then, a 10-month old baby or a chimp would have won against McCain-Palin, esp. after the economy tanked.

    I don’t think Palin is particularly moved by religion–at least, no more so than most other American politicians, who all wear their Christianity very much on their sleeves these days (Clinton and Obama included.)

    I think the hysterical overreaction to Palin’s book and book tour give her more energy and credibility than she’d have if people left her alone. But, no–the left sells books and magazines too when they make her out as History’s Greatest Monster. Yeah–a former not-even-one-term Governor of Alaska. She’s to blame for the mess we’re in! Pay no attention that the Dems have 60 in their caucus and they can barely end cloture! Pay no attention to the fact that their health insurance reform bills totally screw over their base (women)! Look over there–Sarah Palin isn’t wearing pants!11!!!!!! ZOMG!!11!!11

    CPP: I agree with you completely. But, you have to give Obama credit for honesty. That’s just not who Obama is–he told us exactly who he was and how he would lead all through the primaries and through the general election. He’s not going to bang heads together to push his agenda, because he thinks that consensus and process are more important than policy results. I just wish the left would figure this out and start banging pots and pans and stop seeing Obama as their ally, because it works for the right and for Conservadems. They get what they want out of Obama precisely because he really believes that they’ll pull the pin out of their grenades and throw them at him. He doesn’t believe that the left will do that, not until the left decides that they’re really willing to do that.

    See more about this at TalkLeft: Big Tent Democrat’s concept of “The Madman Style of Political Bargaining,” which is what I think he calls it.


  8. The “left” will not pull the pins out of the grenades b/c Obama is not doing anything the left finds particularly objectionable.

    I think it’s time that the scales fell from women’s eyes and we realized how much Dem policy turns on making and keeping women’s rights, including abortion, a bargaining chip instead of an inviolable principle. And I think it’s time women pulled the pin on our support of Dems. But the “left” and, it seems, most women don’t agree with me. Ergo, nothing Obama is actually doing (or passively allowing to be done) is objectionable enough to lead any significant numbers of supporters into the “madman” style of bargaining. Which, I’ve noticed, is really only recognized as good politics when it’s madmen doing it instead of mad women.


  9. And CPP, I agree with you, too. To which I would add: HRC’s ability to go around the press and mobilize great numbers of voters in the face of relentless press excoriation and wall-to-wall “why won’t the stupid b**** quit” press coverage was remarkable. It surpassed even Bill Clinton’s ability to retain public support against a press machine that lived on manufactured Clinton scandals. So, in addition to losing a President who didn’t give a flying fig what anybody thought of her, we lost a President with a proven ability to bypass the press and go directly to the public with her message and motivate them to work on her behalf in the belief they were working on their own behalf. Good or bad? I suppose it depends on what one would use it for. And I firmly believe that HRC would have been a much better domestic President than Obama even aspires to be.


  10. “The one time the left pulled the pin, it voted for Nader in 2000. And look how that worked out.”

    It worked out just fine. It wasn’t the left that let the court hand over the victory to Bush, it was white Democrats. Bush was thus elected by Democrats in place, just like the Stupak mess was created by Democrats and requires the left to negotiate with Democrats.

    And that only assumes that the left actually *did* cost Gore votes he deserved and he just didn’t lose because his ass wasn’t historic enough to win his place in the history of history. So personally I wouldn’t even call that “pulling the pin,” even if you think it’s an accurate description.


  11. Sorry CPP, the left voting for Nader was not what the problem in the 2000 election. The top three reasons why Gore lost were the media, the media, and the media. The Main-stream Media, the Right-wing media of AM radio and Fox, and the Beltway Media.

    Closely followed by Nader himself (wasn’t there an agreement for himself NOT to run in contested states?) and the Gore campaign (Lieberman and the ‘go softly’ approach to Florida.)

    In 2008 the ‘Left’ went for Rep. Kucinich and then Senator Edwards. Then Senators Clinton and Obama.


  12. Emma, great comment and important to remember going forward. We actually propagated the WWTSBQ (“why won’t that stupid b**** quit”) successfully during the primaries. Not that we’ll ever have occasion to use it again…


  13. The one time the left pulled the pin, it voted for Nader in 2000. And look how that worked out.

    You misunderstand. I’m not talking about the left. I’m talking about the fake “left” that propagated misogyny and CDS and elected Obama. That “left” will never oppose Obama or even attempt to hold him accountable.

    No, what I’m talking about is WOMEN needing to play madwoman political bargaining with the Dems. Because when it comes to women’s rights, the Democrats and the Republicans are identical. Women’s rights, including abortion, are nothing more than political bargaining chips.

    Let me put it this way: After the Democrats — led by Democrat Bart Stupak — passed the Stupak/Pitts amendment I got all these “call to action” emails from Democrats to save abortion rights by appealing to more Democrats and sending money to more Democrats. It’s deeply, deeply screwed up. And there’s nary a Republican to blame for it.

    I’m done. Nothing, not one thing, not a “public option” health insurance plan, not universal health care, not single payer health care, not the success of the historic Obama presidency, not poor people’s rights, not people of color’s rights, not a jobs plan that actually works, not the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, not the Guantanamo detainees — nothing is worth accepting, putting up with, or losing the battle on this steady erosion of women’s equality. Nothing. My “allies” are on notice. Nothing matters to me but winning this fight on women’s equality. Nobody gets anything from me on any other issue — not money not votes not feet on the street. Nothing.

    And voting “yes” or “no” isn’t enough anymore, either. There has to be solid work toward building a coalition that will have the ability and the power to stand firm and pass legislation that will advance women’s equality and thus protect abortion and reproductive rights. And I mean a Constitutional Amendment or a statute that kills the Hyde Amendment, the Global Gag Rule, and Stupak dead for the foreseeable future. That’s all I will accept.

    And beyond lack of support, I will oppose every effort that further enshrines or advances women’s inequality. I don’t care what gets scuttled. If you have to suffer until I get my rights, that’s too bad for you. Because nobody gets ahead while I wait. Never again.

    So, accordingly, my next political donation goes to any politician of any stripe who vows to oppose this health care reform and looks like he/she will have the ability to kill it dead.

    The madwoman is coming out of the attic and she is pissed.


  14. Closely followed by Nader himself (wasn’t there an agreement for himself NOT to run in contested states?) and the Gore campaign (Lieberman and the ‘go softly’ approach to Florida.)

    Don’t forget Donna Brazile’s brilliant strategy not to campaign in Tennessee.


  15. Hi, all–sorry I was checked out of the conversation for most of the day. Congratulations to Emma, for making Corrente’s “Comment of the Day” for her thoughts about Clinton’s ability to bypass the press.

    BTW, I agree with you Emma that the problem we on the left have is the fake “left” you identified. I’m going to go de-register as a Dem and re-register as an Independent. Here in Colorado, we can do that. If I really want to vote in a primary, I can always re-register and then de-register again. This way, I can always register as a Republican if there’s a particularly odious Republican who needs stoppping. Dr. Mister and I did that in Ohio back in 2000–we registered as Republicans to vote for McCain. Sorry there weren’t more of us! It would have saved us a lot of trouble.


  16. Just to point out, those of us who are women of color who grew up poor and have some ties to the military and are advocates of lgbtqi issues, we don’t have the luxury of separating out these issues and focusing solely on the issue of women’s equality at the exclusion of everything else. I’m under no illusions about what Obama has or hasn’t promised, what he has or hasn’t done, or just how close Democrats and Republicans are on certain issues. But, Emma, your stance is deeply unpalatable to those of us whose lives are influenced by most or all of the issues you’ve listed. It’s stances like this that keep women so divided because women who aren’t white, rich, straight, employed, insured, and civilians can’t take such a position. (And I don’t know anything about you so I can’t presume whether you fall into any of these groups; your position suggests that you might.) These issues/problems often work together to oppress all and they cannot be just shoved to the side.


  17. thefrogprincess–Emma is just saying where she is politically. Everyone has to make her own decisions.

    I think you raise lots of good questions. I was just thinking about this on my morning run–to what extent is the government being run more in line with my values now that Dems run it? Perhaps 5-10% more in line with my values than it was under Bush. (Things I approve of: more effective leadership of cabinet agencies except Treasury; a decent Supreme Court appointment. The list of things that have displeased me is certainly a lot longer.) What I’ll have to decide is if 5-10% is good enough for me when the time comes to pull the lever again in 2010 and 2012, if my fundamental values have been sold out and/or told to get back under the bus.

    BTW, Emma has said here before that she’s a lesbian military vet–she’s not entirely a “white, rich, straight, employed, insured, and [a] civilian,” although I have to cop to the whole list.


  18. Pingback: Sunday moo-orning run : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  19. I stand corrected on Emma’s demographics; I knew there was a reason to put in a caveat. And for what it’s worth, I’m not impressed with either Republicans or Democrats when it comes to a lot of military issues. I guess for a number of reasons (probably largely because I’m part of a racial minority) I still view a Republican administration (at least in the party’s current guise) as markedly worse than a Democratic one, despite all the problems. Also I don’t see the point in throwing a vote down the drain since we don’t have viable third parties in this country. I’m unimpressed with the silence on lgbtqi issues and with the Democrats’ inability to make clear why health care for all is just a basic human right and that any other position is unacceptable (even if there can be disagreement over how to achieve that) but there is no viable party that holds similar views to mine on these issues.

    And one more question to Historiann: would the things on your list that displease you now not have been on your list if McCain had won?


  20. “but there is no viable party that holds similar views to mine on these issues.”

    How is your vote any less wasted if it’s guaranteed to Democrats no matter what they do?

    Your rhetoric, while fairly adept at pushing other people into corners, doesn’t even presume a solution. So who’s really the cynic here?


  21. Rich, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m incredibly cynical and jaded and no, I don’t see a solution. What I do see is a social conservatism that is well entrenched and that is sometimes a haven for racism and xenophobia and my vote is an attempt to keep the worst of that at bay. And my vote is not guaranteed to Democrats: I’ve never been a registered Democrat and have no intention of becoming one, I don’t donate money, and sometimes I don’t vote. (Then again, I’m a grad student, I have no money to donate.)


  22. Emma at 11:09 — you are exactly correct. Exactly.

    They don’t get it. They’ve never gotten it. They never will. They don’t have to.

    We get it.

    It’s deja vu time for ERA — all over again.

    This time getting the job done.


  23. frogprincess – I respect your opinion, but I disagree strongly with you. All those different issues you mentioned all have their own advocacy groups, and they focus on the one issue, they don’t dilute their message by pulling in all the intersecting factions.

    The only movement that does address the intersecting factors is the women’s movement, and it, IMO, simply replicates the work that the social work field does, leaving no one working forcefully for the equality of womanhood in general.

    The women’s movement got a lot done in the first two waves, but when diluted in the 3rd wave with the intersecting factors, led to what we have now, among other things, the worst objectification of women (particularly in the media) that we’ve ever had. To me, the fact that the women’s movement is the only one getting diluted with other intersecting issues is evidence of internalizing a strong tenet of patriarchy – that women must take care of everyone and everything, and never themselves.

    Now, I understand that the intersection means that there are women IN these other groups (poor, etc), but as I said, every other movement is allowed to focus on its general purpose, and not be diluted by issues that have their own groups. What’s the value in replicating the work of the social work field (which is ALL about intersection) and denying women a strong movement with a clear voice and singular, simple message, not diluted by many different issues? To me, all it does is keep us from moving forward.

    All movements and issues are valid and important, but while the intersection shouldn’t be ignored by the women’s movement, it should not be its focus, IMO.


  24. “The women’s movement got a lot done in the first two waves, but when diluted in the 3rd wave with the intersecting factors, led to what we have now, among other things, the worst objectification of women (particularly in the media) that we’ve ever had.”

    I’ll admit that I don’t know a ton about this but my understanding is that women of color felt fairly left out in the early phases of the women’s movement. And I still have the sense that some feminists of color feel like the larger women’s movement is insensitive to their needs. I appreciate your concerns about dilution but women’s issues do take on a different valence depending on one’s demographic. Not to mention, many of the advocacy groups you mention do ignore women who fall into those categories.


  25. Historiann, you’re right that she’s tough because she’s been through fire. I’m impressed because I know I couldn’t be that strong-minded: I’d never want to go into politics from all that I’ve seen.

    And, frankly, I feel pretty damned lucky to live in Canada because even though I have little respect and no agreement with our politicians, we’re not opening the cans of worms that are occupying the American political agenda.


  26. I think that the “false left” that people are referring to is actually the “center”, without which a political party can rarely achieve success on anything more than a local scale in the United States. The Democrats were able to take control of the presidency and both houses of Congress because a significant number of people in the center who had voted Republican before switched to voting Democrat. This also means that the Democrats at the national level simply can not pass much of the legislation or support many of the policies that the truly “left” part of their constituency wants – if they did, their control of Congress and the Presidency would probably evaporate in the next election as the center swung back toward the Republicans.

    The Republicans are actually pretty much the same on the national level – they have never been able to actually carry out the wishes of the truly “right” portion of their constituency, either during the years of Reagan or the years of George W. Bush. These would, I think, include things like a total repeal of Roe v. Wade, an end to most forms of gun control, a “flat tax” or more drastic tax cuts, an end to many forms of welfare, the allowance of prayer and the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, among other things. Most Republican leaders on the national level have surely realized, as have the Democrats, that satisfying many of the wishes of their bases, right or left, is impossible on a national level if they wish to have any chance of being the majority.

    It seems to me that what the Republicans have been better at than the Democrats since the time of Reagan is being able to appeal to their base at one end of the political spectrum, and keeping them as active supporters, while at the same time appealing to moderates in the center with a different message. The Democrats seem to be able to do one or the other, but rarely both at the same time, so they either alienate moderates or their base.


  27. frogprincess – I agree the other movements ignore women, because they seem to ignore all but their own specific focus. That’s why I wish the women’s movement was, like these other groups, also more dedicated to one simple message – otherwise, “women in general” is not the focus of anyone.

    But I’ve seen what women’s studies programs are like now, and there’s no focus on women. It’s all about the intersections, and I think it makes us try to put out so many fires, that there is no effective voice or power for “women in general”.

    I do appreciate and am aware of your recognition that many women of color do feel/have felt left out. IMO, the answer is to make sure the movement is led by women of all stripes. But the focus should be what they share, not their differences. It’s just my opinion.


  28. Anybody who has any issue they are committed to is welcome to participate in the madperson theory of political bargaining. For example, the Congressional Black Caucus recently refused to pass a key bit of Obama administration legislation out of committee because they feel that Presient Obama has not focused enough efforts on jobs and the CBC is particularly concerned about the incredibly high jobless rate in the African American Community.

    To which I say: Good for them! Grind your axe! Force people to address your concerns! Flex your muscles!

    And to which I note: nobody is writing long screeds to the CBC saying “when are you going to quit advocating on your own behalf? Don’t you know Obama won?” Or, “think of somebody besides yourselves, for once!” Or, “some of us unemployed black people belong to other groups too! How dare you focus on our race to the exclusion of everthing else!”

    Also, if you can tell me how this health care reform helps poor people, people of color, gay and lesbian people — some of whom are even women — while it denies basic equality to women, I’d sure appreciate hearing that.

    And, once you figure that out, ask yourself: is some help for some people really worth the price of denying equality to others?


  29. Not to mention, many of the advocacy groups you mention do ignore women who fall into those categories.

    If you follow the madperson theory of political bargaining, you can feel free to withdraw your support of those advocacy groups and their issues until they address your needs as a woman — whatever your race, ethnicity, or sexuality.

    And, I’m not trying to be an ass here, so I’ll say this as non-assy as I can while still being firm: I, personally, am done with being held to standards of conduct, including standards of issue inclusivity and “big picture” analysis, that you will not hold your male allies to. It is because we do NOT hold our male allies to the same exacting standards required of the women’s movement that women’s equality — including poor women, women of color, and lesbians — has backslid as far as it has.

    Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Or something like that.


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