Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guys & Dolls - a thought in progress

Well since no one else is saying it, I'm going to:  If Hillary loses, either in the primary or the general, is the marriage finished?  

I really want to address all of these political marriages amongst the running-for-prez class.  I'd wager they're all nearly as complicated as the Clintons' only we don't happen to know it.  I've been suspect of John Edwards (aside from the obvious reasons) ever since his wife Elizabeth's new diagnosis, after which he/they chose to remain in the race.  You would think, there's nothing to focus the mind like a cancer diagnosis.  Really makes you want to stop everything and do only what's most important.  Spend your time together.  Relax, enjoy being a family, a couple.  I guess we don't all react the same way, now do we?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Scared of Her Own Shadow

  • I've linked this story below, but I'm linking it here again, and have had a couple of days to think it over.  In a nutshell, Hillary Clinton was going to do a Vogue interview with Julia Reed and pictures by Annie Liebovitz, but pulled out at the last second, apparently because she was concerned that she would appear too ... feminine?  Alluring?  Who knows.  But not only did this not remain inside-baseball, Anna Wintour decided to feature the flap in her editor's letter in the February Vogue.  

Now what, you ask, could be so bad about looking good?  Note the photo above (the only one I could find online, amazingly) from the December 1993 Vogue piece, same photographer, same interviewer.  It's hard to remember (without reading this article) just how much of a tizzy this sent some people into.  Hillary, it seems, does remember.  And won't take the chance again.  It's a shame, really, because -- to quote Rush Limbaugh out of context, "I think she looked sexy."

For historical bonus points -- the several previous First Ladies had been, in reverse chronology:  Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, and Pat Nixon, none of whom had to worry that their Vogue photos might spontaneously combust.  By the same token, none of them would describe themselves as feminists, particularly not of the Hillary-era vintage, and this makes all the difference.

To feminists, unreconstructed, pre-post, '60's and '70's break-the-glass-ceiling feminists, femininity is a huge problem.  It's what you shouldn't be judged on, what you aren't in control of, what's holding you down and holding you back.  Give in to it at your peril.  Hillary only started to pay any attention to her looks once Bill's political career started to take off and she simply had no choice but to get contacts and put on a little lipstick.  As his political star rose, so did the quality of her image consultants, culminating back in '93 in those pictures.  

Annie Liebovitz is an artist in an era in which such a word is woefully abused, a photographer with the ability to make the most guarded people on earth (and at this point in her career she works pretty much exclusively with mega-celebrities and star politicians) let the rest of us have a peek at an actual human being in there.  A great deal of her work, especially with musicians, is fantastical, but at her best, she can take a simple moment and make it extraordinary.  This is what she did with Hillary.

After all, what is the shot?  A closeup, simple makeup, no obvious lighting tricks.  Hillary, at 46, in full embrace of her sensuality.  She was caught off-guard being a woman, alluring, direct, real.  A woman that a man of many flaws and outsized appetites returns to, again and again.  A woman whom we think we know, saying, No, you know her.  This is me.  It must have really disturbed Hillary the feminist, because no photos of such intensity surfaced again.  She's been scared of her own shadow ever since.

After all, her generation never had the chance to enjoy their sexuality when they were young; they were too busy trying to hide it, ignore it, or otherwise attempt to make it disappear.  Being born female was a problem.  An inconvenience.  A bad stroke of luck.  Belatedly, they have come to see that beauty and power, allure and intelligence, can not only peacefully coexist but are part and parcel of each other.  Hillary is emblematic of her generation in many ways, positive and negative, and this is an excellent example.  Often unsure of how she would like to be viewed, even now, she is the three-dimensional symbol of the existential confusion that has reigned for women who signed on to the panacea of the Women's Movement.

The decision to pull out of the Vogue session in question was made in the fall, before Iowa, before the not-quite-Cry, before New Hampshire and 'finding her own voice.'  In light of how the campaign is actually unfolding, the very best thing Hillary could do is sit for Annie Liebovitz.  Let Annie reveal a Hillary at 60, who is arguably more beautiful now than then, quite possibly in the process of making history.

But only if Hillary dares let us back in.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Anyone else remember the controversy these pictures of the new First Lady, in the December 1993 issue of Vogue, caused, shot by Annie Leibovitz?  The basic question was, Are we ready for a sexy First Lady?  The commentary on Hillary then is still instructive now.  We just never grow up, do we?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Hillary General Election Nightmare

  • It's early fall.  Hillary's won the nomination, albeit following a fight that went all the way to the convention.  Don't worry, Obama will live to stump another day, but this is Hillary's year.  And into that back-to-school, everyone's-busy-with-their-actual-lives September breather before the "real" campaigning starts, walks this nonsense:

Everyone knows that you campaign hard right or hard left to get the nomination, attracting your party's base(s, these days), who are always far loonier than the normal, decent flyover people who actually decide the leader of what used to be known as the free world.  But then you get to the general and have to sound enough like a responsible designated grownup to convince tens of millions of people that you deserve the nuclear codes.  And so you "play to the middle."

Hillary is now playing.  She knows that she's going to have to attract a huge female vote, because regardless of what they say, a sizeable chunk of men ain't never votin' for no girl president.  The problem is that there are plenty of women who will never vote for an old-time feminist, and Hillary in her sexless pantsuits and flats just doesn't seem like the kind of girlfriend you'd want to watch The View with while you change the baby's diaper.  She's more like the boss who couldn't understand why you'd want more than 6 weeks' maternity leave.

Something must be done.  And, a la alpha-male Gore in earth tones, Hillary starts to dress like ... a woman.  Skirts.  Dresses, even.  Things that cling.  And heels.  There are reports of her wearing perfume!  And then, it inevitably happens...

First, it's the MSM (hello, Chris...), analyzing her metamorphosis into very-late-blooming womanhood.  Why is she doing it?  Who's behind it?  Roundtables of fashion magazine editors and stylists abound, giving them all a chance to flog their 800-page September issues.

Then come the feminists.  You see, even in 2008, a woman's appearance is picked apart!  Even today, you can't run for president and be taken seriously as a woman!  If a man looks good, he's commanding, handsome -- if a woman looks good, she's trading on sex, using her body to get ahead!  The patriarchy lives!

Then the post-feminists.  What's wrong with a woman looking feminine?  Hillary is a powerful, strong, sexual person, and why on earth shouldn't she use every aspect of her persona?

Rush tries to talk about it, but is laughing so hard that he has to go to commercial.

Quietly but unmistakably, the real women are watching.  And listening.  And most of them are saying, Hey, damn good for 60!

  • And this is when all hell breaks loose.

One of us, one of those random political bloggers out there, starts a rumor.  It gets picked up.  Once, twice ... on all the right sites ... and all of a sudden, with accompanying primary vs. general election pictures, it has become nearly impossible to deny the possibility that ... yes ... Hillary Clinton has taken to ... wearing push-up bras. 

Oy vey.

Everyone but everyone is talking about it.  And trying not to talk about it.  While simultaneously checking out every possible picture (especially the "after" shots) just so they can be "informed" and "engaged in the political debate."  You can't read a website without being accosted by an "Is she or isn't she?" online poll  (more "after" shots).  There are about twice as many cameras as there used to be at every Hillary event.  Sales of push-up bras, well, skyrocket.

No one has the guts to ask Hillary, however, if she feels a little lifted and separated these days.  A debate looms.  A major, major debate.  In prime time.  On a college campus.  And Chris Matthews is one of the moderators.

And Chris asks.  Bluntly.  Leers.  At first, a few gasps in the audience (even the college kids are a little shocked), then dead silence.  Hillary pauses, breathes (learned that in New Hampshire).  And says:

Chris, I knew going into this campaign that I was going to have some uncomfortable moments.  That I would be vetted.  Again.  That my marriage would be analyzed.  Again.  That every move I made and every word I said would be torn apart and stitched back together.  Again.  And when I decided to run for President of the United States I made peace with the fact that this was the price that I would have to pay, in order to give the American people the chance to have a President who's on their side.  [drops her chin, raises her eyes, half smiles, and in her best come-hither looks right at Matthews]  So Chris, you go ahead and ask me as many questions about my lingerie as you feel you need to.

The place goes nuts.  

The college kids are loving it, fill-in-the-blank GOP guy is ready to crawl under the stage, Chris Matthews is beet red (and grinning), and those stupid Frank Luntz focus group dials snap right off their control pads.  There is some semblance, after a few minutes, of the rest of a debate, but the night is over.

The race is over.

There is no other story on the news.  YouTube crashes.  Several times.  Women who are total strangers look at each other, on the subway, in the grocery store, and giggle.  And Hillary has got the women's vote in a lockbox the likes of which Al Gore could never imagine.  

The womenfolk have arrived.

November comes, and, with a 67% turnout that's 73% female, it's Hillary in a walk.  Make that a sashay.


Now all this may sound a little far-fetched, but do you remember the dust-up over Hillary showing just the slightest bit of cleavage on the Senate floor once this summer?

Poor Obsessed Chris Matthews

Yes, I know, everyone's piling on Chris -- and not without reason.  But I think most of them are missing the point.  I get that the men don't get it, but the women -- come on, girls, is this not obvious?

When a man calls a woman, whom he cannot have, a "strip-tease," there's more going on here than a policy difference about nuances of the S-CHIP.  Chris is hitting Hillary below the belt because that's where she's hitting him.  DUH!  The one thing she shouldn't be doing is taking it all too seriously.  By all means, go on Hardball, take his questions, play along, but have a little sympathy for the boy with the crush on his college prof.  But be feminine, and if anything, a bit of a tease.  Nothing will disarm him more quickly than showing up the ludicrousness of the nature of his attacks.

And just for fun....at the Inaugural Ball (can you guess whom I think will win?) she should dance with him.  Very, very slowly.   ;)