2008 Re: Clinton and the Boys
posted by November 5 at 16:55 PMon
Erica says she’s finding the discussion about Hillary Clinton and gender to be tedious (even though she’s posted on it four times since Friday). Since I know Erica wouldn’t deliberately distort my words, I’ll assume her boredom is responsible for the fact that she’s doesn’t seem to be reading my posts accurately.
Despite what Erica keeps repeating (here and here), I never wrote that Clinton has a “gender problem.” I wrote about Clinton’s “gender politics” (here and here). It might serve a certain type of argument to cast me as someone who thinks Clinton’s gender is a problem. But that’s not, in fact, what I wrote.
I’m used to Erica calling me names on Slog when she doesn’t like what I’ve written. (And she’s not the only name-caller on Slog, to be fair.) But I like to correct the record when something I’ve written has been misrepresented, and although I wasn’t going to bother earlier, now that she’s dragged this into another go-round, I will.
As she’s gone about suggesting that I am a naif and a crackpot on women’s issues, Erica has not only misquoted me (as explained above) but she’s also distorted my words. I did not write, as she contends, that I believe women will vote for Clinton because they see themselves, and her, as helpless victims. Here’s what I wrote:
The Clinton campaign is trying to push women’s buttons, getting them to rally around Clinton out of a sense of shared victimhood. Maybe she’ll be effective in this.
See the difference? What I wrote attributes to the Clinton campaign an apparent idea that they can rally women around a sense of shared victimhood. What Erica wrote attributes to me the idea that I think women will vote for Clinton because they see themselves, and her, as helpless victims.
Maybe some will find that to be a small and subtle distortion, or merely an example of boredom-induced misremembering. And perhaps it is all about boredom. Or maybe I wrote that sentence in a confusing way. But, again, the effect is to add to the presentation of me as anti-woman, a crackpot, not to be listened to, etc. It also ends up operating in a style akin to many politically-motivated smears. Here’s the time-tested strategy: Mis-attribute, then attack based on this mis-attribution, and presto, the accused has two jobs: Defending himself and clearing up the confusion. This tactic is beneath Erica, of course, and therefore must be unintentional—a product, I assume, of the tedium of this exchange.
As it turns out, plenty of people saw Clinton and her campaign as believing they can rally women around a sense of shared victimhood. Try Maureen Dowd, Greg Sargent, and Ruth Marcus for starters. If they’re all crackpots, then I’m in good company.
Now on to Erica’s recent “Clinton and the Boys” post:
Erica’s argument relies upon making an absolute distinction between the words that have come out of Hillary Clinton’s mouth and the words that have come out the mouths (and keyboards) of her campaign staffers. It’s very clear that the Clinton campaign, most likely with the Lazio incident in mind, was trying after the last debate to paint Clinton as the victim of six aggressive men. They even attempted to turn this idea of Clinton’s victimhood into a fundraising opportunity. Erica writes:
So far, no one has been able to point once to anything said by Clinton herself that implies gender-based self-pity.
Yes, and that is no doubt the strategy. Again, it’s common political ploy: Let your surrogates say something that, if you said it yourself, might put you in a box.
But the fact is, Clinton’s operatives work for Clinton. And, as Greg Sargent writes:
You’d have to be very credulous indeed not to believe that the campaign is explicitly trying to emphasize, for various political reasons, the fact that she’s a woman getting hammered by a bunch of men.
The Clinton campaign works for Hillary Clinton. You can defend Clinton based on an accounting of just the words that come out of her mouth (and not the mouths and keyboards of her surrogates), but most political reporters find that to be a naive approach.
Again, Clinton is responsible for her campaign. Her campaign has been sending mixed signals on the role that her gender played in motivating attacks on Clinton during the last debate. It’s completely reasonable to come to the conclusion that the Clinton campaign thought the suggestion of a sexist motivation for the attacks would have a rallying effect among women (like the Lazio debate incident did). And it’s completely normal (in politics, at least) for the Clinton campaign to backtrack from that approach now that it’s run into resistance from leading opinion makers, male and female.
What would be highly unusual is for political reporters to accept Erica’s idea that what comes out of a campaign surrogate’s mouth (or keyboard) can’t be connected to the individual who is running the campaign (in this case, Clinton). In fact, I bet I wouldn’t have to look too hard to find an instance when Erica held a local politician responsible for something his or her surrogate said.