A deeper insight into Hillary Clinton


1/19/08 – Competitive elections are like strong sunlight – shining into dark recesses and bringing out the truth. Given enough competitive pressure even the best of spin comes unstuck and spins off into irrelevance.

New Hampshire primaries in particular have given us good examples of this exposure process. Ed Muskie’s presidential hopes vanished when he cried in public on a snowy New Hampshire evening over a nasty smear of his wife; Ronald Reagan endeared himself to many when during a primary debate he grabbed the mike away from a competitor saying: “It’s mine; I paid for it”

Now Hillary.

Famously she teared up the day before the vote.

Rehearsed or not her words and anger were revealing: “Some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one…”

Well, Hillary in her own mind is: 1) right; 2) ready; and 3) knows what she will do on day one to make things right.

She doesn’t want to “see the country fall backward” and that feeling is “very personal for me.”

[An aside: would the election of a man who is half African in parentage and not dumb at all be a setback for the country?]

Hillary wants to lead us away from perdition. This is her self-claimed destiny.

Where does this drive to impose “the good and the right” on the nation come from?

From her Mom and Dad and her upbringing as a Midwestern Methodist.

Thanks to the New Hampshire episode, I think I understand her much better now.

She is not a modern woman; she is a throw-back; she is another Great Grandmother Hubbard, the Victorian and Edwardian nemesis of my wayward youth who was a Methodist too.

Hillary is passionately into moral uplift; she is the force between our salvation and our damnation. She is against all manner of vice.

The thought that Barack Obama might keep her from having the bully pulpit of the American presidency in her hands for maximum exertion on behalf of moral uplift apparently just drives Hillary crazy with anger and fear and resentment.

Her marriage to Bill has obviously in retrospect also been a project of moral uplift – she is there to save him from himself – the charming and brilliant man but one undermined by strong tendencies towards the reprobate side of life. He needs her to keep him from the wild side of life. With Bill, Hillary has been long suffering; her Bill Clinton project is an endless one, but she is relentless like a good Christian soldier would be, will not accept defeat and will stick at it until she draws her last breath.

Remember the Methodists largely brought Prohibition down upon us.

I see in her echoes of Sarah Brown with Nathan Detroit in Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls. Hillary would have made a superbly competent Salvation Army commander of the faithful leading the forces of light against those of darkness, indulging to their eternal peril in gambling and demon rum.

She is indeed a “stand by your man kind of woman” but not in the Tammy Wynette sense. The loyal but culturally lowly Country and Western kind of woman celebrated by Tammy Wynette didn’t have a deep social gospel cause to implement and so would be beneath Hillary’s sense of self-worth.

Many nineteenth Century Methodist women – those like my Great Grandmother Etta Ross Hubbard – were bossy; they kept their boys and men in line; they were leaders, not followers.

My Grandmother (as we called her) Hubbard was a leader of her town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; she fought for women’s suffrage, was a national leader of women in the Democrat Party, restored an 18th century house.

When the US Supreme Court ruled that public schools in Washington DC were to be integrated, Grandmother Hubbard, visiting from Chestertown, pulled me close to her with her bony fingers sunk into my right upper arm and said with great conviction: “Stephen, you may have to go to school with them but you don’t have to like them!”

I remember not having a clue as to what she was talking about, but that some line of conduct had just been drawn for me that better not be crossed.

My Great Grandmother Hubbard was deeply into enforcing the right as she saw the right.

Hillary is more like my Great Grandmother, I suggest, than she is like modern progressive women who are somewhat less compulsive in their search for power to do good.

Perhaps Hillary’s problem has been how to be a nineteenth century Methodist woman of conviction and accomplishment as a member of the Baby Boomer generation in the late 20th Century. The two cultures – one traditional, rigid, and hierarchical – and the other innovative, flexible, and horizontal in power relations – are in conflict. Hillary has blended them by being a wonkish policy maker out of Wellesley and Yale Law School – using intellect, elite connections, and government structures to make all things right.

Not unlike her admired Eleanor Roosevelt who would rather light a candle that curse the darkness.