Monday, February 13, 2006
Late News Flash: Hillary May Not Be a Slam Dunk!
For some years now, conventional wisdom has given Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton the nod for the Democratic presidential nominationbut judging from the recent unease among some Democrats about her performances as a speaker, the nomination may not be a slam-dunk. If there is one quality that media-centric candidates seem to possess, its a calmness in presentation before television cameras. Hillary is seemingly a woman of two faces. Viewing her from afar, she appears to be a self-controlled, beaming moderate, a woman whos surmounted the old hell-cat reputation of First Lady when she mislaid key papers from the Rose Law firm only to find them suddenly on a table in her private quarters. Thats one Hillary: calm, witty, self-deprecating, the kind the cameras love to picture.
Then theres a second Hillary that comes out not in private but in public performance. She seemingly cannot make a speech of passionate intensity without her voice curdling milk and ending up in a shriek. At those times, her eyes bulge out, deep recesses form in pockets on her face and she appears shrew-like. Nor is this a sexist phenomenon. Sen. Diane Feinstein, not my favorite liberal, has a quiet, stateswomanlike attitude of contemplation, even when she pronounces outrageous liberal platitudes. Theres passion but not the anger that comes from Hillary. Take the attitude that was prevalent long ago with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who moved from First Lady to a major player in international affairs, a commentator and television performer, host of her own show on public affairs on Sundays when she was well into her seventies: Mrs. Roosevelt Presents. No one ever accused Mrs. Roosevelt of being attractive (her own mother called her an ugly duckling)but she exuded a gentility, a graciousness and warmth that caused much opposition to her to melt away. Frankly in the First Lady department, Hillary is not unlike Nancy Reagan, the woman Howard Baker called a dragon.
Much is made of the striking difference between Bill and Hillarys speaking styles at the Coretta Scott King funeral. I had a personal taste of it before Clinton was elected president. Bruce DuMont and I spent a few days in New Hampshire covering Democratic presidential aspirants in 1992. It was snowing heavily one day when we pulled up in the parking lot outside a high school in Manchester for a Clinton rally. It was snowing so heavily we got out of the car and ran to a side-door and pulled it open. It turned out that it led to the backstage where Bill Clinton, accompanied by Hillary, were waiting to go on. We clumped our shoes which we laden with snow, making a dreadful noise, me cognizant that someone was watching with a steady eye of disapproval: Hillary Clinton. When we introduced ourselves to the Clintons, I happened to say that Im from Park Ridge. Hillary greeted that news with frosty disinterestbut Bill Clinton said, really? He asked where I lived and I said I live not far from the Rodham house, which led him to calculate whether or not I knew Field school where Hillary went to grade school.. All the while she was waiting for the emcee to present them and she tapped him on the arm and gestured with her head to the program. They went on but I realized that there was only one politician in that couple and one spouse. I wonder if Bruce remembers that.