Wednesday, November 07, 2007

On Victims and Equal Rights

It is interesting that in the same week that syndicated columnist Clarence Page argued that the firing of Merrill Lynch's black CEO was evidence of a new level of respect for African Americans, Hillary Clinton's campaign chose to present her as a victim after the frontrunner was challenged during a debate.

It will be interesting to see if Ms. Clinton's tactic of playing the victim will play well in the remainder of the Democratic primary. One columnist I read (and I apologize I can't remember who and can't find it) may be right when he suggests that Ms. Clinton comes out ahead because, whether intentionally or not, her campaign managed to move the debate from the subject of her actual answers -- if one can call them answers -- to the questions raised about illegal immigration during the debate. As uncomfortable as it may be for Ms. Clinton to play the helpless little girl in Democratic politics, it may be less uncomfortable than national scrutiny of her attempt to play both sides in the illegal immigration debate.

I would note that accounts that have described this as new territory for Ms. Clinton are inaccurate. She took the same route during her Senate campaign against Rick Lazio. When Mr. Lazio approached her with a pen and document during a debate and asked her to sign a pledge not to increase taxes, her campaign described the Congressman as a bully who reminded women everywhere of their abusive ex husbands. That spinning of the event proved to be a successful tactic.

Ms. Clinton, a U.S. Senator from New York, is an accomplished professional, a capable politician, and, for those who would challenge her, a worthy opponent. As such, she merits respect -- including the respect of being criticized in the way that frontrunners are always criticized. However, if her campaign wishes to present her as though she is a girl who should be flipping her hair and giggling, then she loses that respect.

In Mr. Page's column (referenced above), he writes:

After hiring his newspaper's first black journalist to hold a management position, an editor insisted that the pioneering move was not such a big deal, as I recall. Real progress comes not when you are able to hire a black editor, he said, but when you also are able to fire her.

By that standard, Ms. Clinton's campaign may be proving, perversely, that women's rights have not come as far as they had hoped.


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