May 10, 2008
The Canberra Times
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Hillary’s campaign will end in tears, with no thanks to Bill

So who will weep the most him or her? My guess is Bill will cry and Hillary will just sniffle. Her eyes might mist up, like in New Hampshire. But it will be brief. Hillary isn’t a crier. It’s Bill who’s the sook.

If, as most pundits were calling it by late yesterday, it really is all over bar the weeping, then there are various stages of grief yet to go through. One can only hope, for Hillary’s sake, that most of the mourning is done in private.

Clinton has already taken more body blows than any woman – or man – should be forced to endure in public life. It’s time to give her some private space to nurse her wounds.Have you noticed how often people want to ”stick” things into Hillary? ”Stick a Fork in Her – She’s Done,” says The New York Post, hence its screaming headline ”Toast!”. South Park writers thought it was funny to develop a storyline where terrorists stuck a bomb up Clinton’s vagina. Then there was the Hillary nutcracker, where you stick a nut between her splayed thighs and metal spikes crack the thing to smithereens.

It seems Hillary haters have quite an appetite for violence. There was the murderous T-shirt slogan, ”If only Hillary had married O.J. instead!”

As for name-calling – Clinton has copped the lot. She’s ”witchy”, ”bitchy”, a ”she-devil”, a ”stripteaser”, and is likened to Lorena Bobbit, the infamous penis- cutter.Not even her meticulous grooming and sharp pantsuits cut any ice with the noisiest and ugliest of American celebrity commentators. The ridiculous Rush Limbaugh pretended to be concerned when he asked his 15 million radio listeners, ”Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?” The hag tag stuck. And so too did the hate.It came as no surprise when American feminist Robin Morgan wrote a passionate treatise earlier this year arguing that the viciousness directed at Clinton wasn’t simply ”Hillary hating” but ”sociopathic woman-hating”. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest she’s right.When an elderly woman stood up at a rally for Republican John McCain, and asked ”How do we beat the bitch”, McCain laughed and replied ”That’s an excellent question”. When a bloke called out to Hillary Clinton, ”Iron my shirt!” the media laughed. The inherent messages about a woman’s place, and the danger posed by female ambition, are all too clear.But the issue of sexism has been muddied by the spectre of racism. As Morgan has suggested, imagine if the question to McCain wasn’t about ”the bitch”, but rather ”How do we beat the black bastard?” Or what if the offensive Hillary nutcracker was a ”tap-dancing blackface doll”, or a black gollywog with Obama’s name? Would those things elicit the same mirth and laughter?

Then there is the issue of experience. Another feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, also wrote a passionate entreaty in Hillary’s defence earlier this year. While insisting that ”gender is probably the most restricting force in American life”, Steinem asked: what if Obama was a woman. As a black mother of two, with only eight years experience as a legislator, and a legal background that began in the community sector, would a Barbara Obama – with all the charisma and masterful rhetoric of Barack – be in the running? The answer is no.There is no doubting the entrenched cultural and social forces at work against Clinton. However, that isn’t enough to justify staying in the race when the race is over.

And it is over. Hillary must go.Whilst feisty ambition is to be applauded in any woman of substance and talent, so too is good sense. The ability to confront defeat with grace and dignity makes good sense at this stage of the race.

America is like a wounded animal. Post September 11 the shattered nation has lumbered from tragedy to international embarrassment. The once proud superpower and its people have become despised for foolish, bloody-minded foreign policy, and dangerous religious and cultural divisiveness. Blighted by recession and a growing fear over its cultural impotency, America desperately needs intelligent and united leadership.

For a long while – and despite her egomaniac of a husband – I thought Hillary Clinton could deliver. But now, with no thanks to the whining, attention-seeking Bill, Hillary is damaged goods. She fought a good fight and was entitled to every bit of support she got. But she has lost.

Now every moment Hillary hangs in there, attempting to claw another vote, is done at the expense of Barack Obama actually winning the presidency. Her fight has become a personal, vitriolic crusade against him. She would no doubt argue that her attack has been necessary. But it’s gone too far. The damage Hillary and Bill have wreaked on the Democrat Party by causing and celebrating deep divisions could be fatal.

Hillary’s biggest mistake? Her husband. She has always been hamstrung by her attention-seeking, philandering and demanding husband. Without Bill, Hillary could have shone. Without the appalling public humiliation of his sex romps and insulting lies, there would have been no need to develop a cold demeanour. Without his selfish appetite for power, she would not have been forced to wait until she was 60 to take a crack at a job she could have done years earlier.When it’s all over, there will be tears. But mostly they’ll be Bill’s. And they’ll be bitter.

Virginia Haussegger is a Canberra journalist and director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra.

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