Posted Tuesday morning, January 16, 2018.
She just never knows when to lighten up. Hillary Clinton and a new friend on the campaign trail in Iowa, October 2015. AP photo by Nati Harnik, via the Albuquerque Journal.
Following up on my previous post, Donald Trump is through clowning around: I won’t get into all the factors that saved him from being more widely recognized as the bore he was, but one was, unfortunately, Hillary’s own inability---or refusal---to clown.
Not that I think she should have and I mean that as a knock.
That’s how she won the debates. By being serious in her way. By not having to be a clown. And that’s how Trump lost them. He didn’t know how to be anything but a clown. And since he became President, he hasn’t learned how to be anything else, including how to be a president.
Clowning isn’t in every successful politician’s skill set and some have made a point of not clowning. Eisenhower, who didn't need to. JFK. Obama. Kennedy and Obama consciously avoided it. JFK to make himself appear more serious and mature to counterbalance his youth and, it has to be said, lack of significant political accomplishment. Obama in order not to give white voters---and journalists and not a few Democratic allies---an excuse not to take him seriously. And neither needed to. They could travel far on their wit and their charm. Hillary had to manage something similar. But with a problem they didn’t have. She couldn’t travel on her wit and charm.
She has plenty of both, but reporters who covered her campaign would be damned if they’d acknowledge it. Many voters, including those laugh riots themselves, Bernie supporters, would be damned if they’d let themselves see it.
Women in politics---in every profession, when you get down to it---have to take care that men---and many other women---have no excuse not to take them seriously. But then they risk being “too serious.” That usually translates as showing they’re too smart, too competent, too much better at their jobs. That’s where Clinton ran into trouble.
She is too smart. She is too competent. She is too much better. And somehow she makes people feel it. Americans don’t like feeling they aren’t smart as everybody else. They don’t like feeling that somebody else is better than they are. I think this goes a long way towards explaining why reporters, particularly male reporters, had it in for her. Still have it in for her. They’re out to prove she’s not as smart as they think she thinks she is. That is, they’re out to prove to themselves she’s not as much smarter and more accomplished as deep down they know she is.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t clown. She doesn’t need to. But she lets on that she thinks she shouldn’t need to. It would be lowering herself. She doesn’t do that. She holds herself to too high a standard. And she expects others to make the effort to lift themselves to her level. I don’t mean she expects everybody to be as smart and as competent. She expects people to take themselves seriously. She expects them to take life seriously. She expects them to take politics and policy seriously because of what’s at stake. How many political journalists meet that standard?
No wonder they don’t like her.
She can’t hide her irritation with them.