Tuesday, January 23, 2007

At Least They Haven't Called Them "The Little Lady And Her Big Dawg"

This weekend, Senator Hillary Clinton officially confirmed what most of the country already knew: she's running for President of the United States. And although the election is nearly two years away, the fields of Democratic and Republican candidates are getting rather crowded; America has lots to learn about each potential nominee. We already know all there is to know about Hillary, though, don't we? Why else would the press be skipping over her numerous talents and qualifications and focusing on her husband already?

WASHINGTON - If elected president, Hillary Rodham Clinton says her spouse and former Oval Office occupant will be a "tremendous asset," but she's the decider.

"I'm running to be the president, to make the decisions," the New York senator told ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

For his part, former President Clinton told a New York audience that he looked forward to playing a "supporting role" in his wife's campaign.

"I'll do whatever I'm asked to do," he said at a book party Monday night for Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign. "She's got the best combination of mind and heart, the ability to lead and learn, to stand fast ... and to make honorable agreements with people who disagree with her than anybody I've known."

Since formally entering the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination over the weekend, Mrs. Clinton has been repeatedly pressed to elaborate on what role her husband, former President Clinton, would play in her presidency.

Good grief, she's the decider? Haven't we already got one of those? And why the scare-quotes around tremendous asset? (I know, I know, the reporter means to quote Senator Clinton, but could he not have found a way to include an entire sentence in those quotes so it didn't appear to call into question the very authenticity of President Clinton's status as an asset?)

The overall tone of this article, like that of so many pieces written about Hillary Clinton, is suffused with Eau de Patriarchy. The questions for the Senator from New York invariably lead to questions about her husband, and when the story appears, it's mainly those answers that get the ink and the airtime. To wit:

Mrs. Clinton also said she would "count on his advice and his experience, not only here at home with the great progress that was made on so many important issues when he was president, but also what he knows about the world in which we find ourselves today."

In separate interview on NBC's "Today Show," Mrs. Clinton called her husband "a tremendous asset."

"He knows what the job is like. He had great success on a number of difficult fronts when he was president. ... So I'm going to be looking to him for a lot of advice and guidance."

Aaarrrgh! Again with the questioning of Bill's assethood. And talk about stating the obvious: of course it would be nice, whenever questions arise in one's mind, to be able to elbow the man whose head occupies the adjacent pillow and say, "Hey, when you were President, how did you handle such-and-such?"

But what about Hillary herself? What matters has she successfully handled on behalf of New York that might translate into clear advantages for her when handling matters on behalf of the nation?

Surely the press must be aware that Hillary is no ordinary political-spouse-turned-politician--that before becoming a First Lady, she was a formidable human being in her own right. She was valedictorian at Wellesley College, where she graduated, cum laude, with a degree in political science and was the first student in the school's history to deliver a commencement address. While at Yale Law School, and in the years that followed, she worked extensively on behalf of children, migrant workers, and the underprivileged in general:

In 1969, Rodham entered Yale Law School, where she served on the Board of Editors of Yale Review of Law and Social Action and worked with underprivileged children at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. During the summer of 1970, she was awarded a grant to work at the Children's Defense Fund in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During the late spring of 1971, she began dating Bill Clinton, also a Yale Law School student. During the summer of 1971, she traveled to Washington to work on Senator Walter Mondale's subcommittee on migrant workers, researching migrant problems in housing, sanitation, health and education. For the summer of 1972, Rodham worked in the western states for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern's campaign. During her second year in law school, she volunteered at the Yale Child Study Center, learning about new research on early childhood brain development. She also took on cases of child abuse at Yale-New Haven Hospital and worked at the city Legal Services, providing free legal service to the poor. She received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale in 1973, having written a thesis on the rights of children,[3] and began a year of post-graduate study on children and medicine at the Yale Child Study Center


In 1976, Hillary Rodham joined the venerable and influential Rose Law Firm, specializing in intellectual property cases while doing child advocacy cases pro bono. President Jimmy Carter appointed Rodham to the board of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978.


Throughout her time as First Lady, Clinton continued to practice law with the Rose Law Firm. In 1988 and 1991 National Law Journal named Clinton one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. Clinton co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children's Hospital Legal Services and the Children's Defense Fund.

I don't know about you, but I want to know about the strengths and talents of the candidates themselves as opposed to how pleased they are to be married to someone strong and talented, and the media's inability to focus themselves thusly is all the more frustrating when said candidate is so accomplished, so controversial, and so interesting in her own right.

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