Throughout her political career, Hillary Clinton has used her gender and the still-novel specter of a woman running for president to cloak her advances and shield her from losses. It is never about her. Her own merits, qualifications, defects, failures or shortcomings are never the issue. The question is always: How are we to treat women in politics?
Now that she is on the verge of running for president again, the Gallup Poll shows that about one Hillary voter in three cites her gender as the leading reason to vote for her. Coming in second, mentioned by only half as many respondents, were her qualifications.
Her use of gender as cover was evident when she conceded her battle for the Party's nomination in 2008. Her punch line was that her candidacy had made "18 million cracks in the hardest and highest glass ceiling" despite the prize of the presidency eluding her. It was not Obama who beat her, nor even her own limitations. She was defeated by the "glass ceiling," and her campaign was a common effort of all feminists to crack it.
From the start of her entry into politics, she has always used her gender to advance politically and to deflect negatives.
When she compared her focus on a career to women who "stayed home, baked cookies and served tea," she did not admit that her comments were elitest and offensive to stay-at-home moms. Instead she said that she was under attack because she "had been turned into a symbol of my generation" and the "fundamental change in the way women functioned in our society."
Criticized for doing legal work for the state of Arkansas while her husband was governor, she said, "This is the sort of thing that happens to women who have their own careers and their own lives. And I think it's a shame, but I guess its something we're going to have to live with. Those of us who have tried and have a career -- tried to have an independent life and make a difference -- and certainly like myself who have has children, you know I've done the best I can to lead my life." Nobody was attacking her for having her own life. The attacks concerned the fact that the wife of the governor was being paid from tax money to do legal work for the state.
Hillary approaches her political career as if it were a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all women, rather than an effort by one woman to get elected.
As my wife Eileen McGann and I wrote in our book "Rewriting History": "When Hillary is attacked, she frequently parries the charges by arguing that it is all women who are under attack rather than just one in particular. ... Criticized for her business dealings as a lawyer, she treats it as an attack on all professional women. Knocked for tolerating her husband's adultery in her bid to hold on to political power, she gathers around her all women who want to protect their privacy. Slammed with allegations of insider trading in the commodities market, she cloaks herself in the garb of every woman seeking financial security for her family."
Now, as Hillary again floats the trial balloon of her candidacy, she gains a key advantage by making her ambition the generic goal of all women -- to elect one of their own as president.
But it is this woman, not all women, who is about to run. It was this secretary of state who neglected the security of her Benghazi outpost. It was this person who naively called for a reset with Russia. She was the one who initially advocated health care legislation that was the foundation of the ill-fated Obamacare. It was Hillary, as secretary of state, who had to have known about and approved of the NSA wiretaps on foreign leaders.
Not all women. Just her.