Women's chances of US Presidency hindered by Hillary

Camille Paglia

Right now, Hillary is in Godzilla mode, refusing to accept Barack Obama's looming nomination and threatening to tie the Democratic party in legal knots until the August convention and beyond. Those who think she will withdraw gracefully in a few weeks are living in cloud cuckoo land. The Clintons are ruthless scrappers who will lock their bulldog teeth in any bloody towel.

In her raw ambition and stubborn, grinding energy, Hillary will certainly cast a long shadow on young women aspiring to high office. She is both inspiring role model and cringe-making bad example  — an overtly feminist careerist who never found a way to succeed without her husband's connections, advice, and intervention.

Bill Clinton may have masterminded Hillary's runs for the Senate and for the Democratic nomination, but he has been a gross liability in recent months, as he has co-opted the hustings to maunder on about himself or to inject divisive racial overtones into the debate.

The next major female presidential candidate will be well advised to stuff any errant husband into a rucksack and chuck him down a laundry chute. If they are to be truly equal, women must fight their own fights and not rely on a borrowed spotlight.

Hillary has tried to have it both ways: to batten on her husband's nostalgic popularity while simultaneously claiming to be a victim of sexism.

Well, which is it? Are men convenient sugar daddies or condescending oppressors?

As her presidential hopes have begun to evaporate, Hillary has upped the ante in the crusading feminist department. Her surrogates are beating the grievance drums, trying to scare every angry female out of the bush.

From that rag-tag crew, she will build her army. Let the red flags fly! Hillary is positioning herself as the Crucified One, betrayed, mocked, flogged, and shunted aside for the cause of Ultimate Womanhood. But doesn't this saccharine melodrama undermine the central goals of feminism?

For all her claims of media bias and ill treatment by her male fellow candidates, Hillary has got off absurdly softly in this campaign. No one-neither her rivals nor mainstream journalists-has had the guts to explore or even list the bursting catalogue of past Clinton scandals, in which Hillary was nearly always hip deep.

Charges of sexism have become Hillary's rote strategy for evading scrutiny. But by entangling the noble movement of modern feminism with her own knotty psychodrama, Hillary is reinforcing hoary stereotypes about women. Will every losing woman candidate now turn on the waterworks and claim to be maimed by male pride and prejudice?

The biggest barrier to women winning the White House is that the president must serve as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and thus convey strength and purpose to defend the nation. Hillary shrewdly tried to address this gender problem by getting herself appointed to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she absorbed information and slowly gained the trust of high-ranking military officers.

However, the plan went awry when, servilely following polling data about national opinion, she voted for the War Resolution authorising George W Bush to invade Iraq. That fateful decision, meant to shore up her military credibility, would alienate her from the left wing of her party and ironically boost the presidential hopes of a virtual unknown, Obama, who had publicly opposed the war.

Women contemplating the Hillary precedent would do better to ignore evanescent polls and study military history instead. When women try to masquerade in the lion skin of military bravado, it leads to embarrassments like Hillary's daffy tale about running for cover under sniper fire in Bosnia  — which insulted the US military by implying it would put a First Lady and her daughter in danger.

Then there was Hillary's threat to  "obliterate" Iran should it attack Israel, a shocking word-choice that betrayed naivete about military options and indifference to their human consequences. Feminist ideologues sniffle about how hard the road is for women candidates. Hillary, it is alleged, has had to be both tough and soft, masculine and feminine.

So that's the rationale for her head-spinning personality changes? For every new state or region, she trots out a new tone or accent, from the crisp to the cornpone. It's crude and patronizing-which is partly why she has surprisingly lost support among her peers, educated upper-middle-class women.

No, the first woman president must have a consistent character and steady demeanour. She will also, however, need a mountain of cash, crucial for the blizzard of advertising that unfortunately constitutes national campaigns in the US. Here Hillary, tutored by her husband, has definitely blazed a trail.

There's no one better at flattering and soaking the rich and famous. But she has blown through her hoard with breathtaking profligacy. After raising well over $100 million, she is now more than $20 million in debt and sinking deeper every day.

Clamouring hosts of small vendors remain callously unpaid in her wake. A prudent money manager she clearly is not-hence the reluctance of so many voters to put Hillary in charge of the US budget. Sexism has nothing to do with it.

*Camille Paglia is University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, USA.