Andy Martin on “The Hillary Clinton I know”
Andy says Hillary’s “manifesto” was lost in the fog over “Bittergate.” Martin suggests Clinton was “born on the 12th of April.”
“Factually Correct, Not
ANDY MARTIN ON “THE HILLARY CLINTON I KNOW”
HILLARY’S “MANIFESTO” WAS LOST IN THE FOG OVER “BITTERGATE”
“BORN ON THE 12TH OF APRIL”
(CHICAGO)(April 22, 2008) Shortly after she announced her candidacy Hillary Clinton or one of her supporters was quoted as saying Clinton was one of the best known women in the world, and still an unknown person (I searched but can’t find the article).
Barack Obama’s greatest strength as a candidate is that he makes people feel as though they do know who he is. Hillary’s greatest weakness is that she lacks Obama’s natural flair for the conversational; she remains an unknown quantity in the midst of the crowd. Clinton also suffers from the frustrating inconsistency that she made it to high office on the coattails of Bill Clinton. But to make it into the White House on her own she has to be seen as her own person, not an appendage of Bill’s. That is not an easy contradiction to overcome.
Some months ago I began researching Clinton. I started where she began, in Park Ridge, Illinois. I promised a column but in the midst of all the madness on the primary season a searching inquiry into who Hillary really was got put to the side. And then, on April 12th, the pieces fell into place for me. Hillary finally told me who she was. Unfortunately, her manifesto was lost in the noise over “Bittergate.”
Hillary’s weakness is that she may not know anymore who she is. But, to paraphrase a classic Clintonian expression she is who she is. In the past her campaign lacked a theme. Who is she? The answer was not clear. She began parroting bromides and talking points. She failed to see the looming threat from Obama. And, yes, “Clinton fatigue” was a real part of her own challenge.
Today, Hillary is all but abandoned, forgotten, rejected by the media elite. In the Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan says “nobody is listening [to Clinton] anymore.” Richard Cohen in the Washington Post says “Clinton left Kansas along time ago,” suggesting she is not who she says she is.
None of these columnists and commentators understands Clinton. Because they have never been to Park Ridge. It is true that Hillary remains “unknown” while being superficially known to the world. Part of the problem, the challenge, the paradox is the great success that the Clintons have enjoyed as a couple. Ordinary people from modest backgrounds, they rose to the highest office, with Bill being elected twice.
Bill Clinton displayed extraordinary promise, and ultimately succumbed to self-destructive impulses that diluted his legacy. He humiliated his family. No one could live though such an era and not be changed. And yet, in changing, we remain unchanged. Hillary is still who she was. She remains what she is, from whence she began, in Park Ridge. Hillary was an accomplished young woman before she met Bill Clinton. No one will ever know if she would have succeeded on her own, because that was not her fate. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Hillary’s pudding was destined to have a different theme.
I went to Park Ridge because that is where she began, and where her character was formed. Clinton seldom makes a point of Park Ridge. We know her from Arkansas, the White House and the Senate. Park Ridge has faded into the past, into obscurity, into seeming irrelevance. And yet Park Ridge today still reflects who Hillary Rodham was when she grew up there. It may be a place from which Hillary wanted to escape. Maybe she still wants to. But she can’t.
On April 12th Hillary finally issued a manifesto that told us she understood who she is, who she was and who she would be:
“I am the granddaughter of a factory worker. I grew up in the Midwest. Born in Chicago, raised outside of that great city. I was raised with Midwestern values and an unshakeable faith [in] America and its promise.”
This is who Hillary really is, and who she cannot escape being, any more than Barack Obama can escape eternally being the confused child of his own two very confused and self-indulgent parents.
Ironically, it was not until Obama expressed contempt for ordinary people in Pennsylvania that Clinton roared back with a clear statement of her own essence: the product of generations of America’s hard work, Midwestern values, and—she should have added—Midwestern constancy. It was the Midwestern values with which she was raised in the 1950’s, and that she thought she rejected in the 1960’s, that made her marry Bill and stick by him in the 90’s. It is these “Midwestern values” that have made her stick it out, scheme and bring herself to the pinnacle of political prominence. People can say she “wins” by being a “victim,” but victims don’t rise to the top in presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton is much more than a victim. But to understand why she is so formidable you have to understand the Midwest: it’s values, virtues and, yes, it’s limitations.
Mrs. Clinton may be a little embarrassed by this column. She says her main qualifications are her experience, her travels around world, her worldliness. But I suspect people who respond to her and people who will vote for her in Pennsylvania on Tuesday subliminally know the real Hillary better than she knows herself. Her April 12th manifesto distilled what she was, what she had been, and what she would be as a candidate.
On February 20th, I wrote a column that predicted Clinton would persevere: “Barack Obama and the Myth of the ‘Two Democrats;’ Why Clinton Goes to the Convention.” At midday on March 4th, while the polls were still open, I suggested how Clinton should restructure her campaign. She has followed my game plan to a “T.” Thank you. And on April 12th she finally told us who she was, in just a few short, simple lines.
She is a flawed woman with many faults. But people do not rise to the heights of American politics by being flawless. No doubt she has learned from her mistakes. And Hillary finally told us she understands who she is on April 12th.
Now if only she would let the American people know who she is, with the same directness and simplicity, and hammer the “theme” of that “pudding” home over and over again, Democrats would have a real horse race for the nomination. Obama has given her the opening. Will she capitalize on his errors? My bet is on Hillary. Yup. Midwestern values. Finally.
Born on the 12th of April.
Chicago’s Number One Internet columnist, broadcaster and media critic, Andy Martin, is the Executive Editor and publisher of http://www.ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright by Andy Martin 2008. Martin covers regional, national and world events with more than forty years of experience. He is a chronicler of all things Midwestern and the authentic Voice of Middle America. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. He has been a candidate for U. S. Senator from Illinois. http://www.AndyforUSSenator.com. Comments? E-mail: AndyMart20@aol.com. Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Columns also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com.