Sunday :: Dec 9, 2007

Irrational Right-wing Hatred of All Things Clinton

by Mary

Bill Moyers talked with Kathleen Hall Jamieson on his PBS show last Friday about the virulence of the attacks on Hillary Clinton by the right-wing media. It's an interesting discussion to check out (you can watch the video or read the transcript here). But one thing I think that they missed is how the hatred truly is irrational and has been uniquely manufactured by the wingnuts for over 15 years now.

Moyers asked Jamieson to comment on the question to McCain where one of his female supporters asked him "How do we beat that bitch?" Jamieson and Moyers both thought that this type of language would have been unheard of in prior years and found it surprising that there wasn't more outrage expressed or discussion on this. As Moyers says, Clinton seems to be the target of this vitriol and it is particularly easy to find outrageous statements being made about Clinton.

BILL MOYERS: Here are some of the entries from Facebook, you know? "Hillary can't handle one man; how can she handle 150 million of them? Send her back to the kitchen to get a sandwich. She belongs back with the dishes, not upfront with the leaders." It goes on and on like that. I mean, and it is fairly misogynist, but it isn't just the Internet. I mean on Rush Limbaugh, he talks about Clinton's testicle lockbox. MSNBC's Tucker Carlson says there's just something about her that feels castrating. One of his guests, a former spokesman from the Republican National Committee, Clifford May, says that if Clinton is going to appeal to women for support on the basis of her gender, at least call her a vaginal-American. I mean, in fact, isn't the sexist vilification of Hillary Clinton being set by the mainstream media?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It's being set by both. The mainstream media has a much larger audience. When you look to the size of the groups that have this sort of vulgar, gross language on them about Hillary Clinton, their membership is actually very low. Where mainstream media can reach that number of people with the first second that it's articulated. Underlying this is a long-lived fear of women in politics. For example, we know that there's language to condemn female speech that doesn't exist for male speech. We call women's speech shrill and strident. And Hillary Clinton's laugh was being described as a cackle--


KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: --and why we're looking at a laugh and whether it's appropriate or not is of itself an interesting question. We also know that underlying many of these assertions is the assumption that any woman in power will, by necessity, entail emasculating men and, as a result, a statement of fundamental threat.

So, why shouldn't you vote for Hillary Clinton? Well, first, she can't be appropriately a woman and be in power. She must be a man. Hence, the site that says Hillary Clinton can't be the first woman president; Hillary Clinton's actually a man. But also explicit statements that suggest castrating, testicles in lockbox. She's going to emasculate men. It's a zero-sum game in which a woman in power necessarily means that men can't be men.

BILL MOYERS: And you can't use your uterus and your brain. That's the old argument, right? You can't be caring and tough. That's the old argument against women, right?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and at one time there was actually an argument that if women became educated, they would become infertile. There was also, for a long period of time, serious penalties for women who tried to speak in public. And the residue of this is a language that suggests that women in power cannot be women and be in power. And as a result, as Hillary Clinton certifies herself as being tough enough to be president, competent enough to be president, these attacks say then she can't be president because she's not actually a woman. And you can't trust someone who is that inauthentic. So underlying this and underlying the vulgarity and underlying the assertions of raw sexual violence is deep fear about a woman holding power.

But I'm not sure that it's only about that with Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton has been attacked as long as she's been in the public sphere. She came into national public awareness with the candidacy of Bill Clinton. Some of this coincides with attacks on liberals and Hillary Clinton as a liberal woman. Some of this coincides with original attacks when she was in the White House and what was framed as exercise of unelected power. And one of the questions that-- I find interesting is this hypothetical. Let's say if Elizabeth Dole was this far along in the polls for the Republican nomination. Would she be subject to the same kinds of attacks? And I think the answer is no.

Even though Jamieson realizes that the type of attack that Clinton is experiencing would not be seen if it was Elizabeth Dole running, she continued to argue that somehow these attacks would be experienced by other women, and perhaps the reason we are seeing it today is what used to be talked about in private rooms is now public.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Or there's another possibility. There's a possibility that these kinds of attacks have always been there, but they were never posted in public space before. Is it possible that in these past environments, for example, with Margaret Thatcher in Britain or, for example, when women were running for governorships. When, you know, you saw, for example, Jean Kirkpatrick emerge as a Republican leader or Ann Armstrong, earlier than that. Perhaps these things were being said. But perhaps we didn't have any way of seeing them.

Well, I think this completely misses the point that the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary have been the targets of one of the most sustained irrational attacks since before Bill Clinton became president. The environment of toxic hate was the underlying reason that Mike Huckabee worked to get Wayne DuMond out of prison was because he had been a victim of the bad Bill Clinton. And Hillary was accused of having her friend, Vincent Foster, murdered. These fantastical accusations continue to drive the rights' extreme hatred for Hillary Clinton.

This is one of the things that annoys me about Kathleen Hall Jamieson. She often misses the forest (irrational Clinton hatred) for the trees (perhaps they are talking about all women this way). Um, no. Certainly the right-wing attacks uppity women, but Hillary Clinton gets special treatment based on who she is.

Mary :: 3:37 PM :: Comments (19) :: Digg It!