Monday, August 11, 2014

Hillary Clinton's tone problem

Yesterday Al Giordano tweeted something interesting about Hillary Clinton's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

I starting thinking..."Yeah, its her tone as much as her policies. What is it about that?"

And so this morning I went back to an article Giordano wrote way back in September 2007 in which he predicted that Barack Obama "the insurgent" was going to give Hillary Clinton "the inevitable" a run for her money (literally). He pulled quotes from both candidates in New Hampshire talking about "change."

Listen to Clinton:
'Change' is just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen. . . . I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience. Well, with me, you don't have to choose. . . . I have spent my whole life fighting for change. . . . I will bring my experience to the White House and begin to change our country starting on day one.
And now Obama:
We need to turn the page. There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington — but the problem is that the system in Washington isn't working for us and hasn't for a long time. Think about it. We've been talking about the health-care crisis in this country for decades. . . .

I believe this election cannot be about who can play this game better. It has to be about who can put an end to the game-playing.
What I notice is that Clinton wants to talk about herself and Obama wants to talk about the problem. You see that same "tone" carried throughout the interview with Goldberg. For example, he asked her about Netanyahu.
I had the last face-to-face negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu. [Secretary of State John] Kerry never got there. I had them in the room three times with [former Middle East negotiator] George Mitchell and me, and that was it. And I saw Netanyahu move from being against the two-state solution to announcing his support for it, to considering all kinds of Barak-like options, way far from what he is, and what he is comfortable with.

Now I put Jerusalem in a different category. That is the hardest issue, Again, based on my experience—and you know, I got Netanyahu to agree to the unprecedented settlement freeze, it did not cover East Jerusalem, but it did cover the West Bank and it was actually legitimate and it did stop new housing starts for 10 months. It took me nine months to get Abbas into the negotiations even after we delivered on the settlement freeze, he had a million reasons, some of them legitimate, some of them the same old, same old.
Here she is talking about Egypt:
Egypt is a perfect example. The revolution in Tahrir Square was not a Muslim Brotherhood revolution. It was not led by Islamists. They came very late to the party. Mubarak falls and I’m in Cairo a short time after, meeting the leaders of this movement, and I’m saying, “Okay, who’s going to run for office? Who’s going to form a political party?” and they’re saying, “We don’t do that, that’s not who we are.”

And I said that there are only two organized groups in this country, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, and what we have here is an old lesson that you can’t beat somebody with nobody.
Now don't get me wrong, these are a couple of excerpts from a very deep discussion about foreign policy. Hillary Clinton demonstrated that she has the chops to go toe-to-toe with anyone on that subject.

But she takes any opportunity she can to bolster her own image - often at the expense of others. The recovering therapist in me sees someone who is not quite comfortable with herself and therefore tends to be defensive. Yeah, I know, that's what most politicians do. But its the overt and covert "digs" at others that is at least part of the off-putting "tone" that Giordano was referring to. The "Pavlovian response" is about remembering how that felt in 2008 (as well as Obama's pitch perfect response). It also probably explains why her tendency so far has been to distance herself from President Obama this time around. She's still feeling the need to define herself...after all this time.

I happen to be someone who thinks that "how" a politician operates is often just as important (if not more important) than "what" they want to do. Hillary Clinton certainly isn't the first or last politician to be constrained by ego problems. But I worry that if she becomes the first woman president, all holy hell will come her way - just as its come to Barack Obama as the first African American president. Defensive bluster won't cut it when that happens. You have to be strong enough to rise above it - otherwise the country will suffer.


  1. it's nice to notionally separate the person from their tone. after it keeps happening over and over, that distinction supports less and less weight.

    it's not her tone - it's HER:

  2. It really does come down to the monotone of her touting her experience. Makes her a one-trick pony in my book.

  3. That would make a great campaign commercial right there. Her saying she has experience in between clips like the Khaddafi clip.