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November 02, 2007

Is Hillary Clinton Playing the Gender Card?

I say no, over at Tapped.

November 2, 2007 | Permalink


So many words to just say 'no'. Atrios would be so ashamed...
No seriously, good column. Yup, the press is making up a strawman (strawoman?) argument again to make this race more interesting. Same procedure as every election...

Posted by: Gray | Nov 2, 2007 12:27:44 PM

I'll say something I've never said before: you're crazy, Ezra Klein.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 12:34:51 PM

From AP's Ron Fournier:

Clinton's advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss internal matters, said there is a clear and long-planned strategy to fend off attacks by accusing her male rivals of gathering against her. The idea is to change the subject while making Clinton a sympathetic figure

Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 12:45:33 PM

From the LATimes, here's Mark Penn on Wednesday:

Clinton strategist Mark Penn said his polling shows that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) were already suffering a "backlash" among female voters.

Given that this conference call took place the afternoon after a late night debate, Penn is fibbing about having polled the debate at that point.

Instead, he is trying the simple and effective PR strategy of planting the "backlash among female voters" narrative.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 12:50:29 PM

We're not just talking about this one speech she gave, but her whole campaign post-spin debate. And in that sense Clinton, and her supporters, are undeniably playing the gender card. They're been playing it heavily for the whole campaign.

I don't blame them, it's smart politics. But you can't deny that they are doing it.

Posted by: Korha | Nov 2, 2007 12:51:12 PM

She's playing the gender card Ezra. I wish she would stop disgracing feminism and feminists.

Posted by: Jennifer | Nov 2, 2007 1:00:38 PM

"And in that sense Clinton, and her supporters, are undeniably playing the gender card."

Huh??? Examples, pls!

Posted by: Gray | Nov 2, 2007 1:00:50 PM

It's always been obvious that they were going to play the gender card at some point, but they're doing it waaaaaaay too early. It's a good card, and you ought to save it for when it'll really count.

Instead, they're doing it with enough time left for everyone to get cynical about it.

When the histories of this campaign are written, the consensus will be that Mark Penn is very good at tactics and very bad at strategy.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 1:05:07 PM

Reposted from the Tapped post:

I think the debate is a little confused here. Whether or not Clinton is playing the gender card -- and it is genuinely arguable, as you've demonstrated -- she's pretty unambiguously playing the victim card. Whatever you think of her answer, the idea that her opponents' attacks on her are out of bounds is disingenuous Liebermanism at its worst.

Posted by: Daniel Munz | Nov 2, 2007 1:41:08 PM

"She's playing the gender card Ezra. I wish she would stop disgracing feminism and feminists. Jennifer"

Assuming you're not just a troll, Jennifer, I think you should go read cola's comment to Ezra's article at Tapped. Then think again.

Posted by: David in NY | Nov 2, 2007 2:03:51 PM

I don't think it matters. Every candidate uses whatever they have in their toolbox that they think will increase the number of votes. I say why shouldn't she use it?

(I'm not a supporter of Hillary, but man, when you said that the men doth protest too much, you are barely even scratching the surface of the way men react to women in politics. Or women who are interested in politics.)

Posted by: maurinsky | Nov 2, 2007 2:06:44 PM

Aimai's comment kind of sums it up for me:

I couldnl't agree more with Ezra and the other commenters here. Just go and look at the multi post thread over at Kos to see what an incredibly vast reservoir of anti Clinton and anti woman sentiment this has tapped into. People who are usually very politically savvy are lapping up the accusation that
a) she "played the gender card" in that anodyne alumni speech and

b) that she should have been forced to wear a scold's bridle before she was allowed to flash her boobs in public (to mix my metaphors with a vengeance).

People don't seem to be able to decide which they are more enraged about: that she is a woman, that she is treated like a woman, that she refuses to be treated as a woman (ie like an interloper), that she refuses to lie down and let the boys define politics for her or what. Even democratic activists are happilly explaining how their male friends hate her and at the same timea ssuring us all that its "not about gender."

I was actually thinking this morning about blogging it myself - that Matthews conversation Ezra was in last night was atrocious. And no one, it seemed to me, challenged Matthews on sensible questions like what his "no driver's licenses to illegals" stance means in practical terms, or, as Aimai notes, just what point about gender he was trying to make, anyway.

Hillary Clinton is apparently not allowed to mention that she's a woman, that being a woman might have some role in this election, or that sometimes people make assumptions about women in public roles that aren't accurate. If not her... then who? Who gets to say this stuff? And when does it get discussed? Not discussing it, really, does not mean it's not there.

One final point - a lot of people, Matthews included, seem to see the Wellesley remark as having to do with thsi election. Keep in mind that until Hillary Clinton, New York had never elected a female to statewide office. Any office, any woman. In the state, arguably, most kown for its focus on women's rights and the various women's movements (suffrage, feminism, etc) a woman could not get elected... until Hillary Clinton. In Massachusetts, Niki Tsongas is the first woman elected to Congress in 25 years. Twenty five. And they too, have not had a woman Senator. Ever. What part of "boy's club" is confusing here? It amazes me how perfectly obvious things - like male dominance of our political life - is somehow mysterious, unknown or not understood. It's why, really, we have a women's movement. And why, still, it's relevant.

And by the way "playing the gender card" or really "playing the anything card" is atrocious phrasing and we should stop it.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 2, 2007 2:58:01 PM

Petey nails it above; Clinton's people and surrogates are spinning this out there and it seems silly to me to act as if her acknowledged machine isn't driving this. The whole purpose of the machine is so that she doesn't have to say this sort of thing herself. Taylor Marsh and Jane Hamsher's pieces, among others, on this were like nails on my feminist chalkboard. There's no doubt that there is some seriously fucked up sexism and panty sniffing that Clinton has been and will be subjected to by the media. Pelosi and other woman of power face the same nonsense (although not to the disgraceful degree that Clinton has had to). That behavior needs to be called out for what it is as often as possible. If another candidate engages in that crap, same deal. There is a difference between the other Dems taking her on as frontrunner and the kind of crap in which Russert and Matthews engage. Clinton is vulnerable on a number of points and her machine is designed to obsfucate that; the other candaidates should hit her hard on those points and the debate is the proper forum. Frankly, I think it would be more sexist for her opponents to decline openings to challenge her on her weaknesses due to some specious, chivalric desire to protect her from inappropriate moderators. An opponent making comments designed to focus and belittle her sex (something like the notorious tactic in business meetings of always making a point to apologize to the only woman present for rough language) or mentioning her marriage is a legitimate tactic to criticize; challenging her on her policies and actions en masse is not. It should be remembered that many women learned to deal with the boys club by battling them toe to toe in the classroom and we don't appreciate arguments that cost us traction in the arena. Clinton and previous generations fought so that we could meet those men and challenge them on their own ground; she deserves respect and accolades for doing so. She does not deserve, however, to have a blind eye to her notoriously disciplined message machine positing her as a poor waif being picked on by the boys.

Posted by: idabw | Nov 2, 2007 3:44:05 PM

Sorry about the chunk; I'll master the concept of paragraphs someday.

Posted by: idabw | Nov 2, 2007 3:47:30 PM

How about she just answer the question, she wants to be a leader, then lead.

Are we next going to hear.

Hillary 2009: Well, I don't think Iran should have Nukes, but I can understand and sympathize with their position on this....

Hillary 2009: Well, I prefer Al Queda not attack our schools, but what can we do, we're kind of stuck here you know, this is really hard guys....I can see why their frustrated and feel the need to lash out and kill people, I mean I understand their position not necessarily that I would support it....

Posted by: Patton | Nov 2, 2007 3:52:41 PM


I think you're being played for a sap on this...

I think, idabw has it about right:

"Clinton's people and surrogates are spinning this out there and it seems silly to me to act as if her acknowledged machine isn't driving this. The whole purpose of the machine is so that she doesn't have to say this sort of thing herself." - Posted by: idabw

Posted by: S Brennan | Nov 2, 2007 4:39:39 PM

"There is a difference between the other Dems taking her on as frontrunner and the kind of crap in which Russert and Matthews engage."


Posted by: Petey | Nov 2, 2007 4:56:41 PM

The most interesting thing in her Wellesley comments was the story about how hard it was for her to decide between Harvard and Yale law, but she went up to Harvard and met with an imposing man in a three piece suit who told her, "we don't need (or want?) any more women." So she decided on Yale. That story smells. It is so broad, so improbable, even then in the dark ages, that a Harvard professor would speak that way. He might think it, maybe.. but say it? That sounds like a fable (lie) to me. If it does not appear in her biography, then for sure it is a lie, because it would have been too notable to leave out. It's one of these stories that's just too good to be true. Do we really need another manufacturer of fables in the white house?

Posted by: Yan D. Kamecki | Nov 2, 2007 5:18:52 PM

"is hillary playing the gender card?"

"i say no, over at tapped"

well, i say yes, over here.
if people live their lives in public, then they open themselves up to public scrutiny.
i grew up at the same time as hillary clinton.
went through the same eras of early feminism as she did.
one of the things that early feminism stood for was to have the courage not to settle for humiliation and degradation by men.
...that if a man marauded around in public with women, acted in a manner that was publicly humiliating, she was worth more than that.
we finally, as a generation of women, found our voice and our dignity to say we we were better than that.
that was exactly the kind of treatment that our generation finally protested...
that we didnt turn a blind eye to those kinds of abuses for the first time.
we fought for and demanded respect.
we were the first generation to hold men accountable for their behavior toward us in private and public.
........i was the earliest supporter i know of bill clinton. but by the end of his presidency, i couldnt stand him.
i thought, "you cannot make a silk purse, out of a sow's ear".
....how on earth does this woman play a gender card?
the male who mostly demeaned her, wasnt on the podium, it was her husband.
love and opportunism are both blind.
in my mind, she has been a terrible example for women.
accept and say almost anything if it accomplishes your final aim.

i think that a marriage is a very private matter.
but not when a woman is publicly disgraced by her husband.
as a woman who said, "she wasnt the kind of person who would stay home and bake cookies" and then stood by and defended him, as he lied...was for me, as someone who has lived by feminist ideals, gave her no right to call herself a feminist.
.... i say it again. it is blind opportunism that drives them.
i believe they will say anything or play almost any card without principle, if it will get them to where they want to be.
...i grew up in the same generation as hillary.
even if she becomes the first woman president,the road she took to get there betrayed a big part of what feminism is supposed to be about.
....i still see character and leadership as being indivisible.
eyes on the prize.

Posted by: jacqueline | Nov 2, 2007 5:25:48 PM

i have watched her in every debate, just as i watched this one.
....i dont think anyone was "ganging up" on her because she was a woman.
i dont believe that john edwards, married to a woman like elizabeth edwards...barak obama, who seems to be very evolved in his thinking, joe biden and chris dodd who have a great deal of political savvy and have known her for many years, would be stupid enough to play a gender card.
.... no-one on that stage, except for mike gravel, was ever as aggressive as she has been.
i have seen many, many, many, many women demeaned and belittled all of my life.
...to my thinking, hillary on that stage, the other night, was not one of them.
if anyone tries to intimidate, it has been her...not obama or edwards or biden.

just my opinion.
as a woman from a very long line of feminists.

Posted by: jacqueline | Nov 2, 2007 5:37:07 PM

Its got to be true, Hillary's whole life has been like that. Did you know she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. Umm Hmmm.

She's amazing.....

Posted by: Patton | Nov 2, 2007 5:37:30 PM

whats hillary going to do when she starts going to these G8 summits and other events that involve lots of male leaders with her being one of the few women?

I can see her now:

"Those mean men just wont listen to me! I'm the poor little woman and they're all ganging up on me and not letting me share my voice!"

If Hillary or any other woman truly thinks this way, she's going to get bullied and beaten down at every single foreign diplomacy event we have. She'll look like a weak little punk bitch and the other world leaders are going to have a field day against her.

Posted by: joeblow | Nov 2, 2007 6:59:46 PM

Well, re the Harvard story, I do believe that. When my own mother with an honors degree in Chinese Literature applied to pursue graduate studies in the field in 1969-1970, she received a letter from the University of Washington explicitly telling her that positions went first to men with families, then men without families, and women with families came in dead last after single women with neither standing an ice cube's chance. A local bank told her that regardless of her qualifications they did not interview women for anything other than teller positions. I have no problem believing Clinton ran into this stuff too.

Posted by: idabw | Nov 2, 2007 8:33:51 PM

how much are you A list bloggers going to fall into absolute silliness? are you seriously saying that in order to say she's playing the gender card we now have to wait for said politican to not use surrogates? when you say no- that implicit because as someone mentioned-who the hell do you think taylor marsha nd others get their marching orders from? the tooth fairy?

Posted by: akaison | Nov 2, 2007 8:49:06 PM

Nope, I don't know idabw's mother's case, but even in the early 70's or late 60's you could not talk like that and say stuff like "we don't need women" without it creating a huge stink. It reminds me of other stories she has told with a similar theme -- for instance, that as a child she went to play with other children who said to her "we don't want to play with children like you" whatever that may have meant, but it was used as one of these little fables to illustrate the experience of being discriminated against. The fact of discrimination is real -- but she makes up illustrations that are suspiciously broad and crude, that she presents as things she actually experienced. Doubtful.

Posted by: Yan D. Kamecki | Nov 2, 2007 10:10:19 PM

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