January 21, 2009 / Uncategorized

Uniting behind our new Secretary of State


Editor’s note: The New Agenda congratulates Hillary Clinton on her confirmation as the new Secretary of State. The Senate approval vote was 94-2.

In her confirmation testimony before the Senate, and again in a speech she gave celebrating Emily’s List, Hillary Clinton has signaled her intention to use her role as Secretary of State to advance the status of women around the world. Although I understand that many people reading this would rather have her as President, I think it might be fair to say that she will be freer as Secretary of State to focus on issues of particular importance to women, rather than juggling priorities, as President Obama may find himself doing in the immediate future. She’s certainly going to do a better job in the position than Joe Biden would have, even if the Bidens persist in gaffing her in the back.

She has the potential to be the most visible and effective Secretary of State of all time, and she can get there with our help, and by “our” I mean most feminists. I really think working for her success might be something many of us can unite behind. This would be good for Hillary Clinton, and in my view, a way to at least start to bridge some of the recent history that divides us.

If she flourishes in the role, as I fully expect her to, it will positively remind everyone of her talent and abilities. The more odious Obamabots would need to stop hating on her (or at least ramp it down), since dumping all over an effective cabinet member would be stupid and counter-productive, and would actually make Obama look bad. Her achievements would also be an emphatic “eff you” to her harshest critics. Succeeding is a wonderful form of revenge — no pesky bloodstains and all kinds of rewards.

By the same token, fans of the new President can also root for Clinton’s success in office, since it will at least partially redound to Obama’s benefit. (And if this idea makes you bristle, take a deep breath and re-read the “eff you” discussion in the previous paragraph.) Thus people wanting Hillary Clinton to succeed as Secretary of State to help Obama, and people wanting her to succeed in order to spite Obama, can work together toward the same goal.

So I hope we’ll all think about channeling some of our feminist energies toward helping Hillary Clinton succeed as Secretary of State, by doing things like blogging about her initiatives, or commenting positively about them at other blogs, to keep the profile of her work high. There will also be opportunities to productively volunteer to help with some of her programs directly — hopefully this page will contain more information about that once she is confirmed.

This post is in honor of the memory of Coretta Scott King, who “never let a day go by without doing something, even one thing, in the pursuit of progress.”

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  • Sis

    I think you know I share your admiration for Hillary Clinton, and certainly, the goals of The New Agenda. I am a lifelong radical feminist. I stop short of being a separatist feminist, but there are days, there are days. Reading here has taught me something about coming together for our goals to advance women’s rights, in spite of our diverse stances on feminist issues.

    I don’t have, as the saying goes, a dog in this race. I am a feminist, and misogyny, bold, unabated, formalized women-hating from the progressive left (and the right, but less so surprisingly) has been my interest in your election.

    I would ask you please to refrain from referring to Obama’s supporters as Obamabots.

  • Excellent post. I am pretty excited about her potential in this role. I have hopes that maybe the country can repair its reputation abroad, and that womens’ global lot will be uplifted by her programs and ideas. She has performed so well in every role she’ been in, it’s easy to be hopeful.

    But I do have some fears worrying away in the background. I hope we leave Iran alone and that the Middle East doesn’t erupt into a bigger conflict-area than it already is. I want her above all to bring as much peace to the world as she can, for us to bring it via her,really.

    Thanks for the link to my article. 🙂

  • Ann, thanks for this great post. I agree — we should all be able to unite behind our new SoS. (But I wish she were president — sob!)

    I would ask you please to refrain from referring to Obama’s supporters as Obamabots.

    Obamabots is a perfectly good word: it refers not to Obama supporters in general, but to those who are right off the deep end. I think it’s a useful distinction myself.

  • Sis

    I think it’s name-calling, and works against something The New Agenda purports to support: inclusion.

    I am expressing something that I’ve picked up on elsewhere from people who read here, and who certainly could add to the discussion in a respectful way. If you’re thinking I’m hitting at Ann, well nothing could be further from the truth.

    If you’re thinking I’m speaking out of turn, I don’t pay attention to false form like that, and I phrased that as carefully as anyone can I believe.

  • Anna

    Ann – Good article. Thank you. Glad to support Clinton in her new role. Thrilled at the prospect that she will integrate women’s rights issues into her role, and not just via words, but via actions…..I do have some fears that Obama has everything to gain and Clinton much to lose if she isn’t successful in her role. There is so much Clinton-blaming energy out there that I’m not sure you’re rationale would hold up, but one can always hope.

    Sis – I agree. I deplore using slang words and derogatory terms. It smacks of a double standard. I don’t like when they’re used against those I’m rooting for and see no reason to use them against others. Obama supporters seems sufficient, and if some are more ardent than others, well the same could be said for many of us who supported Clinton.

    Anna Belle – I doubt we can leave Iran alone. They are a major threat and I don’t think we can put our heads in the sand on this one. Not sure what the answer is, but I think that ignoring them would be dangerous to us, and to Israel.

  • Cynthia Ruccia

    I’m completely selfish and completely optimistic and I agree with Ann Bartow’s ideas. Since she isn’t my president (and like Violet—sob!!) it is my selfish desire granted that we will get to see her every day on the world stage where she will continue to inspire.

    In my wilder dreams, I even see this being a springboard to another presidential run. And why not? We will be there the next time to chase the misogynists back under their rocks where they belong. History will NOT repeat itself.

  • Anna



  • Lili

    Congratulations to Hillary – I have no doubts that she will be a superb Secretary of State and I share the deep sadness of thiose of you above that she is not our President.

    News sources are reporting that Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from the NY Senate bid citing ‘personal reasons’. athe New York Post reports that she withdrew after learning that she had not been selected by Paterson, Fox reports the opposite. No doubt they will all eventually get their stories straight!


  • Sheryl Robinson

    Just a note regarding the “Obamabot” comments. Ann Bartow has been an outspoken supporter of Obama all along, so I doubt that she means “Obamabot” as an insult to all those who supported Obama.

    The New Agenda blog features writers of diverse backgrounds and political leanings who are unlikely to agree on all points. No single article or writer should be assumed to represent The New Agenda’s overall membership.

    As a non-partisan group, diversity is very important to The New Agenda.

  • Lisa

    Wonderful article Ann.

    I don’t know when the time will come when I can think of Hillary and this election without feeling so overwhelmingly angry and disappointed. But It sure helps that we will see her on a regular basis. She will be doing the brilliant work that she does and continuing to blaze that trail for my daughter and for all of us.

    Goddess Bless her…

  • Zee


    I’m dying to know which version is correct, but I suspect Caroline withdrew after learning she was not the choice.

    And to all, re the interesting discussion of the use of slang, eg, Obamabots. I do think Ann meant to distinguish them from other Obama followers by her use of “more odious.” I have no problem with slang, but I can understand the objections, especially in the area of being taken “seriously” and not derailing a message.

    I think there are different levels here…there are comments, opinion pieces, editorials, and press releases. Obviously, press releases and official articles and editorials ought to be devoid of slang, but we ought to have some wiggle room elsewhere.

    Still another objection might be that “obamabot” is too easy, and cliche, so perhaps simply beefing up the language, a la “more rabid of the Obama devotees” or some such would work as well or better.

    Just some thoughts.

  • Zee

    Attention Violet!

    re the web design. Have you changed it? Because today is the first time the text of the comments runs right over or under the sidebar, so part of the comments are unreadable.

    Yeah, I use Safari and detest Firefox so please don’t suggest trying another browser. Web design should be legible in every browser.

    Anyway, I hope it’s a fixable problem!

  • KendallJ


    Great post! I read your writings at the Feminist Law Professors blog. I enjoy your commentary and agree with you quite often! It’s a pleasure to see you here at The New Agenda.

    I’m sure there will be an up-coming post on this soon, but have you all heard about Harry Reid opening the Ledbetter legislation to republican amendments. Interestingly enough, this is the first time he has done so since the democrats became the majority in the senate. I find it suspect that the legislation that would help women gain economic parity is now sacrificed in the name of bi-partisanship. This exemplifies what we saw in the primaries in how fellow democrats treated Hillary Clinton for daring to tread on male power. The reality is that Democrats aren’t looking out for women either.

  • Thanks for the comments, everybody, Sis in particular. Disagreement never bothers me, truly, as long as it is fair. Sis – I have been an Obama supporter, and I use “Obamabot” to describe his unthinking, cult-like followers, who scare me a whole lot. Obama will not be well served by them; he needs to hear dissent and criticism to govern effectively. I’m open to an alternative way to characterize them linguistically if you have suggestions.

    I really do think everybody who is interested can find a way to be a useful volunteer for Hillary in some capacity, if you have the ability to do this. I’d love for her to perform brilliantly, and will help any way I can, and I think it is a sentiment that most non-Obamabot Obama supporters share.

  • Amy Siskind


    Wonderful piece!

    Hillary – yeah!!!

    Bidens – not graceful!

  • Thanks again. I should also apologize for the fact that one of the two votes against Hillary Clinton’s confirmation came from one of my state’ s Senators – Jim DeMint (R-SC). How I would love to see HIM replaced by a woman!

  • Zee, it was a rogue url in a comment upthread. The url was extremely long, but because it was missing its “h” in the front it seems to have escaped the url truncator I have installed.

  • KendallJ


    Do you teach law? Just curious, as a fellow feminist Attorney. You write a lot and I wish I could. I’m a litigator and haven’t got much extra time to write long pieces. I just read a litany of arguments you made back in September in favor of voting for Obama over McCain. The link was posted by Sheryl Robinson above.

    Personally, I was so pissed off at the misogyny, sexism and primary election rigging that I viewed as Obama having participated in and benefiting from, that I voted for the green ticket. I’m in New York and my vote was purely a protest vote. Clinton was my candidate from the beginning, and my anger and frustration of what I perceived as the democrats having rigged the primaries against her made me so angry that I couldn’t bring myself to fall in line. The betrayal was worse coming from the democrats than if it were done by the republicans. I’ve always been a liberal feminist who votes democratic routinely. But this time their bullshit cut too deep.

  • Anna

    Coretta Scott King: “Never let a day go by without doing something, even one thing, in the pursuit of progress.”

    Love this at the end of this piece. Maybe there can be a place on this site for all of us to post something we do each day, even a small thing, that can serve as an inspiration, a clearinghouse for creative ideas, motivation, and an ever growing list of actions that would be great to have on record (whatever that means in an environment like the internet).

  • I just saw this:

    Would have included it in the post if I’d seem it sooner.

    KendallJ – yes, I am on the faculty of the U of South Carolina School of Law. Teaching law is a great job that I really love.

  • KendallJ


    I work as the managing attorney at the HIV Law Project in Manhattan. Part of my job is training young attorneys. I enjoy the teaching aspect, but would much rather teach without the added stress of being responsible for their cases. I’ve been feeling burned out lately, and am interested in working on policy issues regarding women’s rights. I’ve been providing legal services, primarily to poor women, for 18 years. I’m more than ready to do something else. I often feel like I’m putting band-aids on hemorrhages. Our legal system has few remedies for poverty and every day is an uphill climb.

  • Kathy in CA

    With Hillary as SOS – we will no doubt read about her on an almost daily basis. When TNA notices that she has done something for women’s rights – we should acknowledge it front and center. While pointing out sexism is vital to women’s rights – we should also focus on the positive. I hope Hillary will bring women’s issues front and center with regards to other countries.

  • KayJL

    Hillary’s going to be a great Secretary of State.

  • Lili

    Kathy, you are not the first who I have noticed looking forward to hearing about Hillary on a daily basis. I guess perhaps I did not pay close attention to Dr. Rice but I did not notice her activities necessarily receiving a lot of press attention. This sounds like a Couric question but what sources are you anticipating will provide good reporting? Perhaps my opinions of the press are jaded by their poor and biased coverage during the primaries.

    Great suggestion to focus on the positive and showcase Hillary’s contributions to women’s issues – I think she will keep us busy!!

  • Lili

    Ann, thank you for the great article above and also for the link to the Boxer/Clinton exchange at Hillary’s confirmation hearing. I too did not know that there is an Office of International Women’s issues at The Department of State.

  • I love the picture of Hillary above!

  • Hm. Several different projects (PUMA and others) have been working for months to get visibility for various subjects (commenting in media, emailing journalists to suggest stories, etc). If we keep up our output and make SOS woman’s rights stories part of our focus, we could have a big effect in publicizing stories and issues that would otherwise be marginalized by Big Media.

    I hope Hillary’s website/s will give the details of such stories as they happen. And that someone will take the task of reading Hillary’s site/s and broadcasting the usable stories to us bloggers.

  • Kevin

    I believe HRC set the appropriate tone in her remarks today, that we stop the snake biting, bickering and divisiveness that has defined the last 8-12 years and all work together to accomplish what is best for America and the world.

    Given the state of the economy and world affairs, we are at a crucial threshold in America’s and the world’s future.

  • mamabroad

    Sign me up! What can we do to help HRC succeed as SOS? I hope TNA will keep us posted on what we can do.

    I agree with Cynthia. Haven’t given up on that dream either and see SOS as springboard too. People as brilliant, talented and principled as HRC don’t come along very often and it would be a terrible shame for the world not to have a chance to benefit maximally from her leadership.

  • Mary Beth

    I love this site and can see all kinds of possibilities for bringing womens issues to the forefront,as well as HRC ‘s journey as SOS
    Anything and everything is possible with passion and intellegence to do the right thing!
    I’m not an organizer, but anything this site needs, I’m there.