The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.
Some among us might remember last summer when Dana Milbank suggested that Hillary Clinton (now our illustrious Secretary of State) was a “Mad Bitch.” Yesterday, a much subtler and more insidious sexism was at play in his column, and it was once again directed at Hillary Clinton.
Addressing the undeniable fact that Secretary of State Clinton is currently more popular than her former political rival President Obama, Milbank could have been congratulatory on Clinton’s successes. He could have engaged in nuanced discussion of the differences between the two leadership positions and their public perception. He could have suggested ways that Obama could regain some of his waning popularity. Instead, he chose to snidely suggest that Clinton’s success in recent public opinion polls is the simple result of her tackling such politically safe issues as the global sex trade and aid for sub-Saharan Africa.
Never mind that Clinton has spent the last year and a half taking on such issues as drug cartels in the Caribbean, sanctions in Iran, South American regional instability, ethnic conflicts in Kyrgyzstan, continued violence in Gaza, improving relations with India, censorship in China, and acts of aggression by North Korea. No, according to Milbank, the Secretary of State is playing it safe, sticking to the low-profile issues, and enjoying the applause from her personal echo chamber. As he points out, “…the slavery and exploitation lobby, after all, was unlikely to issue a rebuttal.”
Perhaps Milbank is forgetting a teensy little aspect of the issue at hand. Say, the fact that the Secretary of State isn’t dealing in press releases and speeches, but in hard and fast action. The resources of the State Department are not insignificant, and Secretary of State Clinton has been bringing these resources to bear on some of the most important foreign policy issues facing America. While there is no elected spokesperson that will stand up and publicly scold Clinton for her stance, there is no doubt a foreign policy/diplomacy price to be paid for any demand that is made, particularly one that so publicly draws attention to human rights shortcomings.
Rather than address Clinton’s popularity in terms of her success as Secretary of State, Milbank prefers to present her poll numbers as the belated revenge of the slighted woman (having been “bested… in the only poll that mattered, in 2008”). He goes on to describe her gushing admirers and staff, before slipping in a pointed barb about her refusal to take questions at this particular press conference, hinting at an iron fist that will brook no insolent inquiry. Once again, Clinton is cast as the brittle, castrating Lady MacBeth.
Milbank is right though, the question merits analysis. Clinton’s staff appears to appreciate her leadership. Experts in foreign policy seem to applaud her accomplishments. Why, the general populace seems to think she’s doing a bang-up job, even more so than the President! How can this possibly be true? According to Milbank, it simply must be the result of Clinton taking the easy route (for instance, her work this week combating global human trafficking), while Obama rolls up his sleeves and gets on with the hard work required in the real world. Of course, the only example of this hard work that Milbank was able to provide was the President’s Herculean labors “…trying again to change the public perception that his administration has been weak in its response to the oil spill.” But then, maybe that’s where Secretary of State Clinton is really falling down. You see, she seems to be much too busy doing her job to worry about public perception, poll numbers, or criticism from sexist hacks.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can email Dana Milbank here and let him know how funny he is. Leave us a comment letting us know that you did!