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Hillary, my kind of woman

In the December issue of Vogue, a magazine I rarely buy but this month couldn’t resist, Hillary Clinton is profiled by Jonathan Van Meter, who closes his eye-opening interview with this question: why is she such an inspiration to women when Margaret Thatcher, who reached greater heights, was rarely described in those terms? Answers Hillary, “It may in part be because people feel like they know me; they have watched me on the world scene for seventeen years now. They’ve seen my ups and my downs….They’ve seen my best and my worst. They’ve seen my public and my private—they’ve seen everything.”

Exactly. That’s why the American Secretary of State will always be Hillary to me, while Britain’s former Prime Minister could not possibly be Margaret.

It’s not as if I’ve ever felt a girlfriend glow about Hillary. While she was doing everything she could to trounce Barack Obama, I often found her stiff, defensive and scrappy to the point of belligerence. I simply wasn’t used to the spectacle of a woman gunning for the highest office in the free world with all the ruthlessness and bravado that men have traditionally claimed as their right.

Like Hillary, I started my career when women of ambition used to tell a bitter and much-embellished joke about what separated us from male peers: “He is assertive; she is aggressive. He is strong; she is overbearing….” But my condemnation reflex still kicked in. Even as I squirmed at Hillary the hard-ass, I remembered Hillary the wronged woman. I struggled to separate the candidate from her two towering male foils, Bill and Barack. Yet I wanted to vote for her anyway. She’s both formidably smart and unflinchingly practical—a rare combination. And of her party’s two greatly gifted front-runners, she struck me as the one more rigorously tested by life.

When Hillary finally bowed out of the race, she gave me no time to wonder what kind of loser she would be. Her concession speech dazzled with its grace, humour, dignity and devotion to public service. For the first time, I saw the warm heart behind the steely resolve. She belonged at last to herself, not to the cadre of advisers intent on packaging the first woman President. I wanted something glorious for Hillary, a platform wholly hers. I couldn’t see her joining Obama’s team.

Neither, it turns out, could Hillary. She tells Vogue she was “stunned” to be offered Secretary of State and found reason after reason to decline. So what did it take to convince Hillary to say yes? A lot of arm-twisting by Obama, a little delicate, eleventh-hour subterfuge on the part of Hillary’s staff (who were convinced she’d say no but hoped against hope that someone could change her mind) and, perhaps most profoundly, an insight from a wise friend who asked Hillary, “How would you have felt if you’d been elected and you’d called him and asked him to do this?”

Which just goes to show that extraordinary women stand out own among men, they take their best advice from the time-honoured source we all depend on, all our lives. One more reason why Hillary is my kind of woman.

Click here to read my previous post about Hillary. 


Posted by Rona

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