Jewish World Review July 27, 2007 / 12 Menachem-Av, 5767
Hillary owes Elizabeth big time
By Dick Polman
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Hillary Clinton should drop a note in the mail to Elizabeth Edwards. Something along the lines of "thank you, thank you, thank you." Because it's clear that Elizabeth did Hillary a big favor the other day. She certainly didn't mean to, but she did.
Elizabeth was really intending to help her spouse when she dissed Hillary as weak on women's issues during a July 17 interview with Salon. Husband John, the self-declared populist who's running third in the '08 Democratic race, badly needs to gain ground among unmarried, modest-income working women if he is to have a reasonable shot. But right now those likely primary voters are solidly behind Hillary. The July 20 New York Times-CBS poll, for instance, cites such women as Hillary's strongest supporters; Hillary was viewed favorably by 69 percent of all female Democratic primary voters.
So Elizabeth sought to redress the imbalance. She argued her husband is more sensitive to women's issues, in part because Hillary is trying to campaign as a man. She said, for instance, that "keeping that (career) door open for women is actually more a policy of John's than Hillary's" and that Hillary "is not really talking about poverty, when the face of poverty is a woman's face, often a single mother. ... Sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues. I'm sympathetic - she wants to be commander in chief. But she's just not as vocal a women's advocate as I want to see. John is."
Elizabeth's first mistake is that she leveled a charge most women will never believe. She claimed that Hillary is not a sufficient advocate for women, but that line won't sell, basically because it isn't true. Here's the best summation of Hillary's track record:
"She has consistently sponsored key pieces of legislation that take direct aim at women's issues. She has sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to battle wage discrimination; the Prevention First Act, which expands family planning services; and just recently she picked a fight with the FDA over Plan B to get the `morning after' pill available over the counter. ... Additionally, Hillary Clinton has been very outspoken about her pro-choice position; also, as first lady she helped introduce the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancies. And of course one of her most famous statements as first lady was when she said `women's rights are human rights.' "
And that's not a rebuttal from Hillary's camp. That's from David Brody, the Capitol Hill correspondent for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
Elizabeth's second mistake is the favor she did for Hillary. The flip side of Hillary's abiding strength with women is her weakness with men; in the Times-CBS survey, only 35 percent of swing-voting independent men view her favorably, while 42 percent view her unfavorably. Hillary badly needs to make gains with that crucial slice of the electorate.
And what better way to advertise herself to a skeptical man than to have a rival complain that she is campaigning "as a man"?
That's exactly how Hillary wants to be perceived by male voters. As Georgia Duerst-Lahti, an expert in gender politics, recently told Salon: "The first woman absolutely has to out-masculine the man, kind of like Margaret Thatcher did." Fairly or not, swing-voting men want to be reassured that a female president would not hesitate to act assertively as commander in chief. Elizabeth's complaint - that Hillary is emphasizing her commander creds at the expense of her woman creds - can only help Hillary among the guys.
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Dick Polman is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Comment by clicking here.