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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

One of the funniest conversations I’ve heard took place among a small group of Arkansas women who’d done their best to clue the newlywed Hillary Rodham in on a basic fact of Southern life she’d been reluctant to accept in the 1970s: Cute counts. It’s not necessary to be a beauty queen, but a woman who doesn’t look as attractive as she can is often suspected of being too “authentic” for her own good.

The lady lumberjack look then fashionable on Ivy League campuses confused Arkansas voters, as did Hillary’s decision to keep her maiden name after marriage. (As the husband of a Southern girl often patronized to her face in a New England college town back then, I can testify that cultural incomprehension can run both ways. But that’s another topic.)

The point is that Hillary Rodham Clinton listened. As she later explained, she hadn’t really understood how strongly people in Arkansas felt about the name thing. So she took the name “Clinton” to stop sending a message she’d never intended. About the same time, it became fairly obvious that she’d started taking clothing, makeup, and hair-styling tips from female friends and quit looking like an outsider too.

So does that make her more or less “authentic” by current journalistic standards? Does it make her a big faker, the “manipulative, clawing robot” of a Maureen Dowd column? Or a relatively normal human being adjusting to the expectations of the people around her?

Not long afterward, Hillary also started doing something very much like what she’s recently been doing in Iowa and New Hampshire: holding small-scale town meetings with local school boards, parents, and teachers in support of the newly re-elected Bill Clinton’s Arkansas education reforms.

Clinton’s 1983 education package — its slogan was “No More Excuses” — brought math, science, and arts classes to many rural school districts for the first time. It raised teacher salaries and increased taxes to fund them. Over time, it’s helped close the historic gap between the state’s country and city schools.

And before the campaign was over, Arkansas’s First Lady was on a first-name basis with thousands of, yes, “everyday people” in all 75 Arkansas counties. She came, she saw, she talked, and she listened. As a secondary matter, Hillary’s image problems among Arkansan voters faded away.

How it works is pretty simple: You accept Arkansas, Arkansas accepts you. I’m pretty sure this is broadly true of Iowa and New Hampshire voters too. So is there an element of calculation in Hillary’s latest listening tour? Sure there is.

Is it merely cheap political theater?

Look, she’s a professional politician running for president. Of course her campaign events are stage-managed. How could they not be? Just as she ran for the U.S. Senate from New York back in 1999, a state where she’d never actually lived.

Although New Yorkers tend to be more flattered than offended when famous carpetbaggers descend upon them, she held small forums all across the state — impressing most observers with her industriousness and knowledge of local issues. America’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, backed out of the race.

She’s a very smart cookie, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And she always does her homework. No, she’s not a mesmerizing speaker like Bill, and not the most outwardly charismatic politician in the race (whoever that may be). GOP focus groups say her biggest weakness is their perception of her “entitlement” and seeming remoteness from ordinary people’s lives.

So off she goes on another listening tour. “A sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van,” Dowd sneers. However, contrary to reporters who marvel at Hillary’s “willingness to put on the hair shirt of humility to regain power,” she actually appears to enjoy the fool things.

Partly, it’s a woman thing. See, Hillary and my wife worked together back when the governor’s wife served on the board of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Diane always mentioned two things: how hard she worked on children’s health issues, and how she never pulled rank.

But what really endeared her to my wife was Hillary’s empathy during a prolonged medical crisis involving our son. At times, Diane was under terrible emotional strain. Hillary never failed to show concern. Was the new treatment helping? Had we thought about seeking another opinion? She acted like a friend when my wife needed all the friends she could get.

And no, there was nothing in it for her. I wasn’t a political journalist then. It wasn’t about me. It was about two mothers.

In an article unfortunately headlined “Manufacturing Authenticity,” Slate’s John Dickerson gets it right. For all her privilege and celebrity, Hillary “has something going for her that other politicians do not when it comes to these kinds of events… she has thought about family issues her entire life.”

Dickerson marveled that in Iowa, “Clinton actually appeared to be listening.”

And that could turn out to be her secret weapon.

Photo: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2014 Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, IA. (Gregory Hauenstein/Flickr)

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  • bobnstuff

    Who is the real Hillary? We will never know because there are to many people trying to create her into a product that they can sell to the American public. Years ago when
    Bob Dole was running for president he was package and served up to the public who didn’t buy him. After the election the real Bob Dole showed up and I, to this day, believe that he could have won as himself. Is Ms. Clinton a truly caring and loving person or just some power hungry women who will say anything to get elected? Your guess is as good as mine.

    • mike

      I put my money on “some power hungry women”.
      She is part of the 1% and yet she speaks about all the wage inequality. She doesn’t have one authentic trait. it is just her time.
      She has nothing to run but big govt. and identity politics. After 35 years of exposure she has little to show, other than being a women.

      • bobnstuff

        You may not like her views on politics but I would hardly say she was a rich out of touch members of the 1%. I just read her bio, She has worked hard for children and women over the years. When did you hear about all the non political things she has done? She wasn’t born rich and by the super rich standard she is “just rich” being only worth $21 million, chump change to people like the The Koch’s and the Walton Family or even Donald Trump who is worth $4.1 Billion. Name one Republican candidate who has a stronger link with real people. Her business back ground is pretty strong also having been the first woman on the board of directors of Walmart among other things. The right may try to paint her as a flaming liberal which I don’t see it being true. The Republicans are digging as fast as they can to get dirt on her but after all these years they are still having trouble with it. You probably won’t like her no mater what I saw but look at facts before you make up your mind. All the facts not just the mud the Republicans are throwing.

        • mike

          Written by who??? She’s a phony!!!
          You claim she has a link with people, phooey, she is not trusted are is considered honest.
          What is so funny it isn’t the right throwing the mud, it is the left like NYT’s, and other liberal media types.

          • bobnstuff

            You didn’t look her up. You really should. Oh I forgot not to disturb you with fact because you are always right. Sorry I forgot.

          • mike

            You never said who wrote the bio.
            Why read fluff when she has a different history. Actions speak louder than words, and her actions are those of inauthenticity.

          • bobnstuff

            Just Google her and look at any bio, the time line on all of them say pretty much the same. You know the boring stuff like where she went to school and where she work and what she did there. Just facts. You are uninformed it would seem. Did you know she was once on the board of directors of the largest private employer in the country. She has been a busy person with a
            wide range of back ground. As I said you don’t have to like her but don’t ever think she’s an empty shirt.

          • mike

            Far from uniformed!! Actions speak louder than words and whatever is written doesn’t match her actions. She has lied repeatedly as lately as last week. She has ridden Bill’s coat tails for years, being on Walmart board, was when? Could it have been when they lived in Arkansas?

          • bobnstuff

            Her history starts when she was born, she had a life before Bill and did a lot while Bill was in office both in Arkansas and D.C.. Your responses tells me you still haven’t look her up so I’m done. You can keep your prejudges.

          • mike

            Oh, but I did and her tenure on the board at Walmart was when Billy boy was governor, as I suspected. Riding Bill’s coat tails, again!
            Having a tantrum I see, live with it!

          • Independent1

            What absolute total BS!! Do you ever do anything BUT LIE??????

          • mike

            Still living in that other dimension called “la la land”, aren’t you.

            Hillary Clinton’s astro turf candidacy is in full swing in Iowa.

            HerTuesday morning visit to a coffee shop in LeClaire, Iowa was staged from beginning to end, according to Austin Bird, one of the men pictured sitting at the table with Mrs. Clinton.

            Bird said that campaign staffer Troy Price called and asked him and two other young people to meet him Tuesday morning at a restaurant in Davenport, a nearby city.

            Price then drove them to the coffee house to meet Clinton after vetting them for about a half-hour.The three got the lion’s share of Mrs. Clinton’s time and participated in
            what breathless news reports described as a ’roundtable’– the first of many in her brief Iowa campaign swing.

            Bird himself is a frequent participant in Iowa Democratic Party events. He interned with President Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign, and was tapped to chauffeur Vice President Joe Biden in October 2014 when he visited Davenport.

            ‘We were asked to come to a meeting with Troy, the three of us, at the Village Inn.’The bnother two, he confirmed, were University of Iowa College Democrats
            president Carter Bell and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland employee Sara Sedlacek.

            ‘It was supposed to be a strategy meeting,’ Bird
            recalled, ‘to get our thoughts about issues. But then all of a sudden he says, “Hey, we have Secretary Clinton coming in, would you like to go meet her?”‘

            ‘And then we got in a car – Troy’s car – and we
            went up to the coffee house, and we sat at a table and then Hillary just came up and talked with us.’

            Bird said ‘we all were called.”I mean, Troy asked us all to do – to go to a meeting with him. And we didn’t really know what it was about. I mean, he did. He knew.’It’s unclear how many Iowans featured in photographs with Clinton that rocketed around the country on Tuesday were planted.

            ‘The mayor of LeClaire was there, and his wife was there,’ Bird said, recalling the scene at the coffee shop.

            Hillary is about as authentic as Obama, which says it all.

    • Independent1

      Is Ms. Clinton truly caring and loving person?? I’d say she’s the real deal – but I’ll let you decide.

      Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in the Daily Kos:

      You won’t see Hillary Clinton in the same light ever again

      But that night in the theater two years ago, the other six brave women came up on the stage. Anabella De Leon of Guatemala pointed to Hillary Clinton, who was sitting right in the front row, and said, “I met her and my life changed.” And all weekend long, women from all over the world said the same thing:

      “I’m alive because she came to my village, put her arm around me, and had a photograph taken together.”

      “I’m alive because she went on our local TV and talked about my work, and now they’re afraid to kill me.”

      “I’m alive because she came to my country and she talked to our leaders, because I heard her speak, because I read about her.”

      I’m here today because of that, because of those stores. I didn’t know about this. I never knew any of it. And I think everybody should know. This hidden history Hillary has, the story of her parallel agenda, the shadow diplomacy unheralded, uncelebrated — careful, constant work on behalf of women and girls that she has always conducted alongside everything else a First Lady, a Senator, and now Secretary of State is obliged to do.

      For more here’s the link and a link to the video by Meryl Streep:

    • Independent1

      The one blogger you never want to get into a discussion with is Mike – no matter how many facts you provide and how absurd his arguments are – he’ll never agree that anything you say is valid or what he’s saying is total BS!!! Which it virtually always is!!

      I actually think JohninPFCL has Mike pegged correctly as being a Paid Troll for Rick Berman – Dr. Evil/Dr. Silly – whichever you prefer.

      • bobnstuff

        I look at Mike as a piece of stone to sharpen my blade against. He is useful at times to make me go look things up. I wouldn’t have gone looking for Ms. Hillary’s Bio had he not started his BS. I was impressed with all the things she has done over the years. I went and looked at the Republicans that are running Bio’s and they are week in comparison. For a m an who hate government Mr. Cruz sure has no problem working for them. Jeb Bush has done a lot more things then most republicans but he seems to have a lot of partners in things, is he the leader or just there for the ride? Dr.Paul is the only one that seems to know that there are people out there but he really as done very little, a some what short resume. No, If I am hiring someone to run our country as of right Hillary’s resume is at the top of the pile.

  • j.martindale

    I know that the “persona” issue is important for electoral success in America, but it is a shame the American public doesn’t spend nearly as much thought on policy as they do personality. Frankly, Clinton’s “authenticity” is totally irrelevant to my vote. Her performance in office is all that matters.

  • Nurul Aman

    There couldn’t be more authentic candidate for 2016 Presidential campaign than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary represents America by every aspects of American interests starting from the issues of gender equality, justice for fair pay, diversity, education, poverty and income inequality, reshaping the foreign policy, investing in 21st century technology, taking on outdated conservative ideologies, and you name it. She is the only candidate so far to lead America for nation of greater prosperity and economic growth for everyone instead of a few.

  • browninghipower

    Thanks for the breath of fresh air regarding Hillary, Gene. I know you’ll get pilloried for writing this, but no matter.

  • bernieo

    When Hillary was working on health care reform she went around the country talking to people working in our health care system (and was excoriated for not always including the media circus, something Cheney did with a lot less media complaining).She went to a medical center in a small Midwestern city where my friend’s husband, a doctor, worked. He was not a fan, to say the least, but he and his colleagues were pleasantly surprised and impressed by how reasonable and knowledgeable she was and how willing she was to get their input. This was not some staged public event, either.

    She was also hammered on the left for sitting on the board of Walmart but I have read that by building those kinds of relationships she was able to get Sam Walton’s support for a tax increase on corporations to help pay for Arkansas desperately needed education reforms. She also pushed Walmart to make their stores more energy efficient but since she did not get them to change their policies on women workers she is denounced by the left.
    Hillary has clear ideals but unlike so many liberals busy making the perfect the enemy of the good she knows how to practice the politics of the possible, taking wins where she can get them.

  • John King

    I am very happy with Hillary finances…..if I have to judge her, let’s first judge every member of congress and base on that, let us see how many members are left! The republicans are just too full of themselves! Just like they show homophobic tendencies, but are closet homosexuals. They complain about giving free money to the American population in terms of benefits and they are the biggest recipients of government wealth- fare. I support Hillary cause she has committed her long effort to our public service and has done a lot to advance our general discourse. Her efforts on health-care for all should be applauded which helped the current law navigate away from previous pitfall to the now Obama Care!
    Hillary – The LOGG – The Liberator for Our Great Government! The Women Nation support you! And Men throughout America support you!

  • Darsan54

    I am sorry Hillary is running, but not because I disagree with her as a candidate. More out of sympathy for all the batcrap crazeeee which is going to rain down on her. Reports make her out to be a decent person who also doesn’t waste a lot of time on fools. And gawdnose, there are enough of them.