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Monday, August 21, 2017

 

Picasso would love Hillary Clinton, with her constantly changing Cubist angles. Painting the 68-year-old — from Illinois, New York, Washington or Arkansas, take your pick — would never grow old. Even the master might have a hard time capturing her character and pinning it down.

As fickle, fateful Iowa caucuses come Monday, presidential candidates have been sized up like livestock at the state fair. None more than Clinton. She took all tough questions thrown at her at the town hall with verve.

It’s abundantly clear that she’s got game, playing to win in a state where she lost to freshman Senator Barack Obama, whose words touched the stars in 2008.

The first black president made multitudes rejoice, but his record of advancing the social status of blacks is thin, reactive, lukewarm at best. Ending solitary confinement for juveniles took seven years.

His singing graced the mourning of a tragic race-related murder in South Carolina, but I mean Martin Luther King Jr.-level advancements, like rights, jobs, wages, education, laws and opportunity.

Will Clinton do better by women? Sure hope so. She believes in progress by laws, she said.

Beholding the cusp of the first woman American president, I encounter vastly conflicting views of Clinton every 24 hours. They are like snowflakes in your eyes in a storm, for she means many different things.

Take two Midwestern girls. Mackenzie and Jordynn, African-American sisters, ages 6 and 4. “My girls now want to be president because of her,” their mother Jencelyn King-Witzel told me.

Girls can’t vote, but they can dream. Mothers are taking daughters on the Clinton campaign trail so they will remember this moment in history.

A 5-year-old in my family was asked if she wanted to campaign for Clinton in another state. She went upstairs and packed her suitcase.

On the other end of the spectrum, take brilliant memoirist Susan Groag Bell, the late women’s historian whose 90th birthday would have been this week. Born to elegance in Central Europe, Susan and her mother escaped the Nazis, but her father was deported to a concentration camp.

Susan was educated in England, from age 12, by the kindness shown to war refugees. She studied at Stanford University and lived in California, where she picked up her pen to write and teach pathbreaking studies of European women’s lives, including Christine de Pisan, a medieval French poet. Susan lived until 2015, but would have dearly wished to witness a woman president.

The Washington Post conservative columnist, Kathleen Parker, just took a more jaded view of Clinton, her fellow baby boomer: “Or, is it that she is reflexively prone to dissemble?”

Journalists are a skeptical lot, and have pursued Clinton’s husband hard for an unseemly affair that was a private sin, not a constitutional crime. Some seem unwilling to forgive her for his betrayal.

Parker revived an infamous line by William Safire, the late op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 1996, Safire labeled the first lady “a congenital liar” as the Whitewater investigation raged against the Clintons, which, by the way, led like a snake to the sex scandal. How convenient. His enemies thought President Clinton was the Titanic, but he was the iceberg.

And Hillary Clinton is the shipwreck survivor. Another Cubist view.

A senior military man feels open to supporting Clinton, but fears her private email record, with careless handling of secret material as secretary of state, may lead to an indictment for her or her top aides.

A pragmatic read is that nothing will soon get done on the domestic policy front, with Congress wrangling, but Clinton is the best-prepared candidate to handle foreign policy.

Yes, she mended fences around the world as Obama’s star Cabinet player. Then again, she voted for the Iraq War; the lady is a hawk. It took Clinton a decade to admit that major mistake as senator. She has her pride, a character flaw. You can see it now, how hard it is to say sorry. Strong women are like that.

If you believe in something cosmic stirring, the morning after the snowstorm in Washington, Jan. 26, only two women senators were on the floor, with only women there to start morning business. “As we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female,” said Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

That first in history felt “genuinely fabulous.”

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to her introduction at a campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa, United States, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young