David Brooks mused, “Why is Clinton disliked?” and then proceeded to tell us that because we don’t know what she does for fun — macrame? crossword puzzles? barrel roping? — we can’t really know her and therefore we can’t like her.
Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.
People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.
I think there’s a simpler reason. After twenty-five years of demonization, sexism, misogyny, and the full-throated attacks from the Right-Wing Noise Machine on every aspect of her life from her wardrobe to hairstyle to the way she laughs, it’s little wonder that the public’s perception of her is skewed to the negative. And who in the world would willingly put up with that?
If you want to understand her in the context of the forces allayed against her, I strongly recommend you read this profile by Tom Junod in Esquire.
Of course, she sounded paranoid back when she first said it—participants in apocalyptic battles always sound paranoid when they first say they’re participants in apocalyptic battles. They sound especially paranoid when they answer a question in apocalyptic terms when the question was really about, well, blowjobs. This was a long time ago. This was back in 1998. Bill Clinton was the president of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. He’d offended people by being a resourceful rascal. She’d offended people by saying something about cookies. They’d both offended people by trying and failing to bring about universal health care and by trying (and sort of failing) to allow gays to serve openly in the military. They’d been under investigation for years for something they’d supposedly done in Arkansas when, really, everyone knew the investigation was about sex—and secrets. He’d been accused of rape in the nascent right-wing press; she’d been accused of murder; and now they were finally caught. He had a secret, indeed—he’d had sex with a young woman in the White House and he’d testified, under oath, that he hadn’t. He had sinned all right; he had sinned against her, his wife, so that now even she couldn’t defend him. But she did. And she defended him by inveighing against them—against the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
She sounded a little crazy. She sounded guilty of, at the very least, bad faith. Except that what she was saying turned out to be true—there really was an obscurely wealthy man, Richard Mellon Scaife, bankrolling the attacks against her and her husband; there really was a right-wing media spawned by structural changes overtaking the news business, and it had found, in the Clintons, the template for every story that was to follow. Her only error was a matter of language. She used the word vast to describe what she faced. It wasn’t vast, yet—
It is now. Nearly 30 years later, Richard Mellon Scaife has evolved into the Koch brothers, the then-fledgling right-wing media now claims the biggest and most powerful cable-news network among its ranks, and the money unleashed by the Citizens United decision has conjured a ring of super PACs organized specifically against her candidacy. The vast right-wing conspiracy is still here, and yet—and here’s the thing—so is she. The vast right-wing conspiracy has outlasted everybody but her. From the start, the attacks on her have had a tendency to resolve themselves in the most mundane terms—the Whitewater investigation turned out to be about a husband lying about infidelity; the Benghazi investigation turned out to be about, of all things, Sidney Blumenthal. But that doesn’t mean that both sides haven’t known the stakes all along. She’s always chosen to fight on metaphysical ground; she’s always defended herself cosmically because she’s been attacked cosmically, and so she’s lived to fight another day. But now that day is here. She helped create the modern right wing; the modern right wing helped create her; and now there is no place for them to go except at each other. The 2016 election is nothing less than the climactic event of the last three decades of American politics, and—it’s an amazing and scary thing to be able to write these words without irony—the future of the Free World lies in the balance.
So no, I really don’t care if she does the New York Times crossword puzzle. And neither should you.