Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Laughing Gas

As if we don’t have enough things to think about, now, as Howard Kurtz notes, all the pundits are analyzing Hillary Clinton’s laugh.

Forget the cleavage. It’s now about the cackle.

No joke: Hillary Clinton’s laugh is now being analyzed, scrutinized and, yes, mocked as if it were a sound barrier on her glide path to the Democratic presidential nomination: Is it real? Is it fake? Is it a diabolically clever attempt to portray her as a human being?

What a hoot.

Jon Stewart, setting the pace for political journalism, kicked things off last week by assembling a grab bag of giggling and guffawing when the senator appeared on all five Sunday talk shows, from a barn outside her Chappaqua, N.Y., home. As Clinton was seen bursting into belly laughs– sometimes oddly and abruptly — at queries by the likes of Bob Schieffer and Chris Wallace, the “Daily Show” host likened her to a robot switching into chuckle mode when aggressive interrogators needed to be neutralized.

Suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of the punch line, examining whether The Laugh met some vaguely defined standard of acceptability.

“Depending on who you ask,” ABC’s Kate Snow said on “Good Morning America,” “Hillary Clinton is either having a really good time out on the campaign trail, or she’s the master of a shrewd political skill disarming her critics with the gleam in her eye and a roar straight from the belly.”

How about the possibility that she’s laughing at all the people who are having conniptions about what she’s laughing at. Or perhaps she’s thinking that the people who are asking her the questions are assholes and her response is better than telling them to get bent.

People really get uncomfortable when they get the impression that they’re not being taken seriously, and that can be really upsetting to people like Chris Wallace and Sean Hannity, whose livelihoods depend on not being made fools of — too late for either of them. So when Hillary Clinton laughs at them, it throws them off, and they get all freaked out: You can’t laugh at us! We’re pundits!


And I can’t help but think there’s another angle to this story — Mr. Kurtz obliquely alludes to it with the cleavage reference — and that’s sexism. Hillary Clinton’s laugh is somehow something to be mocked and analyzed because women aren’t supposed to have hearty laughs; they’re supposed to cackle like witches or giggle like a schoolgirl. I don’t see the pundits all over the men in the race for their chuckles or bellylaughs, and while we have all given President Bush a run for his money with his Bevis-and-Butthead heh-heh-heh, we haven’t psychoanalyzed it to the point of questioning his manhood by the manner in which he laughs…or chortles…or whatever the hell that sound is supposed to be. But let a woman get off a good laugh and it’s all about their claim to power or, even worse, trying to be like a man. Now that’s something to laugh at.