Tina Brown, founder of The Daily Beast, decided to school Sarah Palin this week. She wrote “What Hillary Can Teach Sarah Palin” and set the stage by describing a swearing in ceremony between Clinton and longtime coworker Melanne Verveerin, indulging in flowery language that hasn’t been used since Shakespeare laid his pen to rest:
“The scene was a great snapshot of two battle-tested empty nesters, both handsome blown-out blondes in their early 60s, both wearing consummately safe alpha-female pantsuits (Hillary in self-possessed powder blue, her new ambassador in respectful grey), both dedicated policy wonks who worked on behalf of oppressed women in unpronounceable places long before it was fashionable, both mothers (a grandmother in Verveer’s case) with hunky husbands (anchorman-handsome Philip Verveer is a powerful communications lawyer in Washington and soon to be the State Department’s U.S. coordinator for international communications with the rank of ambassador himself).”
There’s a subtle fashion inference here before the hard-hitting advice comes: if you want to be taken seriously, Palin, wear an alpha female pantsuit — and dye your hair blond.
Brown (a blown-out blonde herself) found two other nuggets of advice for Palin in Clinton’s alpha female performance: “Study up — and shut up” and “[c]heerfulness is more impressive than resentment.” Brown suggests life for Palin isn’t nearly as tough as life for Clinton: “Is the secretary of State lugging around a Palin-size grudge about having to play a subservient role to the man who humbled her at the polls?”
The idea of the Clintons not harboring resentment makes me chuckle. This is, after all, the administration that reportedly took the ‘W’s off the White House keyboards. Hillary Clinton is in Obama’s administration precisely because she can’t let go of power. She still hasn’t gotten over leaving the White House. When Bill’s political career fizzled out, she found her own. Now, she would rather accept a political position from a rival — and espouse views she previously criticized — rather than go back to the Senate. She’s determined that what happened to Bill won’t happen to her. She’s the ultimate Desperate Housewife.
Which brings me to the lesson that Sarah Palin can teach one of the most prominent liberal female politicians: You don’t need to ride a man’s coattails to become a political player.
You can talk ‘til you run out of oxygen about Clinton’s Ivy League education, her fashion or lack thereof, her smarts, her successes, or the shady rumors that surround the Clinton political machine. But would you have ever heard of Hillary had it not been for Bill? Bill was governor of Arkansas. It was his election to the White House that gave us Hillary Rodham-Clinton. And eventually, she cashed in on his name for a Senate seat.
Look at another liberal darling, Michelle Obama. The woman who wasn’t proud of her country (until her husband was nominated for the presidency) wasn’t going anywhere fast. Michelle and Hillary achieved their status the same way Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan achieved theirs. Neither Bill nor Barack are “First Dudes.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but, for some reason, liberals can’t stand it.
Brown’s rhetoric gets nasty. Palin has shown the utmost respect for Clinton — remember the governor’s introductory speech in the 2008 campaign, when she praised the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling? Yet Brown treats her thus:
“I felt someone should pluck the combustible Alaskan away from whatever rancid talk show she was headed for and make her watch a vignette of what real female power looks like.”
Ms. Brown, this is what real female power looks like to women of my generation: a woman who knows how to dress, who balanced an 86% job approval rating while having a kid in office, who knows how to defend her family (and force an apology from a high-priced liberal TV personality), who can participate in a beauty contest, on a basketball court, and shoot a gun. You can love or hate Sarah Palin, but she is as powerful a woman as you will see.
Clinton achieved her national introduction the way scheming women have been doing it since time immemorial — through marriage. I’m not saying Clinton’s not smart enough, or that she didn’t love her husband, or that there’s something wrong with marriage. But Hillary never indicated she was looking forward to the day when the only thing on her schedule was spending time with Bill after eight long years in the presidency. She tasted power, and she wanted more.
Brown concedes Palin may have a brighter political future than Clinton but argues that she doesn’t know how to use her talents. Go help disabled children, or teen pregnancy, Brown begs her, rather than “ginning up celebrity feuds.” Not sure if Brown was listening last year, but Palin said during the campaign that one area she would work on as vice president would be the interest of special needs children. Thanks to Palin, that actually became an issue.
Brown adds, “Yet if Palin added some depth to her knowledge, she has so much she could offer. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a mother of five who translated what she wanted for her kids into fighting for affordable health care and clean air.”
Nancy Pelosi? Another pantsuited perpetrator? Does Brown forget that Palin is a mother of five who got her start as a PTA, not because her father was mayor of Baltimore? Pelosi is knowledgeable enough to accuse the CIA of lying and overestimate the number of working Americans in the country by several million.
If you’re going to teach Sarah Palin, Ms. Brown, you first need to learn a lot more yourself.
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