Is Hillary Jealous of Bill? Or was it sexism?

Jealousy probably is the wrong word to use, but that’s exactly what a lot of media watchers concluded after the Secretary of State got testy in answering a question thought to be about her husband. Bill Clinton, you see, casts a long shadow. His work in freeing those two journalists from North Korea sent speculation abuzz.

What new role might he play in an Obama Administration? Did he freelance? How much did Hillary know about the mission in advance? There were even jokes about his being on the plane with two women.

For a lot of people, this meant the Big Dog was back.

For his wife, it meant having to share the spotlight on a situation that’s normally handled by her office. And remember, this is a woman who came close to being President of the United States, and now handles foreign policy for the most powerful nation in the world. So how is this made manifest?

A university student in Kinshasa, Congo asks her what was translated as “Mr. Clinton” would think about a World Bank concern regarding a Chinese loan offer to the Congolese government. Clinton fired back, “My husband is not Secretary of State. I am”. If you look at the video of her response, her exasperation is clear.

And you know what? She’s got a point.

Reverse the people involved here, and ask yourself if Bill Clinton would have been asked a similar question in an identical situation. Maybe, maybe not, but could Mrs. Clinton have been reacting to what she felt was a sexist inference? To add an ironic twist to the saga, ABC News says the translator got the question wrong, and that the student was actually asking what President Obama, not former President Clinton thought of that loan offer.

So now we’ll go through at least one news cycle with snarky talking heads, male and female, cocking their eyebrows and asking “What’s wrong with Hillary”? And the substantive work she’s been doing since her appointment will mean nothing. Is she getting enough rest? Will Bill be ordered to fade into the shadows? How are they really getting along?

And once again, we’ll see one unintended consequence of cable news without end. I’ve talked about it far too many times on this blog, but only the demands of the 24 hour news machine can take a possibly misunderstood question and run with it like this. And that’s because we as news/political junkies need our fix.

Too bad. But what do you think?

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49 thoughts on “Is Hillary Jealous of Bill? Or was it sexism?”

  1. Perhaps, under jet lag, she was in the kind of mood Henry Louis Gates was in when at the end of his trip to the other side of the planet somebody caught him unprepared for what looked like the sort of inappropriate behavior he had had to put up with in many previous instances.

    The question I haven’t seen asked is how do you think Obama felt about having his name translated as “Mr. Clinton?” It’s not a question of who the sos is but who the president is. Do you suppose Obama is jealous? Is it sexism that prevents that question from being asked?

  2. If I was having a press conference about my work and somebody asked me what my husband was thinking about something, I’d say (and when someone has asked me what my spouse thinks about something – not in a press conference), I have said,

    “Ask my husband. He speaks for himself.”.

    Like you said, it’s “fill the news cycle” with crap (my word) and sexism also. Hey, did they mention what she was wearing?

  3. I think as the Secretary of State, a person can be expected to control their emotional out bursts the same way police officers are expected to hold in their emotional responses. Is what she did forgivable? Yes. Will the press let it be forgotten soon? Maybe not. At lease on the newscasts I heard they followed up with the info that there was a mistake on the part of the person asking the question. It’s bothersome because it’s not the first time I’ve seen her looking emotionally wrought. (The final weeks of her presidential campaign.) I feel conflicted because she seems much like my mother at difficult family gatherings. Is this fair? I don’t think so. Is this the finest woman we can find for a position of leadership and power. I don’t think so. But maybe it’s who it will be to get us to next step. Sonia Sotomayor seems nothing like my mother.

  4. As I’ve indicated on my own blog, this is merely Hillary letting her guard down momentarily; showing a brief glimpse as to her true nature – one that is filled with contempt for husband and having to (continue to) live in his shadow.

    “Jet-lagged?” I’ve heard the state-run media offering the same pithy excuse. In short, it is inexcusable behavior…certainly by the lady who professed she would work soundly under any set of circumstances…least of all which include that nefarious 3 a.m. phone ringing…

  5. The Secretary of State is our nation’s top diplomat. A diplomat needs to keep a cool head and be understanding of cultural differences. I feel Hillary failed as a diplomat on that day in the Congo. Even if the questioner had asked about her husband, so what? She could have politely said that while her husband is very supportive of her work, he does not tell her how to do her job.

  6. If a man had said something similar, he would have been lauded for sticking up for himself and for being “tough.” Because a woman’s involved here, she’s a “bitch” or she’s “sick” (“jet-lagged”). Puh-leeze. This is all about sexism, and few places in America are more sexist than the Corporate Media.

  7. I am really surprised that so many people are giving Hillary such a hard time about this. Are you serious? I thought her “outburst” was very mild, and she was completely in the right to do so. You would never hear anyone at a press conference asking a man what his wife thought of an important issue, and it is extremely insulting to Hillary on two levels: both as an official in one of the highest offices in America and as a woman. I don’t think she was “letting her guard down” or “cranky;” I think she was doing what she should have done. Last I knew, it wasn’t a sin to get a little upset about being disrespected, and I do not think people would be reacting the same if it were a man. If the phrase would have been “I’m not going to channel my wife,” no one would have thought twice except perhaps to make a joke about the asker for asking such a ridiculous question.

  8. We may never really know if the translation was incorrect or if the question really was about Bill Clinton, but mistake or no, it gave us the frustrated side of a Hillary that has become less than she feels she was meant to be.

    Iw was the republic of Congo, after all, and men are expected to be naturally sexist, but from behind how many shadows must Hillary emerge? Are women, even those with power stil just the little misses in the back of our minds?

    http://splashinthepacific.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/hillary-still-just-mrs-billy-boy/

  9. Long ago Hillary made it clear that she was not some “little woman” “standin’ by her man.” Yet, she has had to stand beneath him for decades. The simple truth is that, as I’ve stated, Billy (twice) accomplished what Hillary so miserably failed to achieve. He was even able to out-shine her in his latest dealing with N. Korea/Kim Jong Il, when she left N. Korea with nothing other than they having called her names – her dealing with N. Korea resulting in nothng other than schoolyard antics.

    The bottom line however remains that, as she so quickly quipped, she is our nation’s top officer of diplomacy. She is the one who, by her own proclaimation, is to be counted upon to handle any situation ,at any time (day or night), with professionalism and experience. This behavior, regardless of “translation errors,” evidences nothing other than a juvenile, petulant woman, ill-equipped to handle her position. Those suggesting that “things would be different had a man” acted the same way are merely offering up a red herring; that scenario did not occur. Rather, Hillary, the most senior-level diplomat of the President’s Cabinet made this statement. She should, though I am certain her ego and sense of entitlement will not permit her, be thoroughly ashamed of herself. Likewise she should realize she is entirely incapable of ever fulfilling her duties by acting in such a childish manner.

  10. Why can’t everyone be human every once in awhile. She has a job that most wouldn’t want and has a husband who is popular. I admire her for not hiding after his affairs and standing up to be true to herself. She raised what seems to be a wonderful daughter, ran for president and almost won and now is Secretary of State. She isn’t her husband she is herself and I respect her greatly. People or press are ready to aim at any moment that they put it on the air rather than put her other comments or accomplishments for that day or week on the air. It sells, it gets our attention. Go Hiliary and every other person trying to make a diffrence.

  11. I had read about the exchange Hilary Clinton had at that gathering, but never saw the video until today. I understand how she felt, and would agree 100% with her reaction if it had been expressed to an American source here in the country. The problem is, she IS the Secretary of State. I see that position as pivital to how other countries see America, and to how they react to America. It doens’t mean we always have to spread good will all the time, because that is just not possible. However, Hildary Clinton took it one step further. If she had stood up like a knowledgeable professor with plenty of authority and responded almost with those same words, I would have thought she had done her job well. However, instead, she seemed to take the thing as an insult, was taken aback, and appeared to roll her eyes. These are cues that our rebellious children use to rail against parental authority. These actions are not generally considered respectful to persons in and out of authority. So, besides striking a somewhat disrespectful pose, she also appeared to act more as a person with minimal authority, just like our teenagers. For me, it should have been a teachable moment (which is why Obama won the presidency – he is an expert at teachable moments.) We can never expect the world to develop the same culture as we have here – their economies, surroundings, family structure, histories, etc. would make that just naturally unattainable. However, there are some issues which really matter, such as how all humans, regardless of race, social position, creed, and gender treat each other. If she had understood that responsibility and the required dynamics, it would have been second nature to address the issue in a winning manner.

  12. Just goes to show you that “what you believe, influences what you perceive.” My reaction is that she hardly showed much emotion at all. She was simply stating a fact and clarifying the question. Seems there is always some critic looking to blow up out of context a no-big-deal event. Glad they are at least showing the video. You can even see the wry smile on her face.

  13. Excellant point.. Not a political stance as others made absolving Hillary and chastising Sarah. Woman’s ac tivist can take note of this double standard, too.

  14. Hi, first time reader and commenter – great post! I think that Hillary was probably caught off guard. What I’ve found to be so disheartening (but not surprising) about this experience is the media’s interest in sensationalizing and essentially gossiping about how she reacted, rather than focus on the purpose of her trip, among many things, to raise awareness about rape being used as warfare. Priorities people. And I mean you no offense for I feel like blogs are a perfect forum for this type of social analyzing. Newspapers and the talking heads, on the other hand, really ought to let it go and focus.

    Someone mentioned above that she failed as a diplomat that day…I seriously doubt that the hundred’s of thousands of African women, children and the men in their lives who have been victimized and left helpless and voiceless by rape warfare would agree with that. Her presence there and her persistence on this issue is a WIN.

  15. If what is going on down there is factual, then talking about the problem certainly isn’t dealing with it. Is this any worse than what went on in Iraq?

  16. If? Rape warfare has been going on in several African countries for 20 years. It’s not a question of “if” at this point. I have no interest in which is worse, that or Iraq…though if I had to choose I’d say starting an illegal war is maybe a little bit lower on the evil scale than hordes of babies, children and women being raped in one day (over 200,000 in ONE decade long war alone). Secretary Clinton was there to plead with the governments to do whatever they can to bring this practice to a halt. What the result will be remains to be seen. My point was that she was there to do her job and she did so who cares if she snapped at a reporter?

  17. It’s more than clear that Hillary has not inherited the charisma of her infamous husband, despite years of studying him firsthand. There is a reason Obama did not send Hillary to North Korea. Instead, he set up a diversionary mission to Africa where she can practice her diplomatic skills without having to deal with the “Men Only Club” of ruthless women hating dictators.

    Hopefully, the African Trip will help season our new foreign diplomat and prepare her for more challenging missions.

  18. The problem with losing your cool is you only realize you’ve lost it after the fact. Pretty funny clip. I’m Canadian so I won’t comment politically other than to say its humorous to watch someone talk of women’s rights while she is essentially forced to stay in a sham of a marriage because of what people would think. The oppressed leading the oppressed. OK, that’s a bit of a stretch yes, but it is silly.

    Softmelon

  19. I honestly believe it was sexism. If the secretary of state were a man, this would not have been getting that much attention, but because it is a woman people are saying ‘oh, she shouldn’t act that way.” She’s tired of talking about the man, and I believe her reaction was warranted.

  20. What’s the big deal about Hillary popping her cork? She didn’t even use salty language! Man my momma was scarier with a rolling pin in her hand! Bill Clinton and Al Gore may be past their prime but they can still get Hillary boiling!

    These road trips are kind of strange anyway. We need her to focus on getting our soldiers out of more conflicts! We still have troops stationed from Bill Clinton’s internvention in Kosovo!

  21. and she was completely in the right to do so

    I absolutely agree. The way she heard the question, it’s entirely understandable that she was annoyed, and her annoyed response wasn’t even very drastic.

    If anything, this event is another example of the large group of people willing to pounce on her for even the slightest perceived error.

  22. I think this is just an issue of over-reaction on all sides. Sec Clinton was a little brisk, the questioner was misunderstood and the news media is always hungry for a gaff of any sort. Even a small one like this.

    In the end I don’t see sexism nor anything except people being people in the whole event.

  23. You know if I was in her position and visiting a country where they do not have the best report card when it comes to women’s rights, I might get a little irritable as well. Wasn’t she there for a forum to talk about women’s rights & other issues affecting women. So who went ahead and asked that dumb question anyway? Maybe that is why she seemed to take offense at the question. If Hilary was there to talk about rights for women, then it’s logical to ask “why are you asking me about my husband”. Something to consider maybe.

  24. @ Jacksonian Lawyer.. I do agree with what you say.. and I would go to the extent of saying that Hillary put up with Bill in spite of the scandal only to ensure that her ambitions do not suffer from the fallout of a broken marriage. She is a highly ambitious woman, which is not wrong in itself but in her case she is not equipped by way of either diplomancy or intellect to achieve what she has set out to. I would say that the people of US should thank their lucky stars that she is not their president !!!

  25. I would go to the extent of saying that Hillary put up with Bill in spite of the scandal only to ensure that her ambitions do not suffer from the fallout of a broken marriage. She is a highly ambitious woman, which is not wrong in itself but in her case she is not equipped by way of either diplomancy or intellect to achieve what she has set out to. I would say that the people of US should thank their lucky stars that she is not their president !!!

  26. Our Former First Lady’s Example of Etiquette

    When we are learning the rules of etiquette from Emily Post or Janette Dillerstone – make sure we follow examples of ladies to admire, for example Hilary Clinton. See this video and you decide who has behaved in a more ladylike manner, Hilary Clinton or Monica Lewinsky. Mrs. Clinton as a representative of our country, please try to not be so crass, ill tempered and irrate. It doesnt suit you well. And Mr. Clinton what a tremendous humanitarian job you did in bringing back our citizens from North Korea. The university student in Kinshasa, Congo who asked the question, we as citizens from the United States apologize for the rude and unladylike behavior from our former first lady, not president and unfortunately secretary of state.

    My post responds to yours: http://janettedillerstone.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/hilaryclintonetiquette/

  27. No there is a manner that one must uphold, whether man or woman, when you represent the country. Look at all the kookiness that goes on w a pageant, miss america, miss universe etc. Look at those who are sports members, they must behave appropriately in public and it they dont they are penalized. Wasnt there something most recently w Tiger Woods as well. Even as parents, we represent our family and children. We must behave appropriately and keep our children proud of us. There are so many examples that I am trying to give to you. There is simply no excuse for HIlary Clinton to bite off this university students head. Whether it was meant for Obama, a language error or if the young lady did think that Clinton was the Secretary of State or maybe she was just asking what did former President Bill Clinton think, who cares?!?! Just behave like a lady not some redneck! Good Grief.

  28. For Hillary to even consider herself a role model for woman’s rights after tolerating her infidel husbands indegressions is quite absurd. and unfortunately, that stigma will follow her forever.

  29. I’m not a Hillary fan …she has every right to get pissed but should have held that tongue of hers and showed a little class. No wonder Ole bill messed around. Watch her she a snake in the grass… wonder how Hillary and Peloski gets along?

    Seems to me the Dems don’t mind people seeing them sweat or maybe they’re just plain losing it…Not very Professional and I’m not just referring her…The Democrat party in general …

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