Ruth Marcus doesn't care much for the post-debate spin coming from Hillary Clinton or her spin teams. In a mild rebuke, Marcus tells Clinton that acting like a damsel in distress hardly helps uphold the feminist ideal. Instead of crying sexism, Clinton should revel in her front-runner status:
The Hill newspaper, listening in on a conference call with Clinton fundraisers, quoted chief strategist Mark Penn being even more explicit about the "backlash" he was detecting among female voters: "Those female voters are saying, 'Sen. Clinton needs our support now more than ever if we're going to see this six-on-one to try to bring her down.' "
Please. The Philadelphia debate was not exactly a mob moment to trigger the Violence Against Women Act; if anything, this has been an overly (pardon the phrase) gentlemanly campaign to date. Those other guys were beating up on Clinton, if you can call that beating up, because she is the strong front-runner, not because she is a weak woman.
And a candidate as strong as Clinton doesn't need to play the woman-as-victim card, not even in "the all-boys club of presidential politics," as Clinton called it in a speech yesterday at her all-women alma mater, Wellesley College. I have a pretty good nose for sexism, and what I detected in the air from Philadelphia was not sexism but the desperation of candidates confronting a front-runner who happens to be a woman.
Unfortunately, Marcus tempers her criticism with plaudits for the strategists. Penn, she says, is playing "a pretty good game of rope-a-dope". Hillary is channeling her "inner Rodgers and Hammerstein" with her frequent references to gender. So how does Marcus get from those cheers to jeers when Hillary decides to blame a bad night on the mean boys?
Marcus and Hillary want it both ways. Marcus endorses the idea that a female President will change attitudes towards women, but one would think that backwards. Women get elected to office because attitudes have already changed. They have proven themselves as capable as men, and as able to handle the tough decisions as men, and until now, the sharp debate and criticism as well.
Hillary set that last cause back a few steps, and Marcus fails to realize it. By playing the damsel in distress, she wants to eat her cake and have it, too. Hillary wants to project strength but pull a fainting spell when other candidates treat her as an equal -- and as a frontrunner -- by challenging her on her policies. A fainting spell might serve as a distraction from the two disastrous answers she gave in the debate, but America won't elect Scarlett O'Hara as President. The voters want strength in the Oval Office, not passive-aggressive hypocrisy.