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?


“Beer Summit”- Teachable Moment or Insult?

So was anything really accomplished at Thursday’s meeting between President Barack Obama, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley? Perhaps, in its own way, it was an amicable means of defusing what threatened to become a racial time bomb. The July 16th incident, and the president’s reaction to it, touched off a media firestorm only partly explained by the fact it’s summer, and media typically trolls for news about now.

obama beer summit

I have to admit, there’s a part of me that takes umbrage at the notion that this meeting represented a watershed event in US race relations. In fact, the idea of a “beer summit” insults the memories of people like Medgar Evers, the four little girls bombed to death in the basement of a Birmingham church, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner. These were people who died so these three plus Vice President Joe Biden could share that beer at the White House.

A harsh assessment? Maybe. But in this age of media hype, there’s no other way to put it. Put simply, could Gates have chilled a bit when confronted by Crowley? Sure. Could Crowley have defused the situation instead of blowing it up by arresting Gates? Yep. Could Obama have chosen his words more carefully, so as not to stoke the media fire? Yes again. Yet none of these things rise to the level of scrutiny the incident has received.

Why all the fuss? Because by using the words “acted stupidly”, Barack Obama stepped out of his assigned role as America’s non racial black president. Suddenly, as far as the media was concerned, he became a spokesman for his race. You can almost hear people thinking, “Geez, we didn’t elect him to talk about racial injustice. Racial responsibility, fine. But not this”.

Which brings up the question, why not this? Why shouldn’t this president be as free to talk about race in  this context as, say, Bill Clinton was? Why hasn’t the issue of racial profiling moved beyond the occasional story in local media? Alas, Barack Obama learned he won’t be able to opine about these sorts of things in the future. Politically, the cost was too high.

When you’re trying to get health care reform passed, talking about race creates a problem. Barack Obama knows this, just as he knows knocking back a cold one with Crowley and Gates won’t change the attitude of that Boston cop who referred to Gates as a “jungle monkey”.

That actually takes work. So just what did Thursday’s beerfest actually accomplish? You tell me.

Why is Mark Sanford Still Talking? Why is He Still in Office?

The bizarro governor of South Carolina seems incapable of shutting his yap. During the past week or so, this guy has admitted he lied to his staff about an Appalachian Trail hike, when instead he was visiting his mistress in Argentina.

Since then, he’s said, among other things, that his wife knew about the affair, that he asked her permission to visit the woman, that she was his soul mate, that he’d messed around with other women but hadn’t had sex with them. Let’s see, did I leave anything out?


Sanford, you may remember, was full of righteous indignation about the sexual foibles of Bill Clinton. He’s also the fool who didn’t want to take stimulus money even though his state’s education system badly needed it.

The people of South Carolina must suffer fools gladly. So must Sanford’s wife Jenny and their four kids. Talk about public embarrassment!

But this isn’t really about that. It’s more about a sitting governor being addle brained enough to drop looking after the business of the people of his state to follow his heart (or another part of his anatomy) all the way to South America. Is it any wonder he’s refused to release financial records that might show whether he used taxpayer funds to hang out with this woman in the past?

Equally as hilarious is the notion that Mark Sanford can somehow redeem his marriage by staying on as governor.

Jenny sanford

If there’s a connection between these things, it escapes me. It also escapes a growing chorus of voices in his home state that are calling on him to resign. Those who support him are telling the press he’s tired, but showing no signs of instability. Is that what it takes to govern  an American state in the 21st century? No sign of instability?

The amazing thing about the litany of serial political adulterers is that party affiliation has little to do with whether they stray. Democrats do it just like Republicans. Liberals, conservatives, religious zealots, it just doesn’t matter. I think I know why they do it, but I won’t share it here, lest I be called sexist or worse.

However, there is this to ponder. Very few women in politics get caught up in the foolishness that’s nailed the likes of Eliot Spitzer, John Ensign, Larry Craig, David Vitter, Bill Clinton, Mark Foley, and yes, I’ve left some out.

Why is that? Yes, there are fewer female elected officials, but are they better at not getting caught? Are they smarter? Or perhaps, are they just not drunk enough with power to think any member of the opposite sex they fancy is fair game?

Whatever. The central question is, Can Mark Sanford survive the calls for his political head? I’m guessing no, not too much longer.

What do you think?

Will Straying Politicians Ever Learn? John Ensign says…Nope!

So another politician has had to admit to an extra-marital affair. This is it’s Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign. He slipped out of DC Tuesday, and flew home to Vegas to fess up. Although many people might not have heard of this guy, he was considered a rising star in an increasingly barren Republican landscape.

Darlene and John Ensign

Darlene and John Ensign

No more. Having to admit an affair with a former campaign staffer who is married to one of your former legislative aides will have that effect.

What’s amazing about Ensign is that he has a long history of righteous indignation about the foibles of others. Back in 1998, then Rep. Ensign was one of the loudest voices calling on Bill Clinton to resign in the wake of the Lewinsky affair. More recently, he played a lead role in trying to force the resignation of  then- Senator Larry Craig after he got caught up in that airport bathroom sex sting. At least Ensign showed a willingness to rip folks in both parties.

However, like so many others before him, John Ensign didn’t think the morality he demanded of others applied in any way to his own conduct. It seems politicians have a blind spot whether it’s Ensign or John Edwards, or any number of others. It’s like sex is an entitlement program, to be tapped at will regardless of long term cost. Ensign is a member of the Senate GOP leadership. He’s thought to be one of his party’s leading social conservatives, someone a shattered party could build their hopes on rather than having to rely on Newt Gingrich or Dick Cheney.

Oops! And here’s the interesting part. Ensign himself wasn’t above a little self promotion as a new face on the Republican scene. Just as John Edwards thought no one would find out about his dalliances as he ran for president, Ensign must have believed his December to August romance would never see the light of day.

For an electorate that’s seen so much scandal, sexual and otherwise in recent years, there must be an air of resignation, at least in some quarters. There doesn’t appear to be any way voters can predict whether or when people they elect will violate their trust. In the case of  Senator John Ensign, it’s three long years until he’s up for reelection. It goes without saying he’s not going to resign before then. Yet this public fall from grace underscores an unchanging truth, one thast socially conservative politicians would do well to remember.

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The GOP keeps placing its emphasis on faith and moral values. Then one of their own comes along and messes it all up.

Can someone please explain this to me?