"I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life." That was Hillary Clinton's answer to queries about whether she could have avoided possible conflicts of interest between her husband being the governor and work given to the law firm at which she was a partner. This came up in 1992, when her husband, Bill, was running for president. This statement was, at the time, Not Cool. The New York Post called Hillary Clinton "a buffoon, an insult to most women." Has she changed? Or have we?
Hillary Clinton practiced law while she was First Lady of Arkansas. She campaigned with Bill, and became the first First Lady to hold a postgraduate degree. While Bill Clinton was in office, Hillary headed the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, pushed through the State Children's Health Insurance Program, created the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice, and created the first White House Sculpture Garden. In 2000, she became the first First Lady of the United States to be a candidate for elected office — running for Senator in New York, and winning. Then she ran for President. And now, as Secretary of State, she circles the globe, hobnobbing and negotiating. The point being: She's always been badass, a force to be reckoned with. But thusfar, there's been a lot of negativity surrounding her: She's been deemed cold. She's been called the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock.
Something's different, now.
Writing for The Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz seems sure that the difference is Hillary, noting that, "These days, when not discussing matters of war and peace, she seems considerably looser." In addition:
Clinton, of course, is no longer being subjected to political potshots, except on foreign policy (and it doesn't hurt that Osama bin Laden and Muammar Khaddafi are dead). She is the country's most admired woman, according to a Gallup poll last December, picked by 17 percent of respondents (compared with 7 percent for Oprah Winfrey and 5 percent for her East Wing successor, Michelle Obama). The president was the most admired man, also the choice of 17 percent.
"When 68 percent of the people like you, you're a lot more relaxed than when 38 percent of the people like you," [James] Carville observes.
Over at Think Progress, Alyssa Rosenberg agrees, writing: "Hillary Clinton's become cool by embracing the very things that used to mark her as a dork."
But the truth is, we have changed, as a country, as a planet. Times have changed. Since Bill Clinton left office in January 2001, women have been more visible, and we're more accustomed to seeing a female face in positions of power and authority — from Helen Clark to Julia Gillard to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Michelle Bachelet to Angela Merkel to Dilma Rousseff. The pop charts this past decade were dominated by female voices, like Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Mariah Carey. Television shows, from The View to Sex And The City to Oprah to Grey's Anatomy and the fourth hour of Today concerned themselves with women. Although Hillary didn't end up being the democratic candidate in 2008, she handled the aftermath gracefully, becoming Secretary of State for her former rival, and travels the globe, holding her own, during a time when global power is shifting we are now used to seeing her as a hard-working woman who doesn't complain or seek the spotlight but quietly gets things done. Not just a survivor, but one who thrives. There's a magic in her "too busy for bullshit" persona, a mystery.
Thanks to Texts From Hillary, much like the dumb dude in a romcom, we're finally seeing HRC as she really is: Brilliant, capable, fierce. Alyssa Rosenberg writes,
But after so many years of trying to please everyone, Clinton appears to be trying mostly to please herself when it comes to her personal style and presentation.
Or maybe she was always doing her own thing, and we've only just begun to understand how awesome it is.