Monday, April 8, 2013

Hillary Clinton is No Maggie Thatcher

First and foremost, there are condolences to be expressed, and so, wherever we stand on the political spectrum with regard to Margaret Thatcher, we can all pray that she rests in peace.

While she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton routinely issued condolence statements out of the State Department. In the case of personal friends, she occasionally joined her husband in issuing joint statements via his foundation website.  Since her departure from the State Department, his site has become the sole platform for such messages as exemplified by this one on the death of C. Everett Koop.

This statement was issued a short time ago.  Interestingly, the statement comes only from the former president with his wife mentioned only in the final sentence.  The fact that Hillary did not have an official relationship with Thatcher would not explain the absence of her name as both Colin Powell and Condi Rice have released statements. So, while the former president extends condolences from his family, her name is not in this document header, and apparently no separate statement will be forthcoming from her.

Statement by President Clinton on the Passing of Lady Margaret Thatcher

Apr 8, 2013 | President Clinton | New York, NY  | Statement
I was saddened to learn of the death of Lady Margaret Thatcher. The United Kingdom has lost its first woman Prime Minister, an iconic stateswoman, and a fearless leader. The United States has lost one of its dearest friends and most valued allies.
Lady Thatcher understood that the special relationship which has long united our two nations is an indispensable foundation for peace and prosperity.  Our strong partnership today is part of her legacy.  Like so many others, I respected the conviction and self-determination she displayed throughout her remarkable life as she broke barriers, defied expectations, and led her country. Hillary, Chelsea, and I extend our condolences to her family and to the people of the United Kingdom.
While both Thatcher and Hillary have been perceived as polarizing figures, similarities end there from my point of view.  It is impossible to imagine Hillary approving apartheid, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, or turning a cold heart to the 1981 Long Kesh hunger strikers and, particularly,  to their mothers. In an attempt to track down any story that might explain the juxtaposition of these two powerful women, I  found this.
U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during state visit to the U.K in 2009Photograph by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images
U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during state visit to the U.K in 2009

What Margaret Thatcher Taught Hillary Clinton

April 08, 2013

A little-known fact about Margaret Thatcher, who died today: Hillary Clinton modeled herself after the former British prime minister when she ran for the White House in 2008. In a private campaign memo written in late 2006 that was later leaked to me, Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, said he believed voters view the president as the “father” of the country. But he also believed they would accept a female “father,” provided she were tough enough. Penn told Clinton there was “a yearning for a kind of tough single parent—someone who can combine the toughness they are used to [from a male leader] with the negotiating adeptness they believe a woman would bring to the office.”
Penn’s Platonic ideal of such a female leader was Thatcher.

The header is misleading, but we can return to that.  Much has been made of Penn's "packaging" of Hillary in 2007-2008.  Many said at the time and have repeated over the years that his attempts to neutralize, de-sex, or masculinize her image hurt her campaign, and as we saw her free-up and revel in her femininity as secretary of state,  actually using it in charm offensives as necessary, that criticism has stood its ground as a major miscalculation by the Penn campaign.

But the surprise here is the figure Penn choose as the "masculine" model.  Thatcher!  Hillary's "man-up" imperative from her campaign manager came with Margaret Thatcher as the blueprint.

To return to the header of Green's article, it misleads.  It was not Hillary who modeled herself after Thatcher, but rather Penn who, like Pygmalion, attempted to turn his creation into an Iron Maiden.  The problem with this model was the degree to which it conflicted with Hillary's true strength, her empathy.  Relatively late in the primary campaign, strategists rolled out "The Hillary I Know,"  a series of short videos spotlighting ordinary Americans whom Hillary had helped and their attestations to her warm-heartedness, surely an attempt to correct course and counter the hard-edged image Penn originally implemented.

There is plenty of metal inside Hillary Clinton, to be sure, but she is not an Iron Lady.  She has a spine of steel, a silver tongue,  and a heart of gold.  This article describes her as an "iron fist in a velvet glove" as, on one of her charm offensives, she negotiated with then-Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi - one of her many "conquests" as secretary of state. 
Hillary Clinton holds talks with Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad.—AFP
ISLAMABAD US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday went about with her usual charm offensive, but maintained a hawkish position over Pakistan`s strategic concerns in a reflection of the deep mistrust that still exists between the two allies.

Secretary Clinton, more importantly for the second day running, handed out a stern warning to Pakistan that any future terrorist attack traced back to its soil would have devastating consequences.
Read more >>>>
I think it would be difficult to find a relationship like this between Thatcher and an potentially adversarial figure, but readers here enjoyed the Clinton-Qureshi encounters thoroughly for the warm relationship they developed.

In the end, each of these two leaders has been her own woman and they have been remarkably different from each other.  That Hillary chose not to add her name to the Clinton Foundation statement today might indicate the degree to which she would like to distance her image from that of Thatcher, but then, aside from the fact that both were female, they never really were very similar at all. None  of this precludes Hillary Clinton issuing a statement of her own at some point.  If she does, of course we shall see it here.