Janice Shaw Crouse

Ironically, leading members of her own party, and leaders of the feminist organizations that ought to be her cheerleaders, recognize that Hillary is a polarizing figure. The pundits mention that people either like her or loathe her and acknowledge that her negatives of 50 percent or better remain a formidable factor to overcome. Even many of her friends think that her decision to stay with Bill was motivated by her political ambition. Largely, younger women (roughly the 20- to 30-somethings) see the “Monica issue” as irrelevant because, explained one, they are a generation used to “cheating, lies and divorce all around us ... It’s not such a big stigma … our generation is much less judgmental than older generations in such areas.”

Mrs. Clinton realizes that her major weakness is her personality; she is perceived by many potential voters as cold, calculating, and — by the reckoning of some who recall her role in squelching Bill’s bimbo eruptions and the White House travel office firings — vicious, if not bloodthirsty. In general, her steely demeanor does not generate affection among her would-be supporters, and her seeming lack of scruples keeps her from inspiring new followers. Her reputation for shrill and abrasive behavior conflicts with the feel-good rhetoric that she tries to project. The inconsistency of her image creates a certain inaudible dissonance that generates discomfort and troubles voters. This percolates up from the subconscious level even if it never reaches a conscious assessment. Of course, then there are those perceptive voters who intuitively reject an image that they believe is shaped purely by focus groups.

Her real problem with women, though, stems from her calculating stances on the issues. Believing (rightly) that women tend to be “issue” voters, Hillary talks about what she considers to be “women’s issues” — health care, child care, family leave, etc. Hillary loses ground anytime the words “health care plan” are mentioned because it conjures up the idea of a government program as effective and helpful as the bureaucratic DMV office, where you stand in line to get a number to stand in another line and wait. The candidate just doesn’t seem to understand that these issues do not resonate with stay-at-home moms.

Instead, her emphasis on these issues reinforces the fact that during her 20 years in the public political arena she has consistently pushed a feminist agenda that is out of sync with most women. While she has deviated from the radical left on occasion (producing problems among her radical “netroots” base), few people doubt her fierce commitment to a hard left position, and her politically expedient behavior in those instances makes them suspicious of her motives.

The last presidential election was won because a majority of the voters ranked morals and religion higher than the economy. The South and Middle America regions, and women especially, vote their values. Thus, Hillary and other presidential candidates are focusing on the women and the religious voters. Does Hillary really think that voters will forget about her Oprah interview last year when she said, “Right now, the greatest threat to world peace is intolerance cloaked in religion”? She went on to describe the most dangerous ones: “People who believe that their religious views are the only right ones.” If she had been referring to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, she would have called them by name. No, these statements were another aspect of her earlier claim about a “right-wing conspiracy” being the source of her husband’s problems.

Ronald Reagan advised, “Trust the people –– this is the crucial lesson of history.” During the primaries and general election of 2008, the people will decide who to trust.

Janice Shaw Crouse

Janice Shaw Crouse is a former speechwriter for George H. W. Bush and now political commentator for the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.
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