Steve Chapman

This is not her first conspicuous change of convenience. When she and Bill were married, she declined to take his last name, only to suddenly adopt it for political reasons after he was voted out of the governor's office in 1980. She was Hillary Clinton ever after -- until she got to the White House, when she suddenly insisted on going by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The "Rodham," however, is now history. Her campaign website makes a point of referring to her as Hillary Clinton or, more often, just Hillary.

Maybe this evolution is just one of the special complications that face women in politics. But it also suggests a willingness to use any false front that can be helpful. It betrays the calculating inauthenticity that makes so many people wary or hostile toward her.

Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Atlantic, says this quality is not just an artifact of Clinton's personality but a function of trying to succeed as a liberal in a conservative era: "Reagan spooked people on the left, especially those, like Clinton, who were interested primarily in winning power. She has internalized what most Democrats of her generation have internalized: They suspect that the majority is not with them, and so some quotient of discretion, fear, or plain deception is required if they are to advance their objectives. … She's hiding her true feelings. We know it, she knows we know it, and there is no way out of it."

But maybe she's getting better at it. New Hampshirites voted for a candidate who, confronting defeat, let herself look vulnerable and human, and thus more appealing. If she becomes president, they may come to realize what we have learned before: With Hillary Clinton, what you see isn't necessarily what you get.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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