But humor is riskier for Hillary than for a man. Sexual stereotypes are hard to shake. A woman's belly laugh (tummy laugh?) is often either inauthentic or vulgar. And isn't that just like a man?
John Dickerson of Slate magazine calls her cackle her "tell," after the clue that suggests a poker player is bluffing. It's a signal, a cover-up, as "in all candor," or "frankly," or "clearly," a clue that something is coming that is neither candid nor frank and certainly not meant to be clear. "Nixon had lots of tells," he writes, "his tense smile, the pod of sweat on his upper lip -- it was as if his tiny little truth instinct was trying to break free any way it could." We look for Hillary's "tell" when she talks about her latest health care plan. Laughter can be the best medicine, after all.
The humor gap between men and women can be seductive. Nothing makes a man feel more manly than when he gets the girl to laugh. She makes him feel good about himself. "I'm talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth," Christopher Hitchens writes in Vanity Fair. Was he describing Hillary, or not?
Probably not. I prefer to think reporters and pundits make a big deal of Hillary's cackle because it's a side of her we haven't seen and we wonder why she's showing it now. Like everything else about her, motives are invariably questioned. With her polls climbing, she's got reason to cheer and be cheered, but it's way too early to tell who will get the last laugh.
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