Some Bad, Bad Advice -- For a Woman

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Jun 01, 2008 10:41 PM
A British journalist has a new interview with Mark Penn over at the Guardian.  The piece contains the following:

One campaign anecdote has an aide urging Clinton to "show a little bit of humanity", the kind of woolly advice Penn detests. "Oh, come on," he is supposed to have replied. "Being human is overrated."

I first read the anecdote here, but upon seeing it again, it strikes me as being particularly ill-advised for the campaign of the first woman with a serious shot at the White House.  In fairness, "being human" might, indeed, have been "overrated" for other politicians Penn's advised, including Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.  That's because both are men who seem easily accessible, intellectually and emotionally, even to strangers -- which may in part explain their political success.

But Hillary Clinton isn't easily accessible to anyone.  Even more important, she's a woman.  It may be unfair, but it's political suicide for a woman to run the risk of coming off as a not-quite-"human" technocrat (even as she has to prove she's tough enough to be Commander-in-Chief, no easy feat).  Of course, male technocrats who don't connect have a hard time being elected President -- just ask Michael Dukakis.

But for a woman, it's not even doable.  It's the modern day, political equivalent of the hoary old saying, "Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses."  Well, voters don't support women who seem like remote, emotionally removed bureaucratic technocrats.