She is the candidate best prepared to occupy the Oval Office. But even on her own team, Hillary seems to have only enemies...
In the United States, there is a fun little test to do when you’re at a diner. Say Hillary Clinton’s name and observe the reactions. Jan Flack, for example, a smart Democratic pensioner who, until now, had been chatting away cheerfully, suddenly transforms. Her eyebrows form a frown, her nose wrinkles, her mouth twists. “I don’t like her and you’d have to use violence on me to get me to vote for her,” she declares curtly. Not everyone is as polite. Politicians rarely provoke such violent and hostile hatred. Hillary Clinton has some formidable advantages: notoriety, a financial network, unparalleled experience — but only 44 percent of Americans regard her in a favorable light.
Attacks of a Rare Violence
Let’s start with the conservative right, which has been using her as a punching bag for years. It has bestowed all sorts of nicknames on her — “Hitlary,” “Lady Macbeth," “castrating harpy” — and accused her of countless unpleasantries: hitting her husband with a lamp, decorating the White House Christmas tree with condoms, and even ordering a murder (that of the cat belonging to Bill’s alleged mistress).
Hillary also inspires stunningly hate-filled literature which disparages her physical defects. “A small-boned woman from the waist up, she was squat and lumpy from the waist down, with wide hips and thick calves and ankles,” writes Ed Klein, a former journalist, in "The Truth about Hillary." David Brock, in "The Seduction of Hillary Rodham," compares “one large eyebrow across her forehead” to “a giant caterpillar.” More lyrically, Emmett Tyrrell describes this eyebrow as being so “thick” that it “would have collected coal dust in a Welsh mining village.” Above all, her sexuality is a source of fascination. According to Klein, she is both frigid and a lesbian, because she has gay girlfriends and because Bill raped her. But he also claims that she had a steamy affair with Vince Foster, a White House lawyer. And then, of course, she is reproached for having all-consuming ambitions, of being Machiavellian and opportunistic. “She scares me. I cross my legs every time she talks,” says Tucker Carlson, a television presenter.
Hillary Has a Talent for Alienating Everyone
Nor is everyone on the left her friend. Feminists haven’t forgiven her for staying with Bill. “It’s possible that a feminist, progressive man would do better in the White House than a ventriloquist for the patriarchy with a skirt and a vagina,” Jane Fonda let loose one day.* In Fairfax, Virginia, they barely go any lighter on her. Around 20 supporters of Bernie Sanders, her Democratic rival, have gathered in a restaurant to prepare the campaign in their state. The atmosphere is jovial. They are munching on cookies decorated with Bernie’s face while playing a version of Trivial Pursuit based on his life story (“In which sport is the senator from Vermont an illustrated figure?" "He won the basketball tournament in elementary school!”). Between two questions, Stephen Spitz, a lawyer, explains his aversion to Hillary: “She sold out to the lobbies — to Wall Street and to warmongers.” Indeed, she voted in favor of invading Iraq and pushed for intervention in Libya. Maryam, a dietician, considers her too scheming. “I don’t think she’s sincere. She spends her time changing her stance. She waited a very long time before stating her opinions on the Keystone pipeline and on gay marriage... Bernie has true convictions.”
“Our country has a very complicated relationship with Hillary Clinton,” summarizes Joanne Bamberger, author of "Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox." “I believe it’s because [she] brazenly dared to step out, in the most public of ways, from our expectations of women in general and First Ladies in particular.” In 1978, when her husband was elected governor of Arkansas, she caused a scandal by deciding to pursue her career as a lawyer and keep her maiden name, Rodham. This didn’t go down well in the rural state and Bill didn’t get re-elected. Hillary transformed from a weirdly dressed hippie into a model wife, getting rid of the Rodham and the big glasses. Bill got his governorship back.
There’s not only the sexism. Mrs. Clinton has a talent for alienating everyone. In the midst of the 1992 campaign, she exasperated millions of housewives when she said, “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession.” It also shocked electors [when her husband] launched the slogan “two Clintons for the price of one” and — worse still — she alienated the press with her paranoid tendencies, wanting to control everything.
60 Percent Consider Her Neither Sincere Nor Trustworthy
“With the notable exception of her husband’s libidinous carelessness, the most egregious errors, strategic and tactical, of the Bill Clinton presidency, particularly in its infancy, were traceable to Hillary,” wrote Carl Bernstein in his biography of her. The list is long. There is her failure to implement health care reform, in part due to her refusal to compromise; the Travelgate fiasco, where she fired employees of the White House travel agency and replaced them with her friends; and multiple ethical matters such as Whitewater, a half-baked real-estate project which led to ceaseless inquiries and a suicide. And that’s without mentioning the White House furniture that the couple took with them when they left. Each time, the scenario is identical: Hillary Clinton passes the buck, denounces a right-wing conspiracy, disseminates half-truths and gives the impression that she is hiding something.
Almost a quarter of a century after entering onto the global stage, nothing has really changed. Of course, for 60 percent of Americans the former secretary of state has leadership qualities, while 67 percent acknowledge that she has serious experience. But Hillary still provokes violent antipathy. According to surveys, 60 percent do not believe her to be either sincere or trustworthy. And 51 percent believe she doesn’t care about their problems. The day she announced her candidacy, posters proclaiming the words “secretive” and “ambitious” proliferated in Brooklyn. And on Twitter, under the hashtag #WhyImnotvotingforHillary, voters were enraged: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” wrote one.
But it’s not for lack of trying to change her image. In a memo written as early as the 1990s, in order to counter the impression that she was nothing more than a “loud-mouthed business lawyer," her team advised her to show “a bit of humor” and to “open up more.” Recently, she has cracked jokes about Donald Trump, danced on television, gone out to buy a hat for her granddaughter and posted videos on Snapchat. But this hasn’t been enough. "People want dimensionality. They want to know what motivates you, what makes you tick... presidential races are like MRIs for the soul, and I don't think she likes that part of the process," guesses David Axelrod, a former campaign strategist for Barack Obama.
A Never-Ending Amount of Baggage
“Sister Frigidaire,” as she was nicknamed in her high-school yearbook, clearly doesn’t have Bill’s charisma and sometimes exhibits a confusing lack of sensitivity. She claimed in an interview that the couple had moved out of the White House “dead broke.” A monumental gaffe when you know the Clintons bought two properties worth several million dollars. In a recent video, she presented herself as the champion of the middle class, but charges $200,000 per conference appearance. And then there are always the manipulations of the truth. She has stated several times that her grandparents were all immigrants, yet only one of them really was.
Above all, she always comes with a lot of baggage. Over time, it has even become a real kitchen sink full of responsibility for mistakes. “It’s her Achilles heel. After so much time in politics, she still shoots herself in the foot,”** observes Bruce Buchanan, a professor at the University of Texas. For example, the Clintons’ charitable foundation continued to accept donations from foreign countries while Hillary was America’s chief diplomat. Likewise, she installed a server at her home and exclusively used a private email address during her time at the Department of State, without anticipating the uproar that this kind of action would provoke once made public. She defends this by saying it is not illegal. As usual, when the scandal broke, she refused to apologize and to be transparent. She claims that she didn’t exchange any classified emails and that she sent all her archives to the Department of State — while also destroying some messages. “[This scandal] has reminded America about all the things they hated about the Clintons — the overbearing sense of entitlement and privilege, the secrecy, the endless parsing of words, the flagrantly stated belief that the law doesn’t apply to anyone with the last name Clinton,” comments conservative site Red State.
It Doesn’t Matter That Hillary Is a Woman — Bernie Is More Exciting
This isn’t very clever when you’ve set your sights on the Oval Office. In 2008, Hillary showcased her experience and seemed unbeatable. But then a young, charismatic senator from Illinois brandished a message of hope, and everything changed. This time, it is less likely that Hillary will be edged out for the nomination. But at least a dozen conservative groups, such as Free Beacon and America Rising, are going out of their way to torpedo her candidacy and “save America from the destructive far-left, liberal cancer” created by Mrs. Clinton, as the Stop Hillary PAC puts it on their website. They are scrutinizing her declarations, delving into her past, and trying all angles of attack. Her age (she will turn 69 just before the election), her health (she had several dizzy spells while she was secretary of state), the shambles in the Middle East, her wealth...
Perhaps the most dangerous thing for Hillary is the threat prowling the venerable campus of Georgetown University in Washington. In the middle of the brick Red Square, Chika, a black 18-year-old student, mans the Democratic stand. When asked who she will vote for, she responds without hesitation, “Bernie Sanders. It doesn’t matter that Hillary is a woman — Bernie is more exciting.”
From New Hampshire to Iowa, numerous Democrats share this sentiment. For the moment — and better than anyone else — Hillary can still draw strength from her notoriety. In a recently published email, she mentions a gangster who robbed a bank wearing a mask bearing her likeness. “Should I be flattered?” she asked.
*Editor's Note: This quote was also cited in an article for The Nation. This source states that Jane Fonda was misquoted by LA Weekly (the original source), and that Fonda was not referring specifically to Hillary Clinton when she made this statement.
**Editor's Note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.