20 Oct 2007

Hillary’s Flying Monkey Problem

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Peggy Noonan notes Hillary’s increasing polish and self-confidence (Hers is “the smile on the Halloween pumpkin that knows the harvest is coming.”), but wonders if she really can overcome certain unique issues of her own provoking a negative and visceral reaction.

..No one doubts Mrs. Clinton’s ability to make war. No close or longtime observer has ever been quoted as saying that she may be too soft for the job. Instead one worries about what has always seemed her characterological bellicosity. She invented the War Room, listened in on the wiretaps, brought into the White House the man who got the private FBI files of the Clintons’ perceived enemies.

This is not a woman who has to prove she’s tough enough and mean enough; she is more like a bulldozer who has to prove she won’t always be in high gear and ready to flatten you. ..

But she is making progress. She is trying every day to change her image, and I suspect it’s working. One senses not that she has become more authentic, but that she has gone beyond her own discomfort at her lack of authenticity. I am not saying she has learned to be herself. I think after a year on the trail she’s learned how to not be herself, how to comfortably adopt a skin and play a part.

Her real self is a person who wants to run things, to assert authority, to create systems and have people conform to them. She is not a natural at the outsized warmth politics demands. But she is moving beyond — forgive me — the vacant eyes of the power zombie, like the Tilda Swinton character in “Michael Clayton.” …

(Hillary Clinton) quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “Women are like tea bags — you never know how strong they are until they get in hot water.”

But Mrs. Clinton is the tea bag that brings the boiling water with her. It’s always high drama with her, always a cauldron — secret Web sites put up by unnamed operatives smearing Barack Obama in the tones of Tokyo Rose, Chinese businessmen having breakdowns on trains after the campaign cash is traced back, secret deals. It’s always flying monkeys.

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