Jewish World Review Dec. 31, 2002 / 26 Teves, 5763
Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
American attitudes toward
Hillary Clinton are a bit like how parents see their small but
unruly child: They like him best when he is asleep.
Throughout her career, when Hillary is silent, she gains in
popularity - but when she starts talking, she loses support.
Her recent decision to become a spokesperson for the
Democratic Party in the wake of its fall mishap is misguided
and will only lead to an increase in her negative ratings.
Hillary's history tells the story:
As America first met Hillary Clinton, it came to dislike her
more and more. Her outspoken refusal to "stay at home
and bake cookies" almost cost her husband the presidency.
Then her health-care proposals did cost Democrats control
With her negative ratings piling up, it became clear that she
and Bill were locked in a zero-sum game. The more she
was seen as powerful, the weaker voters felt Bill was. It
was only by withdrawing from public - or even White
House staff view - that she could repair the damage she
had done to the president's image and to her own. She
wrote a non-controversial book about raising and
educating children and watched it become a best seller as
she mouthed platitudes in its support.
Ever since, silence has been Hillary's ally. When Monica
burst on our consciousness, Hillary made a particular virtue
of saying nothing. After an initial faux pas, in which she
denounced the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against Bill, she
clammed up for the rest of the impeachment process and
earned points for her dignity, even evoking comparisons
with Jackie Kennedy's class in the aftermath of her
During her campaign for Senate, Hillary spoke a lot and
said nothing. Avoiding controversy, she stayed carefully
within the four walls of Democratic orthodoxy and made a
virtue of silence by saying she was "listening" to the
concerns of her new fellow New Yorkers.
When scandal hit, as over her husband's pardons and her
parting theft from the White House, she hid under a rock
until the smoke cleared.
Her Senate career, thus far, has also shown the rewards of
saying nothing. Reluctant to challenge Bush, she has won
points for being a good girl. Stories stressed how well she
fit in with the Senate club.
Anxious to please, she avoided controversy. She couldn't
help the occasional slip as when she attacked Bush from
the Senate floor for ignoring warnings of 9/11, but, in the
main, she kept her mouth shut.
Of Hillary's public life since 1994, it could be said (as
Gilbert and Sullivan wrote of the British House of Lords),
"She did nothing in particular, but did it very well."
Now the "old" Hillary seems to be re-emerging, slashing
and burning against the Republican agenda, dancing on
Trent Lott's grave and attacking Bush for leaving American
unsafe in the face of terrorism.
She is pursuing the totally misguided and ludicrously flawed
Democratic strategy of engaging Bush by trying to get to
the right of him on the terrorism issue, attacking him for
leaving us exposed to the threat of a new 9/11.
Like the "old" Nixons that periodically reared their head
just after we had been introduced to a "new" Nixon, Hillary
is baaaack, attacking and berating her adversaries.
But the old axiom still applies: the less she says, the better
she does. In her own interest, Hillary Rodham Clinton
should sit down and shut up.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Dick Morris