A New Rowdy Joins the Crowd

Below is Ellen Mrja’s first post as a member of The Same Rowdy Crowd. You can see her brief bio at “Who are those guys?” Here’s what you should know about Ellen: Her laugh is maniacal and lovely and lights up a room; she knows and cares more about First Amendment issues than anyone I know; she’s a wicked smartass; she avidly watched — live — every twist and turn of O.J.’s white Bronco chase, howling at the idiot media coverage and the idiocy of watching it all; for decades she’s inspired, cajoled and browbeaten college students to sharpen up their communication; and I once said of her, “When Ellen walks into a room, matches ignite.”  We welcome Ellen (her last name’s pronounced Mur-zhah), and you will too.  –Benidt

On “What Women See When They See Hillary”

I recommend the July 2, 2007, Nation cover story on “What Women See When They See Hillary” by Lakshmi Chaudhry. In this analysis, Chaudhry says much of the “Hillary-bashing” currently being done is coming not from “conservatives,” who still rankle at the “two for one” deal slick Willy proposed from the back of an Arkansas car-lot; nor from stay-at-home moms threatened by her unfortunate quote on “60 Minutes” explaining why she was staying with Clinton after allegations of infidelity (gasp!) surfaced (probably truthfully) by Gennifer Flowers: “I’m not some little housewife standing by her man.”

No, the current bashing is coming from many feminists who have their own bone (no pun intended) to pick with Hillary.

Some say she is pro-war, that she voted to invade Iraq, even though the senator has since said (along with dozens of others) that she authorized war based on post-9/11 information and assessments provided by the POTUS; but if she (and others) knew then what she knows now, she would not do so.

Others criticize Hillary for not being liberal enough, despite a consistently high voting record on bills that support programs for infants, toddlers and children. They claim she is a “centrist,” which must be the American political equivalent of a eunuch . . . someone who is neither liberal nor conservative and is therefore suspect. After all, if we can’t brand you, what are you?

And, finally, others criticize her for not being feminist enough, this despite the fact that when Bill and Hill met at Yale Law (the best law school in the nation) she was the brains of the outfit. Her entire adult life has been spent living out the feminist ideal of “choice” — wife, mother, daughter, professional. Finally, she is the first woman truly to have the support of her party in her presidential quest (with nods to the breakthrough candidacy of Shirley Chisholm and then Pat Schroeder).

So allow me to tell you what I see when I look at Hillary…

It was the Friday night before the presidential election of 1992, and the Democratic challenger’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton (as she then called herself), was standing in front of a SRO crowd at Myers Field House on the campus at Mankato State University in Minnesota. It was very late in the day; the governor’s wife was running behind after three previous stops with one more to follow. The gym became stuffy and over baked.

But when Hillary began speaking, something magical happened. She spoke for around 45 minutes straight, without notes, just looking up into the stands into the faces of people and wowing everyone in the place. She had conviction; she had humor; she knew when to tell it soft and when to sell it hard.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “I wish this lady were running for president.”

And so, I’ll answer the Nation’s question for you. What do I see when I see Hillary?

Hilary is the number one contender for the office of the presidency. None of the other candidates come close to her in terms of experience, intelligence, dedication, political savvy. (Senator McCain, a true war hero, does on three out of four.) And even after being buffeted around for16 years-plus of what she sees as “a right wing conspiracy” against Bill and herself, Hillary remains standing. Another mark of a contender.

Two new best-sellers are out there, one by Carl Bernstein and the other by Don Van Atta. I’ve merely skimmed them both but, with all due respect, found nothing “new” in either of them. No new bombshells, no new revelations.

Perhaps, just perhaps, being a centrist means you’ve learned the art of compromise, the best ability a legislator can possess to be truly effective. Perhaps authorizing war means you’re a defender of your nation’s security and not afraid to show it (Golda Meier, anyone?) Perhaps staying with your wandering husband of 30 years means you believe marriage is a lifetime commitment.

Or perhaps the latter is none of my business.

So what do I see when I look at Hillary?

I see the next President of the United States of America.

— Ellen Mrja

A Summer Home in Reality

John McCain deserves to be the successor to George W. Bush.

Here’s McCain’s situation: He’s dropped to fourth in the polls, his fundraising has been limp, he has less cash on hand than Ron Paul, the campaign has spent $24 million with not a single ad reaching TV, two-thirds of the campaign staff was laid off last week, his two top people in the campaign were fired this week following nasty infighting, the national media is writing stories about whether he can stay in the race, and even the rats in his Iowa campaign office are tunneling into adjoining buildings (OK I made that part up).

And here’s McCain’s statement when asked by reporters this week if his campaign is in trouble: “No, no, no, no. I’d describe the campaign as going well. I’m very happy with it.”

Would you buy an assessment of the war in Iraq from this man? I admired McCain in the 2000 campaign and lamented when the Rove slime machine brought him down in South Carolina. But the Straight Talk Express has thrown a rod. George Bush can stand knee-deep in pig shit and insist the air smells fine and his shoes are clean. And now we know John can stand right there with him.

My wife, Lisa, has a lapel button she’s proud of: “I live in another dimension, but I have a summer home in reality.”

Time to hit the beach, John.

— Benidt