Hillary in black and white and color

Hillary in black and white and color

Michael Crowley has an excellent article in this week’s New Republic, “Reset Button,” assessing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s public breaks from official U.S. policy. He runs through her out-of-line statements on Kim Jong-il’s successor in North Korea, human rights in China, and Israeli settlement-building, as well as her snapping at an audience member during her trip through Africa and calling North Korea an “unruly teenager.” He questions whether these incidents were the gaffes of an independent-thinking, fallible, and very tired diplomat, or cannily constructed political statements designed in concert with the White House to express something otherwise taboo.

The article is cast in black and white, told through the dialectics of candidate and victor, ally and enemy, on message and off, either and or. Crowley opens the article describing the schizophrenic reaction to Clinton’s naming as secretary; some, he argues, thought it “nuts” and some a “stroke of genius.” A Democratic operative says of Clinton’s out-of-bounds statements, “Sometimes that’s helpful, sometimes it’s not.” Crowley also discusses an “old Hillary duality” — her “disdain for the media” (making herself available for questions just once on a weeklong trip) and “occasional efforts at outreach” (bringing the hungry traveling press bagels).

Throughout, he flip-flops between calling the secretary “Hillary” and “Clinton,” to heighten the point — Hillary being the strident and frank candidate and Clinton the hyper-controlled political tact-machine.

Eventually, Crowley blows over his own either-or straw-woman, noting that the idea of Clinton as some sort of infallible policy robot is absurd. She, like all politicians, has mucked up dozens of times in the past. But he sadly doesn’t plumb the idea much further.

It follows from the conception of her as a complex person that her perceived missteps are similarly complex. She speaks publicly on literally a world’s worth of issues every day. She makes mistakes, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, sometimes with effect, sometimes without. To paint with black and white is to miss a very colorful picture. And ultimately, it is the press that paints her in such egregiously schizophrenic, love-her-or-hate-her terms.