Clinton and the men, again

Is the "piling on" proof that it's "OK to be sexist," or is Clinton "playing the victim card"?

By Tim Grieve
November 5, 2007 8:58PM (UTC)
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The debate over the debate has devolved into a sniping match among the surrogates.

Former Rep. and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, tells the New York Times that the way Clinton was treated at last week's Democratic presidential debate shows that it's still "OK in this country to be sexist."


"John Edwards, specifically, as well as the press, would never attack Barack Obama for two hours the way they attacked her," Ferraro says. "I think if Barack Obama had been attacked for two hours -- well, I don't think Barack Obama would have been attacked for two hours."

Kate Michelman, the former NARAL Pro-Choice America chairwoman who is now an advisor to John Edwards, counters with a blog post and statement (posted online by the Edwards campaign) in which she accuses Clinton of trying to "have it both ways" when it comes to gender.

"At one minute, [Clinton is] the strong woman ready to lead; the next, she's the woman under attack, disingenuously playing the victim card as a means of trying to avoid giving honest, direct answers to legitimate questions," Michelman says. "As a woman who's been in the public eye and experienced scrutiny, as a woman who knows how hard it can be for women to earn their seat at the leadership table, how hard women have to work just to get the same opportunities, this distresses me. It is not presidential."


To be fair to Clinton, she hasn't been "playing the victim card" herself -- she sort of tried to unplay it Friday in New Hampshire -- but her campaign and some of her supporters have done it for her.

To be fair to Clinton's critics, last week's debate was hardly the first one in which the Democratic front-runner was the subject of a lot of negative attention from other contenders or a moderator.

At a Democratic presidential debate in November 2003, Dick Gephardt accused Howard Dean of cutting medical benefits for the "most vulnerable" residents of Vermont, and John Kerry accused Dean of equivocating on whether he'd cut benefits for Medicare recipients. A weary Dean said he "most certainly appreciate[d] all this attention" he was getting.


A few weeks later in New Hampshire, Ted Koppel kicked off a debate by asking all of the Democratic contenders to raise their hands if they thought Dean could beat George W. Bush. Only Dean did.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Geraldine Ferraro Hillary Rodham Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards War Room