Hillary Clinton's big, brass ... fortitude

She battled Bill O'Reilly (and won) while hammering away on her gas-tax holiday plan, critics be damned.

Published May 3, 2008 11:03PM (EDT)

I've gotten several letters and e-mails asking me if I thought the Hillary Clinton supporter who said she had "testicular fortitude" was being sexist. Well, on one level, of course he was, by linking strength to having something only a man can literally have. But sexism rankles most when it's used to discriminate or belittle; when it's wrapped in a compliment, it's harder to be harsh about it. I thought Clinton handled it well: by thanking him for the compliment, agreeing that she does have fortitude, and noting that "women can have fortitude, too."

Clinton does indeed have ... fortitude. Hell, she has balls. Salon readers and I went round and round about this question almost a year and a half ago, before I even had a blog. At the end of the discussion I decided "Yes, women can have balls!" (especially Stephen Colbert's big, brass ones). Clinton did two ballsy things this week, one I admire, the other, not so much. Clinton's not-so-admirable brassy move was proposing a gas-tax holiday and then sticking with it, when even economists she respects, like the New York Times' Paul Krugman, produced evidence it won't work to depress prices, and it is counter to everything Clinton has said she believes about promoting energy conservation. That's gumption, I guess; Clinton is smart enough to know Krugman (and everybody else who's criticized her) is right about this. On this topic, though, Obama is far more courageous, for continuing to oppose the gas-tax holiday even though pandering to fed-up voters might help him politically. (Maybe what Clinton has is gall, in addition to balls.)

On the other hand, I admired Clinton enormously for the way she went up against Fox's Bill O'Reilly this week. I particularly enjoyed the second night, when she debated him about the best way to combat terror and illegal immigration. I continue to dislike her saber-rattling on Iran, but her answers on Pakistan and Afghanistan were excellent; at one point she had O'Reilly muttering, "I agree, I agree," and it sounded like "Uncle!" She was toughest about illegal immigration, telling him flatly "No" when he asked if she'd move against so-called sanctuary cities, and maintaining her poise even when he started yelling about a police officer killed by an illegal immigrant in Los Angeles. He raised his voice; she raised hers. When he said, "Americans don't like sanctuary cities," she countered, "They don't like demagogues, either."

I'm glad Obama and Clinton went on Fox this week: I always thought they risked looking a little cowardly by avoiding the conservative news network. Now the country knows that both Clinton and Obama have the fortitude to take on Roger Ailes and friends. They'll need it in November.

My video for Current this week looks at whether women can have "testicular fortitude."

By Joan Walsh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections