MoDo unfairly slaps Hillary

Maureen Dowd unfairly piles on Hillary Clinton, who had cause to get surly in the Congo.

Published August 12, 2009 3:09PM (EDT)

I'm actually a guilty-pleasure fan of Maureen Dowd (I know, I know), but her column today is a bit infuriating, especially this portion:

At Tuesday’s State Department briefing, Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley explained that Hillary was particularly irritated to feel overshadowed by men in Africa, where she is pushing her “abiding theme” of “empowering women.”

Nice try, P.J. But we all know Hillary could just as well have made the same comment in Paris. (And looking unhinged about your marriage on an international stage hardly empowers women.) She may have been steamed about Bill celebrating his upcoming 63rd birthday in Las Vegas with his posse. The Times’s Adam Nagourney irritated Clinton Inc. when he reported that Bill went to the pricey Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand Hotel Monday night with Hollywood moguls Steve Bing and Haim Saban, and former advisers Terry McAuliffe and Paul Begala, among others.

OK, first of all, equating the situation for women in France with that of the Democratic Republic of Congo -- really? I'm sure there are French misogynists, wife-beaters, and rapists . . . but c'mon, the DRC ranks near the bottom of global rankings of countries for corruption and human development. Though it's not impossible to imagine Clinton snapping at a reporter's question on any subject in any country, in this case she was specifically on a mission related to rape and women's rights in a country with a nefarious record--and then she's asked, even if by accident of a faulty translation, to channel her husband's views. Worse, the lame pop-psychologizing by Dowd of Clinton's behavior based on the presumption that Hillary is on edge because the Big Dog is woofing it up for his birthday in Vegas with a kennel of buddies is just insulting.

Hillary doesn't come across as some warm-and-fuzzy grandmother in that video clip. But so what? Meanwhile, Fox and others are loving the clip; CNN played it what seemed like at least four times per hour yesterday. And even if the explanation from Hillary's flack is a bit of stretch, is it really that much of a stretch? A secretary of state, despite likely being weary from travel and, yes, appropriately maddened by the reality of the issue she's there to talk about, should still be able to keep her composure. But if there's a situation that called for a bit of SecState spunk, this was it.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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