Give ‘Em Hill?

When almost everyone you know is scared to death at the prospect of The Donald as The President, it can feel like we’re barely thinking about his opposite number. She’s become the default choice—the option that isn’t chaos.

So, after the year of Trump, at last a meditation on Presumptive Candidate #2—and she’s a Hill of a lot more difficult to get a handle on. As we stand at the altar, are there any objections to this marriage? Do we have a real picture of this woman after her 40 years in politics?

Hillary Rodham Clinton has been America’s most admired woman in the world for 20 years running. She’s also the most disliked candidate (other than Trump) since 1984, and the first Democrat more disliked than liked. Can the Hillary puzzle be solved?


The Clintons’ legacy is unclear, at best. The name conjures that strange period in the 1990s: peace and prosperity right alongside scandal, pettiness, and selling out. Our guest Doug Henwood wrote a whole book called My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency(the cover is the now-iconic painting by the visual artist Sarah Sole, above).

My Turn is a well-written laundry list of private complaints and public scandals that’s bound to make you think twice about the couple, and Hillary herself. From Honduras to Libya, “superpredators” to superdelegates, Hillary isn’t just historic in the good ways—she and Bill would bring a lot of our checkered past back into the White House with them.

Then again, Ellen Fitzpatrick reminds us that female presidential candidates tend to get a lot more than the usual scrutiny—and in her book The Highest Glass Ceiling, she has the history to back it up. If you didn’t know that more than 200 women have sought the highest office in the land, then you knew that before H.R.C., none of them even got close.


And Hillary has a further, post-feminine mystique. The critic Terry Castle—who wonderfully wrote up her meeting with Clinton at a fundraiser earlier this year in the London Review of Books—sees her, admiringly, as both woman and not-a-woman. Even as first lady, she left the familiar female identifiers in the kitchen with Tammy Wynette a very long time ago.

As “Val,” a salty old bartender on Saturday Night Live, Hillary is comic, charming, even “hot”—a glimpse of the private person that so many people have come to adore. But then the last time we elected the person we’d like “to have a beer with,” we wound up with George W. Bush—who is only now, eight years after his unhappy departure, more popular with voters than Hillary

Hillary Clinton—overexposed but uncomprehended—raises all kinds of questions for voters and citizens. Where does the personal end and the political begin? What can we learn about a potential presidency by everything that came before it? And how should we read her—by what standard? As woman or war-maker, private self or public persona, historical breakthrough—or more of the same?

Guest List
Frank Rich
columnist for New York Magazine, executive producer of HBO's Veep, and former theater critic and columnist for The New York Times.
Amber A'Lee Frost
freelance writer and musician based in Brooklyn.
Terry Castle
professor of humanities at Stanford University.
Reading List
My Kind of Misogny
Amber A'Lee Frost
Hillary Clinton vs. Herself
Rebecca Traister
Stop Hillary!
Doug Henwood

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  • Potter

    Annie Get Your Gun

    My main issue with Hillary is her hawkishness. Plus she is distorted by the Israel lobby. She seems to want to be known as tough, maybe because she is a woman i.e. to believe we can continue to war (even step it up) and threaten to achieve ? peace ? or at least manage the chaos? this chaos we helped to create in the Middle East, the chaos, bombing and defeat of which is connected to terrorism? Madness continued.

    At one point I thought she was a very good Secretary of State, but she was more of an ambassador. It’s her judgements and advice that don’t give much confidence. I don’t like the obfuscation, the shaving of the truth, and, at times, the willingness to outright lie. That she would be our first woman president is great for us, just as Obama was our first black president. About time. But she really either wants it too much or, it seems, feels entitled. I am imagining Bill Clinton 2.0 ( different) in the WH.

    I expect Hillary to disappoint if she wins. She will have a very divided country to deal with- especially divided because of who she is. That said- the alternative is beyond even contemplation.

    Being the ‘not Trump’ candidate will save her, I hope, and get her into office: her negatives versus Trumps negatives. Do we deserve better? Yes some of us do. Some of us deserve Trump. That said- Hillary’s resume is astonishing. She is probably more qualified by her CV than any other running.. But inspiring? And what we really need at this point? For me it’s about keeping someone much more dangerous from power, horrified as I am that he got this close. Trump is what the Republicans have deposited before us and we have to deal with that first.

    Make me like Hillary. The video above does not do it for me. What softened me a little was the falling flags video. Notice how she stoops to help. Notice how she asks if anyone was hurt. Notice how she analyses the problem of why they fell right away.

  • Potter

    Castle: “To get there, you have to make yourself something other than a woman…. femininity has to fall aside somewhere….”

    “opting out of being a woman”….

    It depends on what one (Castle here) means by that… We certainly have a masculine culture.. but not a woman’s look is still a woman. Clinton adopts this persona and hides her own woman. Clinton reserves her woman for her private life. We have to look for it.. a treasure hunt.

    So what is the achievement?

  • I can tell by the Amber A’Lee Frost appearance and the comments this is gonna be good.
    Before I listen, here’s what Simon Schama said on NPR yesterday:”…. democracy depends on passion being diluted by reason.”


  • Good show – many circles, at least for me.

    Frank Rich: authenticity – is this where passion comes in? passion = authenticity = trust
    Think about that. Do people who wear their emotions on the outside seem
    more authentic? And we trust authentic people because we know who they are, however dumb.
    Ellen Fitzpatrick: excellent historical background. Full circle.
    Doug Henwood: end of dems. Circle closed.
    Terry Castle: ” I’m a lesbian.” At first I thought, why do I need to know that? That circle was completed when Hillary flirted with her.
    Amber A’Lee Frost: Disappointed after reading some of her blogs – made me appreciate how
    difficult it must be to produce RoS. But to be fair, it must be easier to be
    vulgar in a blog than on a radio podcast. More like tiny bubbles than a circle.

  • Potter

    Re the extended interview with Doug Henwood on Soundcloud… I wish he would really say how he feels about her! Wow! But look at just the facts, never mind how the tale is told! Just as I was trying to get used to the idea of voting for Hillary Clinton. This piles on more of the reasons why I really don’t want to vote for her. I, and I am sure many others, are angry and resentful that yet another presidential election comes down to voting against the least worst choice. This time around it seems really worse than ever.

  • Aldob

    My apologies for posting what may well be a rant.

    I detest being forced to vote for the least of two
    disasters – this kind of groveling goes against
    everything being a citizen of a democracy means to me.
    Thus I’m particularly unsure of what’s the best to do
    this coming November. Surely a government in the grips
    of consumer capitalism needs serious reform. Is it too
    much to ask for least one presumptive candidate to be

    So I’ve gone so much of my way to find out what Hillary
    Clinton is really about that I should ask for a tax
    refund in recompense for the time lost. I’m not helped
    by experts on Clinton’s supposed likeability or
    supposed personal preferences; all that’s important is,
    is she honest, and – given her negatives – does she
    have a chance of beating a despicable opponent who
    nevertheless has the ear of many Americans.

    It’s in search of help with these questions that I came
    to ROS. I have to say I’m kinda disappointed.

    Frank Rich’s overview was thorough and very fair, but
    doesn’t resolve my quandary. Doug Henwood’s does try to
    be fair and I hope will clear the minds of some of the
    Hillary besotted. The Val barmaid piece was of course
    hilarious but from Oct 3, 2015, way behind the
    seriousness of the times. Goes to show how hard it is
    for a citizen to keep his/her balance.

    What I really had trouble with, though, was Terry Castle’s contribution. Lengthy fantasies, very enjoyable but IMO totally irrelevant to the fate of the country. Only at the very end does she get real, and not near enough to offset her worship which will only attract more camp followers ignorant of what they’re helping bring about.

    Let’s not confuse literature and civics, ROS! Help what remains of the citizenry find a way through what appears to be the end of the democratic experiment.

  • Gordon Adams

    I found Amber A’Lee added little to the conversation. She repeated charges against Hillary while admitting not being clear about them. She was not well prepared. It was a too long. ranting FB post.