Mary Jo Melone: Hillary Clinton, without apology

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Like Donald Trump’s narcissism, the misogyny driving the vitriol aimed at Hillary Clinton is bottomless. The best that can be said of the legions of her critics is that some, women among them, don’t know history.

Worse yet, few who are puzzled by the vitriol directed at Clinton bother to see her through the lens of her experience as a woman.

Clinton is part of the last generation of women who could only gain access to political power through their husbands. As the candidate’s wife, certain responsibilities, were not perks of the job.

In that painful 60 Minutes interview in 1992 about her husband’s dalliances, Clinton nodded like a rear window bobblehead as he tried to explain himself. Her emotions were missing in action, and her face was a mask.

Her behavior was not sinister, only calculated, a performance that likely still impresses candidates and their consultants, including — how shocking! — Republicans.

That’s the problem, say Sanders fans. She’s the left side of the GOP. She’s a talking millionaire paid by the minute by the cretins of Wall Street. It’s more than a hunch that most of Sanders’ believers voted for Obama, who later failed to punish the speculators who caused the Great Recession and who will likely also get a chance to be a talking millionaire.

Will he be as evil as Clinton then? It’s more than a hunch that he won’t.

No, Hillary Clinton is a special case.

Before the ground was softened by the right’s obsession with Benghazi, even before its obsession with Whitewater, and every other presumed offense perpetrated by Hillary and/or her cheating spouse, the right did a number — a really big number — on feminists. We were not just a threat to the commonweal, we were ugly as sin, just screechy, miserable broads all-around.

The right is brilliant at propaganda; it bred a generation of women who say, “I’m not a feminist, but … ,” and believe they haven’t hurt themselves. They don’t object to the laughable claims that Clinton is unqualified and don’t see a link between those attacks and the way they themselves are treated by the bosses who pass out titles and raises.

My favorite of late is that Clinton just isn’t warm, a far greater offense when leveled at a woman than a man like, say, Mitt Romney. We women are expected to be, most of all, social creatures, and if Hillary Clinton does not radiate this virtue, it may be because she has been buffeted by forces, set in motion by her husband and his enemies, that would flatten most people.

She strikes me as permanently and profoundly wary, a characteristic that has enabled her to endure and endure and endure, and that might be useful in dealing with both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.


Tampa-based writer Mary Jo Melone is a former columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

Mary Jo Melone

Veteran columnist Mary Jo Melone is a freelance writer and an alumna of the St. Petersburg Times.


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