When I spoke with Hillary, long after I’d been to her 2016 rallies and followed her on the campaign trail, she made some salient points about what women are allowed to say and do in politics
It’s not a good sign when the best part of a presidential debate is happening off-screen, but given the absolute dumpster fire that was the first showdown between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, it’s also not surprising.
From politicians to pundits, everyone on Twitter had an opinion on the fiery exchange between the pair — which left neither looking particularly electable, never mind presidential.
But one person must have been smiling while watching the clash.
For former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, Biden was finally getting in the jabs she had so clearly been holding in during her own debates with Trump in 2016.
One can just imagine Secretary Clinton raising a glass of her favorite Chardonnay as Biden told Trump to “shut up, man” — so much so that the writer Jill Filipovic tweeted: “I so feel for Hillary right now because I’m positive she wanted to say that and couldn’t”. Clinton replied: “You have no idea.” It was hands-down the best moment of the night.
Aside from some acerbic comments and well-placed jabs about his experience, Clinton largely shied away from hitting Trump on a personal level during the last election cycle, instead commenting in the October 2016 debate: “I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama advised us all. When they go low, you go high.”
Clinton, like all women in politics, didn’t have much choice but to go high. While no one fares well when they attempt to play Trump at his own nickname-giving, insult-driven game, female politicians are routinely painted as emotional, out-of-control, even hysterical if they step into the realm of trading personal blows.
Meanwhile, male politicians can shout, talk over one another, make brash, outlandish comments, and become worked up without anyone suggesting they are hormonal beasts whose decisions are being made by their wombs.
I covered the US election in 2016, reporting from Hillary Clinton rallies — where she was less guarded on home turf. When I interviewed her in 2019 and asked about the future of women in politics, most notably the misogynistic commentary she faced while campaigning, she was pleased there were so many more female candidates in the mix (six initially announced: Kamala Harris — now Biden’s VP pick — as well as Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson and Tulsi Gabbard). But she was under no illusion that women were viewed as equal to men, explaining they were facing the same worn rhetoric she had seen during her own campaign.
And while Clinton was happy to tackle that sexism head-on, calling it out on numerous occasions, it clearly hampered her battle for the White House.
Despite Trump’s own brash and at times bumbling campaign, he was unapologetically himself. Clinton, meanwhile, was under such scrutiny that one got the feeling she was holding it all in — lest any misstep reveal her as a fallible, human woman.
Since her defeat, Clinton’s critique of the president has become far more outspoken than it was during her campaign. Highlights include her trolling Trump with a fake letter from the JFK archives and responding to the president’s infamous coronavirus bleach comments by telling her Twitter followers: “Please do not take medical advice from a man who looked directly at a solar eclipse”.
Biden may have fulfilled Clinton’s ambition in bluntly showing his frustration with Trump’s steamroller approach to the debate, but it won’t have done him any favors at the polls: Trump long ago proved it is poison to play him at his own game.
The former VP’s appeals to “the folks at home” are likely to have made more of an impact on voters than his dismissal of Trump, despite the transparent intentions, while the passion he showed talking about his sons was more powerful than any zinger.
Biden’s team will likely advise him not to snap back at Trump in future debates, but as a one-off it worked, and as a bonus made some good viewing for Clinton. It’s just a shame she didn’t get to say it herself.
(Source: The Independent)