No other woman in American politics has been as viciously attacked for as many years yet manages to maintain her equilibrium and overcome the odds while continuing to work for the American people. Many of us are in awe of her and respect, admire and are inspired by her. Americans named her the most admired woman in the world for 20 years.
There has always been misogyny and sexism in politics and many strong women have been attacked at different times in their careers. Eleanor Roosevelt and Bella Abzug are two that come immediately to mind. But none has faced the vicious and constant drumbeat of criticism and smears directed toward Hillary Clinton.
After law school, Hillary began her career working for the Children’s Defense Fund fighting for children against segregated schools in the South and for an equal opportunity for a good education for those with disabilities. That may have been the last thing she did where she wasn’t savaged by the Republican Party attack machine. From the time she moved to Arkansas and married Bill Clinton she was a foil subjected to vicious attacks by those who wanted to bring him down.
She was attacked for wanting to maintain her own name after marriage, something not done in the South at the time. In an interview in 1979 for “In Focus,” Hillary discussed her reasons for not taking her husband’s name saying, “I didn’t want anyone ever to think that I was taking advantage of his position or in some way riding on it.” It was reported that, “In Bill Clinton’s 1980 campaign for Governor his opponent, Frank White would refer to his own wife as “Mrs. Frank White,” an obvious attack against Clinton.”
Over the years, the attacks on her used to get at Bill Clinton became more vicious. The so-called ‘scandals’ before and during the Bill Clinton presidency were about stopping him. Hillary was excoriated in these attacks, which included Whitewater and Travelgate; she was even called a murderer when it was suggested she killed Vince Foster, a longtime friend who committed suicide. All were extensively investigated at the cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers and not one found Hillary guilty of anything. Then there were Bill’s indiscretions. Hillary was attacked for defending the husband she loved and even today is attacked for not embracing the women who intentionally tried to sleep with her husband. The world is upside down. There have been 25 years of attacks on Hillary and the billion dollars spent by the Republican Party to bring her and Bill down, most of the attacks before she even ran for office on her own and won the Senate seat in New York in 2000.
Through it all Hillary has stayed strong and persevered. By any account she is an amazing woman. She maintains her own humanity, brought up an incredible daughter, and made the personal decision to save her marriage and just celebrated her 41st wedding anniversary. Her Republican detractors should remember the saying, “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Numerous people have looked and checked Hillary Clinton’s statements over the years. Mother Jones did and found Hillary to be one of America’s most honest politicians. Jill Abramson wrote a column suggesting that Hillary is very honest and it may be her desire to have a ‘zone of privacy’ that sometimes leads people to think she isn’t telling the truth. But Hillary understands that ‘facts’ have never stopped people from believing and repeating years of well-funded Republican lies and smears against her.
Other politicians without the strong central core of decency, morality and the amazing resilience Hillary has would have long ago gone home and lived the life of luxury and ease Hillary easily could have. Yet she doesn’t. She fights on and withstands the slings and arrows thrown at her because she knows there is more she can contribute toward making ours a ‘more perfect union.’
She understands there is so much more to do before we have a truly equal society where minorities, women and the LGBT community have the chance to live their lives to the fullest and in safety. She knows her work for children and families must continue. She knows the situation in the world requires a steady hand as commander-in-chief.
I remain in awe of Hillary Clinton and am inspired by her as would anyone who takes the time to know the real woman behind the smears.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.