Coming from another politician slipping in the polls against someone like Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton’s no more Mrs. Nice Girl brass knuckle attacks would make tactical sense.
Unfortunately for her, her anger has no finesse. She comes across as strident, confirming the "bitch factor"* in many people’s mind. Some people will think she’s trying to beat Muhammad Ali by kicking him in the balls.
* See update to column for my definition of "bitch factor".
In the clips being played today of her latest tirade against Obama you can feel, not her passion, but her rage.
Instead of playing on her one primary political strength,experience, she is attacking the strength that has propelled him into the number one spot. That is his ability to transcend his lack of national political experience by his ability to inspire hope.
Chance gave her a few pegs to hang her rage on: that he used some lines from a Deval Patrick speech, a flyer sent out about her health care plan and Obama’s characterization of her position on NAFTA?
Interestingly, the right wing pretty much ignored this, and is attacking Obama for not pledging allegiance, wearing a flag pin, and having a wife who is unpatriotic.
Hillary wants Democrats to believe that Barak is pulling the wool over the eyes of his supporters with a slickly delivered message that is all packaging with nothing of substance inside. In other words, she wants to make Obamamania a psychiatric disorder. If you have it, you’d best question your sanity.
Initially, faced with the effectiveness of Obama’s words, she attacked him in a reasonably civil manner for being nothing but words. This didn’t work.
Now she’s getting angry.
No doubt she thinks expressing anger is the answer and Democrats will see it as strength.
On Saturday Night Live Tina Fey expressed support for Clinton by saying, essentially, that bitches get things done, that "bitch is the new black." (See "Tina Fey gives Hillary a shout out on SNL" on Monsters and Critics)
Tina Fey’s bit is getting play on the news shows, so it’s worth considering whether it will influence anyone. She’s saying that bitches get things done. She says that this is the reason nuns rather than priests teach in Catholic schools. Presumably, even though teacher nuns may not be kind and gentle, they will make sure you learn the capital of Vermont.
The question I have is whether undecided Demcorats want a nun smacking them on the wrists with a ruler as president.
If Hillary can overcome the basic bitch factor, I rather doubt she can be successful if she comes across as an angry and sarcastic bitch having a hissy fit.
Update Added 5PM Feb. 25, 2008: My definition of "bitch factor"
This column and my subsequent comments shouldn’t be construed as my calling Hillary Clinton a bitch. I am writing about what I called "the bitch factor". I hoped the column would be clear enough so people wouldn’t misconstrue what I was saying. Obviously I haven’t mastered the
art of totally unambiguous writing on volatile subjects.
I didn’t think I actually coined a new socio-politcal term with
"bitch factor", but doing a Google search (with "safe search" turned
off on the advanced search feature – as "bitch" won’t be searched if it
is on), I discovered that there’s an Urban Dictionary definition of
"bitch factor" using bitch as a verb which is unrelated to my usage
There’s also a mystery novel with that title and a blog about
bitching, which men and women can engage in equally. In addition there’s a publication called Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture (LINK), which today features a piece on the Tin Fey segment.
I didn’t look though the 6000 some web pages but in the first 50 didn’t notice any using the term as I had. Already this column is listed as number four in the search. It’s hard to believe I am the first person to coin this term.
In case I am, I suppose I’d better offer my own sociological definition:
"Bitch factor" refers to the impact of being perceived as a "bitch" on a woman’s relationships and career. The term "bitch" is meant in the pejorative sense, is considered a highly offensive term for a woman that insults her temperament, it generally taken to indicate she is any or all of the following: malicious, unpleasant, strident, spiteful, unbearable, overbearing (all from various dictionaries).
Whether or not the woman has any of these traits or characteristics is irrelevant. It is the degree which she is perceived of as having them that constitutes the impact of the "bitch factor" which is, by defintion, detrimental to her.