There’s little middle ground when it comes to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
You either love her or you hate her. What some see as grit and determination is viewed as ruthless and opportunistic by others.
She is a polarizing political figure to her opponents and a messiah for 21st century feminism to those who support her.
Somewhere in the middle of all these opposite extremes lies one middle ground of agreement: Hillary Clinton, for better or for worse, lives for the fight.
And the fight is what drives her in her uphill quest for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
As Mark Leibovich and Kate Zernike report in The New York Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is waving her fists across Indiana, signing autographs on boxing gloves.
“We need a president who’s a fighter again,” Mrs. Clinton said at a rally on Thursday, adding that the next president must understand what it is like to “get knocked down and get back up: that’s the story of America, right?”
In recent days, Mrs. Clinton has chided the experts for “counting me out” and Senator Barack Obama for his inability to “close the deal” and declared that no one was going to make her quit. “She makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy,” North Carolina’s governor, Michael F. Easley, said in endorsing her, and a union leader in Portage, Ind., praised her “testicular fortitude.”
This kind of language and pugilistic imagery, however, also evokes the baggage that makes Mrs. Clinton such a provocative political figure. For as much as a willingness to “do what it takes” and “die hard” are marketable commodities in politics, they can also yield to less flattering qualities, plenty of which have been ascribed to her over the years. Just as supporters praise her “toughness” and “tenacity,” critics also describe her as “divisive,” “a dirty fighter” or “willing to do anything to win.”
The critics include supporters of Mr. Obama who subscribe to the notion, pushed by their candidate, that Mrs. Clinton, his opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination, represents the fractious politics of the past.
The camp gained a new spokesman on Thursday when Joe Andrew, a superdelegate who was a chairman of the Democratic National Committee under President Bill Clinton, switched his support to Mr. Obama from Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Andrew accused Mrs. Clinton and her allies of being “the best practitioners of the old politics,” who “will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton.”
Asked in an interview on Thursday about the Andrew defection and the dirty fighter implication, Mrs. Clinton simply shook her head and said: “I don’t know where that comes from. I think it’s just part of the mythology that’s been manufactured and promoted.”
The mythology that Mrs. Clinton speaks of was shaped during her often-embattled public career, much of it spent trying to find her footing as an unconventional political wife.
“She has learned how to be ruthless,” said Robert B. Reich, an Obama supporter who served as Mr. Clinton’s secretary of labor and knew Mrs. Clinton in their college days. “I doubt that it came to her naturally, but she has learned.”