Streisand supports Clinton with unwarranted grievance
n her essay “Sexism in American Politics,” Barbra Streisand has written (or had ghostwritten) the sweeping and quite false claim that Hillary Clinton is “held to a pernicious double standard” only because she’s a woman, a claim that Streisand fails to support with any relevant, substantive evidence.
Streisand claims, correctly, that there is sexism in America, though she omits how little it has affected her own career. She’s earned millions of dollars and won two Oscars by having genuine talent, working hard, and creating actual artistic achievements in music, theatre, and film. Her net worth was estimated at more than $600 million in 2014. Streisand is easily identified by her work, whether performing in “Funny Girl” or “Hello Dolly” or “Yentl” or singing “People” or “Send in the Clowns,” or pick your own Streisand favorite. Her record is clear, extensive, and compelling. She is a star on her merit.
So it’s odd for someone with a life of such consistent accomplishment to hector her readers in support of Hillary Clinton, who has no comparable career of identifiable accomplishment anything close to Streisand’s. Allowing for the difference between the singer/actress and the lawyer/politician, surely a similar catalogue of achievements or causes should be possible for an accomplished lawyer/politician. What is Hillary Clinton best known for? Being a top corporate lawyer, standing by her man, holding office (honorific, elected, appointed), bungling healthcare, attacking Libya, “Benghazi” (whatever its reality), secret Goldman Sachs transcripts, emails, pick your favorite, but where are the “Oscar winners” in the set?
So if it’s not accomplishments that distinguish Hillary Clinton, what about lasting commitment to just and honorable causes, even in the face of frustration and setback? Is such an example in her lengthy resume? Hillary Clinton is not now and never has been a person of consistent, principled integrity. She has dabbled with democratic decency, but without being committed to making it her life’s work. That’s not to say she hasn’t done much good for people at times. Her record is replete with moments of real grace and service to a variety of good causes. But there is no clear, sustained engagement in any of those causes. What does she truly and deeply stand for? Take this little test:
Hillary Clinton is closely associated with the cause of __________ [fill in the blank].
Name a cause that immediately makes you think: “Hillary led that! Hillary stands for that! Hillary has always been there for that!” There seems to be no obvious, clear, no-brainer answer. That’s because she has spent her life devoted to no particular cause larger than herself (and Bill and Chelsea). Instead she’s given token, or sometimes even meaningful support to 26 charities and 30 causes, according to Look to the Stars. And she has worked hard, apparently, for the Clinton Foundation. (By comparison, Streisand has 23 causes and 13 charities, including the Clinton Foundation.)
At the beginning of her piece, Streisand compares Hillary Clinton to Eleanor Roosevelt. Or rather, more revealingly, Streisand describes how Streisand herself compared Clinton to Roosevelt 22 years ago, when Clinton was still First Lady. But the comparison is not about commitment and accomplishment, it’s about their both being treated “rudely and meanly” (Michelle Obama is not mentioned, an omission that some might think reflected another kind of “pernicious double standard”). Streisand complains that Brit Hume and Joe Scarborough were mean to Clinton, as if their shallow, mean-spirited opinions matter much to anyone but their ex-wives.
Streisand also tells a tale of Flint, Michigan, mayor Karen Weaver praising Hillary Clinton (whom Weaver has endorsed), for helping Flint with its water crisis. Streisand omits the $500,000 from Clinton backers J.B. and M.K. Pritzker of Chicago to help those hurt by the Flint water crisis. (J.B. Pritzker’s sister, Penny Pritzker, is currently the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.)
From there, Streisand drifts off into rambling resentment of Republican rancor, all of which is real enough, but is a long way from demonstrating any accomplishment that qualifies Clinton for the presidency. Similarly, Streisand speculates on how Clinton would be treated if she behaved like Trump – as if Trump weren’t already being treated pretty roughly by a lot of those rancorous Republicans.
Streisand concludes with a few jumbled paragraphs that cite Margaret Thatcher as a role model, that scaremonger about Donald Trump, that comment on polling that shows voters prefer Clinton to Trump (while omitting polling that shows voters preferring Sanders even more), and that re-assert Clinton’s “strength, experience and compassion” without having demonstrated any of it with any specific accomplishment or cause.
In the end, Streisand fails to face a decidedly un-sexist reality: Hillary Clinton is no Eleanor Roosevelt.
What does it take to be a “Great American Woman”?
Hillary Clinton is listed among “100 Great American Women” since 1776 on the Eve Blog in 2010. It’s not clear what the Eve Blog’s criteria were for inclusion, since the list also includes Sarah Palin, Condoleezza Rice, Geraldine Ferraro, and Meg Whitman, whose “accomplishments” are as dubious as Clinton’s. Most of the “great women” on the list are undeniably accomplished in a wide range of ways. They include Maya Angelou, Clara Barton, Rachel Carson, Dorothea Dix, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barbara Jordan, Barbara Mikulski, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Jody Williams. Hillary Clinton is none of these people. She is certainly no Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for working to ban landmines around the world. (Hillary Clinton is now in favor of the US signing the landmine ban treaty, but it wasn’t a high priority for her as Secretary of State, and as a senator she voted to let the US military continue to use cluster bombs.)
For whatever reasons, Eve Blog’s “great women” list has some striking omissions, perhaps most notably, the first woman “acting president,” Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, who took over much of President Wilson’s workload after his debilitating stroke in October 1919. According to a Republican senator at the time, Mrs. Wilson was “the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of the suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man.”
Another omission is Rep. Pat Schroeder, a Harvard-trained lawyer and Democrat who served Colorado for 24 years in the US House of Representatives. During her first campaign in 1972, the FBI put her and her staff under covert surveillance, paid a man to break into her home, and compiled a 60-page file on her, all of which came to naught. She ran briefly for President in 1987, dropping out when she could not raise enough money to compete in a crowded field. Continuing in the House, Schroeder was a prime mover of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. In May of 1996, when Hillary Clinton was supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, Schroeder voice opposition: “You can’t amend the Constitution with a statute. Everybody knows that. This is just stirring the political waters and seeing what hate you can unleash.” The statute, signed into law by President Clinton, was later found unconstitutional.
Other Eve Blog omissions include Gertrude Stein, Julia Child, A.M. Homes, Amy Goodman, Molly Ivins, Barbara Boxer, Ida Lupino, Barbara Lee, Medea Benjamin, or Tulsi Gabbard, all women of clear principle and courage.
The blog list does include Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress (1968), and the first woman to run for President (1972). She ran “unbought and unbossed,” and she ran “to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for qualified candidates, simply because he is not white or because she is not a male.” She did not expect to win, she expected to contribute to changing the country in a fundamental way: “In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing – anti-humanism.”
Back in November 2015, Bernie Sanders responded with humane grace to a question about his differences with Clinton: “we do agree on a number of issues, and by the way, on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and President than the Republican candidate on his best day. But having said that, we have very significant differences and the key difference is I see a nation in which we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality.”
There is no sexism in that response. There is no sexism in comparing Hillary Clinton to other American women, especially women who have had far fewer advantages than she has. Hillary Clinton is no Shirley Chisholm, she is no Pat Schroeder, she is no Susan Sarandon. But who is she?