News Eoghan Harris

Thursday 18 September 2014

Hilary Clinton: a winner, not a whiner

Published 17/08/2014 | 00:00

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Mrs Clinton remains far and away the frontrunner to take her party’s presidential nomination
Mrs Clinton remains far and away the frontrunner to take her party’s presidential nomination

I have always been
attracted to strong women. By which I mean stand-up girls who go their own way without looking for peer approval. Last week gave us two examples of women who play by their own rules - as well as a depressing reminder of what happens when victim feminists pressurise other women to whine.

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Hilary Clinton heads my list of women who won't whine. Last week, Barack Obama wondered why she would want to go through what he called the "undignifying" process of running for President in 2016. A remark that revealed more about Obama than Clinton.

President Obama is the Pat Rabbitte of American politics. Articulate, intelligent and shrewd, his great gifts are wasted on rhetorical riffs. But he has no big vision or stomach for the role that America will have to play until we have a United Nations with teeth - the role of final responder when desperate refugees from despots have run out of road.

A few years ago, while waiting for the St Patrick's Day parade to start, I had a long conversation with a conservative NYPD black cop at a barrier who summed up why he voted for McCain. "Obama is not really an American black man. He's what in the old days they called a person of colour. Real black men are patriots like me. We know the world is full of bad motherfukas who need their bad asses kicked."

True, Obama has sent drones to do the dirty work. But his withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, instead of making Americans face that Islamism will have to be fought in a long war across the globe, means he will leave no lasting mark, apart from being the first black President.

Conversely, a recent long interview with the Atlantic reveals that Hilary Clinton has a clear global vision. Asked about Obama's summation of foreign policy as "don't do stupid stuff", Clinton replied: "Great nations need organising principles, and 'don't do stupid stuff' is not an organising principle."

She was rock-solid on Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas, on putting a stop to Putin's pushing, and on getting to grips with the global Jihad of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hear her hard line. "Jihadist groups are governing territory. But they will not stay there. They are driven to expand. How do we try to contain that? I'm thinking a lot about containment, deterrence and defeat."

Come 2016, for the first time since JFK, the US may finally have found a president with a purpose.

***

Lauren Bacall once spoke to me briefly. She was sitting in front of me at a crowded session in a small room at the Gregory Peck Film School in UCD, where film students had gathered to listen to Martin Scorsese. Back then, Leo Conway ran an MA film production course where students actually made films; a golden age before gender theory and its allies got a grip on the curriculum and students became critics rather than creative
film-makers.

At one point, I asked Scorsese why his scenes of violence, as in Good Fellas, produced pity for the perpetrators as well as for the victims. I compared this empathy with Oliver Stone films like Natural Born Killers, where multiple killings leave no mark on us. Scorsese reflected for a long time on this before giving what sounded like a personal testimony.

He said that being brought up as an Italian Roman Catholic, the sacredness of human life, and the horror of taking a life before its time, was probably present in the moral sensibility he brought to such scenes.

When he fell silent, Bacall turned an iconic cheekbone slightly back towards me and murmured something. After that, I don't remember the rest of what Scorsese said.

Those who talk glibly about Hollywood being a safe house for Jews should read her autobiography By Myself. Bacall's blonde looks meant that she could play down her Jewishness, which she did. But looking back, she felt she should have been more open about her Jewish identity.

She had good reason for repression, however. On one of her first films, Howard Hawks made a disparaging comment about Jews in front of her. Bacall thought: "Oh, no, don't let him be anti-Semitic. God, don't let me come all this way and have it blow up in my face."

So what did she say to me in UCD? Just "That was good." But a man could live for a long time on three words from Lauren Bacall.

***

Last week, I turned up five minutes late at Jacobs Bar in Baltimore to watch the Irish Women's Rugby team play Kazakhstan. But although the bar was full of women, between staff and coffee customers, nobody had turned on the television. Louis Jacob, a boy of 10 who knew all the players' names, and myself watched it on our own while women continued conversations around us.

Given that low level of interest, I was glad to open the Sunday Independent and read Niamh Horan's hilarious feature on a training session she spent with the women of Railway Union RFC. She gave a red card to any lingering male stereotypes about rugby women being rough diamonds.

In fact, the only stereotype featured was a mocking depiction of herself as a ditzy dolly bird with painted nails and full 
make-up.

The first, sensible, reaction by Railway Union RFC to her funny feature was a Facebook post that welcomed the publicity with a concise and positive review: "Great feature on the club in the Indo today, if a tad risque with a few of the usual stereotypes thrown in!"

Alas, the Railway Union RFC women did not realise that they were to become pawns in the politically-correct culture war that a trio of Irish Times columnists seems to be waging on the Sunday Independent. By noon, Una Mullally, Shane Hegarty and Dermot Clarke had twittered up a teacup storm about alleged stereotyping.

Under this PC pressure, some cowardy custards in the club caved in and persuaded the rest to repudiate the first statement. With what result? In their first reaction to Niamh Horan's piece, the Railway Union women came across as rounded females, full of smarts, humour and healthy sexuality.

But after backing down under pressure from the Irish Times theocracy, they came across as weak, vacillating and lacking a sense of humour. So who stereotyped whom?

What baffles me is why some writers, closer to home, came out in support of the Irish Times victim feminists. Who wants to read a consensus columnist who merely says "me too" in support of their PC pals on Twitter? Readers want contrarians who challenge the consensus, not parrots who repeat the PC party line.

Sarah Carey is such a contrarian. In a sharp piece on Independent.ie in support of Niamh Horan, Carey castigated the Irish Times theocracy and warned newspaper chiefs not to be fooled into thinking PC posters on Twitter represent a majority.

As Carey pointed out, most women readers reject victim feminism in all its forms.

And surely her point is proven by the healthy circulation of the Sunday Independent?

Carey sums up why politically correct Twitter politics is poison to a newspaper.

"You want to know why your newspaper sales are dropping like a stone, or why local radio is wildly popular? It's because significant numbers of people are alienated from the mono-opinion of the mainstream."

***

Robin Williams, an honorary strong woman, courtesy of Mrs Doubtfire, also considered himself an honorary Jew. Alas, I was not a fan of his comic stand-up routines, which I found too manic, or of his acting which I thought too needy and saccharine. But he had his moments, as in this interview on German television.

Interviewer: Mr Williams, why do you think there's not so much comedy in Germany?

Williams: Did you ever think you killed all the funny people?

***

Finally, apologies to Minister for Arts, Heather Humphreys, for stupidly spelling her surname wrongly last week. Alas, I have no excuse but can offer Dr Johnson's explanation for an error.

"Ignorance Ma'am, pure ignorance."

Sunday Independent

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