Tina Brown's Silly Swipe Produced Some Real Answers

What Women Really Think
July 16 2009 6:18 PM

Tina Brown's Silly Swipe Produced Some Real Answers

Like Jessica , I also think Tina Brown’s big, bad, quasi-racist swipe at Hillary Clinton was opportunistic and somewhat misguided. But Mark Landler’s New York Times piece, penned seemingly in response to Brown’s potshot, raises an interesting history, and attempts to answer fair questions about the obviously awkward role in which the Secretary of State finds herself vis-a-vis her formal rival and his foreign-policy heavy White House. It’s not necessarily melodrama , but, for instance, the fact that George Mitchell, special envoy to Israel/Palestine, and Karl Eikenberry, ambassador to Afghanistan, report to both her and to president Obama, could get messy once in a while. Add to this the need for foreign diplomats to believe with absolute clarity that Clinton speaks for the president, and you see how Foggy Bottom would want to nip any accusations in the bud.

However-bureaucratic hierarchies aside-when it comes to the actual projection of strength as Secretary of State, Clinton has a mixed record. Ben Smith at Politico makes a great point about spin surrounding Clinton’s speech at the Council on Foreign Relations this week. I watched the speech in Washington, which countless commentators described as "muscular" (After Mark Lynch, I put this performance in the "swagga" category previously reserved for flashy rappers ). But, he says


The focus on Clinton's strength is familiar. Mark Penn's leaked campaign memos show an obsessive-and very successful-focus during her campaign on showing strength at every pass, a major reason she refused to apologize for backing the Iraq war. The focus is an understandable effort to combat gender stereotypes, and a cornerstone of remaking Clinton's image after she left the White House.

But the early spin gave, at best, a very partial and misleading sense of what Clinton actually said yesterday. The most "muscular" portions were the carefully-drafted signals to Iran and Saudi Arabia, which represent the White House's formal stance, not Clinton's personal vision. The more personal elements of the speech-the ones that actually carry some meaning for her stature and role as Secretary of State-were in the realm of what used to be called "soft power," and is now called "smart power."

Though she stood up for American hegemony a few different times, insisting to American enemies that "our willingness to talk is not a sign of weakness to be exploited," Clinton has always been a fan of this more cerebral methodology. So it’s fascinating-and on some level, totally awesome and welcome-to see her affect a "tough guy" posture at the slightest sign of a challenge. Even if the provocation was silly, yellow journalism.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.