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My Fair Lady?

Hillary tries to embrace her femininity.

11:00 PM, Jan 7, 2008 • By SAMANTHA SAULT
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IS THE "COLD," "calculating," and "shrill" Hillary Clinton tapping into her feminine side? During Saturday's Democratic debate in New Hampshire, moderator Scott Spradling asked Hillary to react to survey results that show she is less "likable" than Iowa winner Barack Obama. This exchange followed:

HILLARY: Well that hurts my feelings. [Rousing applause and hoots as she pouts. Men like pouts, don't they?] But I'll try to go on. [Downcast eyes.] He's very likable, I'll agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad . . .

BARACK: You're likable enough.

HILLARY: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. [Smiles and bats her eyes--there's that Arkansas charm!]

Then on the campaign trail yesterday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, ABC News reported that Hillary was asked how she remains "upbeat and so wonderful" on the trail. She responded with tears in her eyes, saying, "You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political, it's not just public."

These displays of girlish emotion came after her third-place finish in Iowa and with the latest USA Today/Gallup poll of New Hampshire voters placing her 13 points behind Obama. According to ABC News, the waterworks swayed at least one voter--who had been considering Obama--to join Clinton. But were the tears a tactic meant to raise her "likability" factor, or the natural reaction of a woman facing intense stress, sleep-deprivation, and disappointment?

While watching videos of Hillary cry on countless blogs, I was reminded of a press release sitting in my inbox since December: "How 'Acting Like a Lady' Can Help Hillary Win the Presidency." It featured nine "tips" to help Hillary claim the title of first female U.S. president, written by Roxanne Rivera, a "communications specialist and successful business executive." Rivera suggested that Hillary "resist the urge to become one of the boys and embrace the femininity that helps her stand out from the pack." This was too much of a coincidence--had Hillary gotten the release, too? I decided to call Roxanne in hopes of gaining expert insight into Hillary's latest antics.

Rivera told me that while she does not agree with Hillary's politics, it is admirable that we have in her our first viable female candidate. "She's a pretty shrewd cookie," says Rivera, "but there is a lot more that she could be doing."

Rivera might be on to something. For 22 years she ran a construction company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she negotiated government and military contracts and worked primarily with men. She then worked as a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Republican party and is now a communications consultant for business executives. In her years as one of the few female contractors in New Mexico, Rivera mentored women in male-dominated industries and found that the most successful female executives shared many of the same business habits and communication styles. She began a website called No Crying in Construction to give advice to women in male-dominated industries, politics included, and she has sage advice for Bill's missus.

Above all: act like a lady. "One of the things you do when you're a lady is you don't bash other women or men," says Rivera. "You have a belief in who you are, what you stand for, so you don't have to bash your colleagues." The Clinton campaign spent December bashing Obama on everything ranging from his past drug use to his kindergarten presidential ambitions. Rivera thinks this unladylike behavior cost Clinton votes: "I believe that people are saying, 'Why is she bashing her colleagues? Does she feel a bit shaky in what she believes?'"

Her campaign's claim in November that the other candidates were "piling on" during a tough debate question was equally unladylike. "One of my tips is to answer directness with directness," says Rivera, who thinks a lady would have either answered the question and dropped it, or firmly declined to answer. "Don't come back afterwards and say, 'You slipped me up! You were attacking me!' because that sounds like you're being a whiney woman," she says. And nobody wants a whiney woman as leader of the free world.

And what about the tears? Rivera named her website "No Crying in Construction," she says, because in business, "you never want to have a man see you cry, because it kind of chips away your credibility." If this rule applies to politics, well, we now know where Hillary stands.