"Clinton looks awful and has looked worse and worse for years."
Michael Kinsley: Hillary looks like crap because she’s always traveling for show
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I like Kinsley. He is probably my favorite liberal columnist, and definitely the one who makes you work the hardest to defend your conservative point of view. One of the reasons I like him is that he’s willing to pull no punches about liberal icons. It’s not that he doesn’t like Hillary or think she did a good job as Secretary of State. He just thinks she does a lot of preening for show, and that especially includes the all-night travel and the 16-hour days for which the press and her supporters are lionizing her:
And what for? Despite all the admiration she deserves for her dedication and long hours, there is also a vanity of long hours and (in her current job) long miles of travel. You must be very, very important if your work requires you to be constantly flying through time zones to midnight meetings that last for hours. Of course our secretary of state is very important—so why does she have to prove it?
In 1899, the economist Thorstein Veblen wrote a book, “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” which asserted that you prove your status or rank in society by displaying “conspicuous leisure”—that is, how little you appear to work. That may have been true in Veblen’s day, but it surely is not true of the generation of which Mrs. Clinton and her husband are by now the undisputed leaders. (Who else? Nobody is nominating George W. Bush.) For us, the highest form of ritual obeisance is to tell someone, “You must be very busy.”
Travel is an especially good way to stay—and appear—busy. Otherwise, you are at risk of actually being at your desk when someone calls. What could be more embarrassing? I don’t mean to suggest that all or even most business travel, let alone diplomatic travel, is for show. Just that much of it is.
Kinsley picks up on something critically important about Hillary Clinton, and I think it’s a bigger problem than Kinsley thinks it is. She is forever trying to prove herself as serious and substantive, and she never stops posturing to make sure the world knows that she is brilliant and accomplished. I’ve had this sense of her ever since she was First Lady - that she abhorred the idea of being the meekly supportive wife at Bill’s side. She openly disparaged women who “baked cookies,” and it was clear that she wasn’t going to keep herself busy with non-offensive public crusades like literacy. She was going to fix health care! She was going to become a U.S. Senator! She was going to become president!
I think with Hillary the problem is not so much ego but the constant need for ego affirmation. That’s why she works 16-hour days and travels the world unnecessarily, and that’s why she has to make sure that everyone knows about it, and that everyone talks about it.
I never really saw what it was about Hillary Clinton that argued for her to be a major political figure in her own right. From her clumsy handling of the White House billing records to the health care reform fiasco to her clumsy cover story about her cattle futures killing, she always seemed to me like someone who desperately craved the limelight but couldn’t really provide much justification for why she belonged there.
I’ve seen nothing in her tenure as Secretary of State to change that. But Kinsley is right. She sure does fly a lot, and she sure looks awful.