Blogs and news sites are buzzing about John Heilemann's excellent profile of Hillary Clinton in this week's issue of New York Magazine.
What strikes me as inarguable is that Hillary is today a more resonant, consequential, and potent figure than she has ever been before. No longer merely a political persona, she has been elevated to a rarefied plane in our cultural consciousness. With her back against the wall, she both found her groove and let loose her raging id, turning herself into a character at once awful and wonderful, confounding and inspiring—thus enlarging herself to the point where she became iconic. She is bigger now than any woman in the country. Certainly, she is bigger than her husband. And although in the end she may wind up being dwarfed by Obama, for the moment she is something he is not: fully, poignantly human.
What makes Heilemann's article unique and wonderful to read is its multi-faceted shine. He looks at - and touches - Hillary Clinton the presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton the feminist, Hillary Clinton the public servant, and Hillary Clinton the populist, among other facets. Take this example, wherein Hillary Clinton the presidential candidate acknowledges the depth of her "miscalculation" and its consequences, in her words and, ostensibly, on her terms:
Back in January, Clinton told me that she made “a fundamental miscalculation” in fixating so obsessively on the commander-in-chief hurdle. “I frankly made a wrong assumption about how to present myself to the country,” she said. But looking back on it now, she has concluded that she had no other choice. “This seemed to me to be looming over everything,” she explains. “I knew if I couldn’t cross it, nothing else would matter.”
This of course is just one of many poignant examples of Heilemann's seeming soul connection with her. Through his eyes we see (those of us who even now ache over her loss and what contributed to her downfall) the pieces of her campaign woven together like a tapesty in progress. What's more, we see hues and shades of Hillary Clinton that make us smile, give us pause, cause us to reflect, and create in us a modest celebration of some kind of victory:
“First of all, I think a lot of the stereotypes were never true to begin with,” she says. “But I don’t think that I’ve ever been a particularly effective television persona. It’s probably the most common thing that people say to me when they actually meet me. So the chance I had to connect with so many people, and then for those people, through the ripple effect—saying, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s really nice, she’s really warm, she really cares, I really liked her’—things really took off...
It's Hillary Clinton the real person, the Hillary Clinton who cares, the warm Hillary Clinton, the Hillary Clinton --- as Heilemann deftly shows us --- who is responsible for knitting together an 18 million-wide and diverse coalition, parallel to Robert F. Kennedy "Poor People's Campaign" and one that is as important to Democrats as the new, young, urban, egghead Democrats.
Gingerly Heilemann broaches the issue that has galvanized most of Hillary's supporters: blatant sexism, outright misogyny and the ensuing silence surrounding it. Hillary Clinton's voice carries through Heilemann's pen (or keyboard):
:...“There’s a reason for the resentment. The level of dismissive and condescending comments, not just about me—what do I care?—but about the people who support me and in particular the women who support me, has been shocking. Shocking to women and to fair-minded men. But what has really been more disappointing to me is how few voices that have a platform have spoken out against it. And that’s really why you seen this enormous grassroots outrage. There is no outlet. It is rare that you have anybody on these shows or in a position of responsibility at major publications who really says, ‘Wait a minute! What are we talking about here? I have a wife! I have a daughter! I want the best for them.’ ”
And in the full-circle of Heilemann's profile, Clinton the "loser" becomes Clinton the victor:
... Clinton will return to the Senate—where, in many ways, she will instantly become the first among equals. “She’ll be greatly, greatly enhanced,” says former senator Bob Kerrey. “She’ll have the most valuable e-mail list in the Senate. She’ll be the most heavily sought out person in the Congress as an endorser, a fund-raiser. Everybody is gonna want to have her come and campaign for them. She’s gonna be at the very top of everybody’s list.”
Amen to this, John. Like most women I know, she only gets better with age (and experience).