Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Camille Paglia - Obama's Best Veep Choice

Didn't know Paglia was an Obama girl. In her new article at Salon, Camille Paglia tells us just who is Obama's best VP choice. One of the names in the news has been Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and it seems Paglia likes her, too, although she describes the governor as possessing a "blandly generic WASPiness that has persistently defined the American power structure in business and government and that has weirdly resisted wave after wave of immigration since the mid-19th century."

Here's the whole section:
As an Obama supporter, I of course see things quite differently. Whatever his tactical assertions in the primary trenches, Obama seems to have an open and flexible mind. He is a conciliator and synthesizer, ready to give due respect to opposing views -- a grace desperately needed in paralyzed Washington. When the camera comes close -- as it did last week when CNN's terrific Candy Crowley tenaciously grilled him about Hillary Clinton's prospects for the vice-presidency -- his deliberative thought process is plainly visible. What a deft performance under high-stakes pressure: Obama was firm, authoritative and methodical without ever losing his warmth and geniality. The guy is smart as a whip. And his administration will be as good as its appointments. As for Michelle Obama, she is formidable, representing a bold, stylish feminism more authentically contemporary than the old, bellyaching, blame-the-males style of Hillary's omnipresent cheerleader, Gloria Steinem.

Given the looming importance of national security concerns, I used to think that Virginia's pugnacious junior senator, Jim Webb, an ex-Marine, would be Obama's most prudent running mate. Obama doesn't need some veteran pol like the 66-year-old governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, who would simply make Obama look younger than he is. Arizona's ebullient Governor Janet Napolitano would certainly fill out my Italian-American dream ticket and help to nail down the Southwest. But I've come to feel that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is Obama's best bet. She is a polished public presence who epitomizes that cordial, smoothly reassuring, and blandly generic WASPiness that has persistently defined the American power structure in business and government and that has weirdly resisted wave after wave of immigration since the mid-19th century. An Obama-Sebelius pairing would be visually vibrant and radiant, like a new day dawning.

Hillary for veep? Are you mad? What party nominee worth his salt would chain himself to a traveling circus like the Bill and Hillary Show? If the sulky bearded lady wasn't biting the new president’s leg, the oafish carnival barker would be sending in the clowns to lure all the young ladies into back-of-the-tent sword-swallowing. It would be a seamy orgy of scheming and screwing. Hillary could never be content with second place. But neither could an alpha male like Obama. The vice-president should be an accomplished but subordinate personality. An Obama-Hillary ticket might tickle party regulars, but it would be a big fat minus in the general election. Republicans have shrewdly stockpiled a mammoth arsenal of past scandals to strafe Hillary with. Only a sentimental masochist would want to relive the tawdry 1990s.

More to the point, however, Paglia laments the resurgent male bashing that came out of the Clinton camp. Hillary tried to turn the Democratic contest into a giant gender issue, the kind of "identity politics" that conservatives love to see, since it often means an easy victory for them.
In point of fact, Hillary's sex helped her more than hurt her. What the media repeatedly claimed was her success in debate was predicated on her silencing of her male competitors, who were bullied into excess caution in dealing with a woman. Not one Democratic male dared attack or rebut her with the zest shown by all the Republican candidates jousting with each other. Hillary had to be coddled with elaborate deference -- or the delicate little woman would squawk bloody murder (as she did when she petulantly complained about always being given the first debate question). All of this rubbish was resurrected last week in the thousand mawkish excuses found by the media and her crooning acolytes for "giving her time" to withdraw from the race. No man would have been treated in that overconcerned way -- as a frail vessel of quivering emotion. Yet another blot on feminism, courtesy of Clinton, Inc.

And here’s another whopping female advantage: Hillary could jet around the country with an elaborate, color-keyed wardrobe and a professional hair and makeup crew, who plastered and insta-lifted her with dewy salon uber-ointments and cutting-edge technology before every appearance. No male candidate has ever had that theatrical privilege. (John Edwards, in contrast, was heaped with scorn for his simple yet pricey haircuts.) When the mega-prep for some reason failed -- as on a frigid morning in Iowa -- the resultant photo of Hillary in realistically wrinkled 60-year-old mode caused repercussions around the world. Golda Meir, with her robustly lived-in face and matriarchal jowls, would have given ever-primping Hollywood Hillary a derisive Bronx cheer.

There can be no doubt that Hillary's travails have reignited the feminist wars, which sputtered out in the mid-'90s after the rousing triumph of the insurgent pro-sex wing of feminism to which I belong. Grab your swords and saddle up, ladies! The spectral Steinem is clinging to Hillary like a limpet. Oh, and there's Susan Faludi wispily brooding in Steinem's papoose. Get ready to rumble: Male-bashing feminism is back with a vengeance.

My latest salvo, which opens with Hillary, will be published in two weeks by Arion: "Feminism Past and Present: Ideology, Action, and Reform," which was the keynote address of a conference called "The Legacy and Future of Feminism," held at Harvard University in April. The article may be available on Arion's Web site by late next week.

Thank god for Paglia. The last thing we need is a return to male bashing. If Clinton had been treated fairly, like all the other candidates, she would not have stayed in the race so long, having been defeated by her own version of pseudo-feminism -- conveying to voters that they should vote for her simply because she is a woman.

But how great would it be if Obama chose a woman as his running mate, a talented, engaging, intelligent woman who is his equal. Clearly, as anyone who has seen Michelle speak would guess, he is not afraid of powerful women.

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