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November 16, 2005

Left Is Right And Right Is Left

Rice-Hillary1

With all the powerful political images coming out of the Middle East this past week, I was interested in focusing on Condi and Hillary, both jointly and separately.

A couple weeks ago, there was a some buzz that in the ’sphere fantasizing about a Hillary – Condi presidential match-up.  Whether there was any sense to the scenario, what it crystallized was the truly iconic stature of each woman, and the natural tendency to draw associations between the two.   In this light, it was something of a treat to that they both showed up (and visually overlapped) the day before yesterday at the memorial ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the death of Yitzhak Rabin.

Although afforded the "better seats" due to the Clinton Administration’s involvement with Rabin and the peace process, Hillary looks pretty set in the alpha postion relative to both Bill and Condi.  Style-wise, she seems to both mirror, and hold her own with Condi.  To Condi’s credit, however, there is an interesting power symmetry in her pairing with Sharon as a counterweight to the always formidable Hill and Bill combo.

What I was most interested in, however, were the contrasting agendas of the two trips, and how the politics informed the images.  If anything, you could say that Condi and Hillary were involved in a kind of role reversal.

On Hillary’s part, she was doing groundwork
for her Senatorial re-election and the seemingly inevitable White House
run. Underpinning her trip was her now notorious shift to the right, as
well as the effort to solidify her N.Y. Jewish support. To do that, she
seemed determined to make up for her last trip here (for which she was
attacked by N.Y. Republicans in her Senate campaign) for being
photographed kissing Yasir Arafat’s wife, and seeming to overly embrace
the Palestinian cause.

Hillary-Wall-Map1

Of course, she was also photographed
doing the compulsory prayer at the Wailing Wall. Going out of her way
to pay respect to the most hardline Israeli position (and innoculate
herself against further attacks from right), however, Hillary posed for
this picture next to a map of the Israeli security wall. Notice the
especially big smile, the designation of the wall as a "fence" and the
dotted lines around settlements. When asked if she supported the wall
running through Palestinian land in the West Bank, Clinton simply
avoided the question.

If Hillary was doing a wide right swing, however, Condi was
doing the opposite. Perhaps she was motivated by the possibility of
scoring the first Mid-East diplomatic accomplishment of the Bush
Administration. Maybe she was showing some independence from the
neocons. Perhaps she felt the Administration needed to finally
demonstrate some act of competence somewhere. Maybe she was just
determined to prove she wasn’t a complete poster child for the Peter
Principle. For whatever reason, however, Condi hung around the region
long enough to achieve an understanding giving Palestinians more
freedom of movement and economic control in, out and over Gaza.

Rice-Sharon1

Consider this image of Condi, Sharon and Peres at a dinner forum
(at which Hillary actually gave the keynote address). If one didn’t
know better, it might look like Rice was pandering. In light of the agreement,
however, it seems that Condi was just wearing Sharon down. If the
images are any indication, Rice was on Sharon like glue with the two
sitting together at the Haim Saban Forum dinner on the 13th, attending
the Rabin service together after having met individually on the 14th,
and then nailing down the Gaza arrangement on the 15th.

Not that women can’t be bigger hawks than men, but after five
years of Bush testosterone, it seems refreshing to see female
politicians grab a bigger share of the stage — even as they work it
from both sides.

(image 1: Israel Hadari/Reuters.
Jerusalem. November 14, 2005. Via YahooNews. image 2: Tony
Gentile/Reuters. November 13, 2005. Jerusalem. Via YahooNews. image 3:
Uriel Sinai/Reuters. Jerusalem November 13, 2005. Via YahooNews.)

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