Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
August 13, 2009

Hillary: Basher or Bashed?

Hillary-Kinshasa.jpg

Which most closely describes this visual reverberating through the echo chamber the past two days?

1. A thin-skinned response to a boneheaded question undermining Hillary’s credibility with Africa and the Islamic world, especially while advocating on behalf of human rights and Congolese women.

2. A forgettable reaction to an attempt to undermine Hillary’s authority just because she’s a female — and nothing to breaking a sweat over if not for the Clinton haters, the shallowness of the media, and a heaping helping of gender double-standard.

(The backstory and confusion about translation from The Lede Blog. Screen shot from rather harsh captioned video story by Times Now, the English news channel broadcasting primarily to South Asia.)

  • Tena

    I’m not slavishly attached to Sec. Clinton, but honestly the first time I saw the clip I took as number 2. I thought the question was totally out of line – she was asked what the men around her thought, as if what she thought didn’t matter and I think I would have reacted the same way.

  • Tena

    To clarify: I thought the questions as translated was out of line and that is the question she was ultimately asked – the mistranslated question.

  • Stella

    This is so sad. I’ve heard that Hillary has a short fuse, but she’s supposed to be a diplomat isn’t she? I like the fact that she has a sense of humor, but this touchiness doesn’t bode well for the U.S.

  • http://motherrr.blogspot.com mcmama

    Option 2. No question.

  • bernini

    As long at Tom Friedman’s feelings were not hurt, I am OK with either option.

  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1206189/Why-women-cheered-raging-Hillary-Clinton.html yg

    hillary inspires such complicated and contradictory responses that they can’t be restrained to only 1 of 2 boxes.
    while i appreciate her advocacy against rape as a political tool, i don’t see how losing her temper helps the issue. i, too, like stella thought a more seasoned diplomat would be more cautious about the pitfalls of mistranslations. still, it’s nothing to blow out of proportion. i wont hold her coping with jet lag against her.
    the more sympathetic jusiper pointed to a column that resonates. called it the pine marten syndrome:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1206189/Why-women-cheered-raging-Hillary-Clinton.html
    i’m much more interested in hillary’s comments that finally acknowledges that the bushes stole the florida election, hence the presidency. now that deserves to amplified and reverberated.

  • http://www.doves2day.blogspot.com g

    I am sure that Hillary regrets showing her annoyance at that question. I would probably react the same. That said, I’m sure she understands that as our country’s top diplomat, she needs to control her temper in the future. She’s a smart woman, and I’m sure she’s learned from this.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00e5523476cc8834 DennisQ

    My daughter got a job at Ace Hardware, the one that advertises Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. While working the floor, she reports, the Number One question she was asked was, “Is there a man I can talk to?”

  • http://motherrr.blogspot.com mcmama

    Wonderful article. And it’s universal. I was a software engineer for many years. In meetings during test and integration, the lead engineers for each system would meet to discuss the test results, and assign any required fixes to the appropriate group. Often, when a problem was reported, one of us would immediately recognize it and claim it as their action item. Whenever I was the one to step up, the (male) test engineer would say to whatever (male) engineer sat nearest me, ‘Is that right? Is it hers?’ Finally, one of the guys answered, ‘Look, don’t ask me. Ask her – she knows how that part works. She designed it.’
    I applaud Hillary Clinton for answering sharply, and I don’t think she has to be more diplomatic in the future. She answered perfectly. No regrets are necessary, except by the dunderhead who asked the question.

  • gryphon

    heaven forbid someone be snarky to one of the millions of repub jerks out there..

  • yg

    you’re right. the questioner was still a dolt. doesn’t matter whether he meant bill clinton or obama.

  • Jerry Holtaway

    I put it down to jet lag… let’s move on…

  • Tena

    Exactly – I was asked by 3 different judges when I first started practicing law if I was a lawyer, when I stood up to announce my client’s appearance. I was always in my lawyer-suit and the question was obviously based on how I looked, which was very young for my age at the time, and my gender, because none of my male colleagues, who looked just as young as I did, ever got asked that question.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a4f57cc3970b Deborah Jackson

    I actually felt a bit of a thrill to see and hear her response. Thin skinned? Forgettable? Why are those the only two options? To me it sounded like she finally found her backbone. Is this just me?

  • http://bazungubucks.blogspot.com John Powers

    I don’t think it’s just you Deborah Jackson, I think her response appropriate. It’s interesting that so many people read her response as temper. To me it seems obvious that she needed to assert not only her authority but also that the president is Obama and she serves in that administration. I also don’t read the questioner as a jerk, and take his apology as sincere. The actual presence of a Secretary of State in DRC is a very significant event and that was not lost on the people present.

  • Tena

    Deborah – No I’m with you. I actually really dug it the way she took that headset off and was saying: “They want to know WHAT?”

  • Johanna

    You can tell a lot about someone’s character by how he treats someone beneath him in power, or who can do nothing for him. What made this a bad moment was the huge gap in station between the two parties. She, the US sec. state, and he, a student. He had probably been looking forward to this meeting with excitement, and his voice and manner were respectful and deferential. He surely had no intention to insult her. You can be sure of this — she will NEVER take this tone with the president (now that he is president) or another big shot. This was treatment reserved for “the little guy.” Nice.

  • yg

    i’ll admit my first impression, before i learned the details, was “no more wire hangers!”

  • yg

    his voice and manner were respectful and deferential.
    no it wasn’t. he wanted her to channel everybody’s opinion but her own.
    from the “back story” link atop the post, quoting the questioner:
    “We’ve all heard about the Chinese contracts in this country — the interferences from the World Bank against this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think, through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton, and what does Mr. Mutumbo think on this situation?”

  • Johanna

    I believe the guy meant, what does the PRESIDENT think through the mouth of you, his secretary of state. If she were as smart as she is always telling us she is, she would have known that this is not an insult. In most parts of the world the Secretary of State is assumed to be a spokesman or woman for the head of state. It was peculiarly parochial of her to hear this in an American context, and thus take offense. She should also have sensed that the speaker was referring, not to Bill Clinton, but to Obama. Even with the mistranslation, an intelligent person would have made that assumption. The issue of Chinese influence in Africa is a huge one and she should have addressed it. It was very petty, and very vain of her to make it about herself. If Obama’s goal with this appointment was to make her look like a fool, he succeeded. The theory she put forward about North Korea’s behavior (just trying to get attention like a child — ignore and they will get better) is laughable. She has often spoken with smug satisfaction about “smart diplomacy”, implying that the “smart” part will be her special contribution, by contrast with the dopes who preceded her. Pride goeth before the fall.

  • http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/was-hillary-clintons-answer-in-congo-the-right-one/ yg

    the backstory link from up above:
    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/was-hillary-clintons-answer-in-congo-the-right-one/
    the original translation was the correct one.
    my question is: why did media incorrectly report it as a mistranslation?
    who spun whom?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aog Annoying Old Guy

    I agree with yg. It was regrettable for someone who is supposed to be a diplomat, but understandable (given the way former President Clinton’s North Korea trip was handled internally). Not a big deal.

  • Johanna

    OK, the question was not a good one. But the professional way for her to act would be to just answer it, and make the discussion about issues of foreign policy, not about herself. She’s gotten into some pretty silly personal stuff, in Africa, and with the Koreans, when she called Kim childish, and he came back with playground type insults about her appearance. She should control the level of the conversation when on the job, so it’s about business. Being jet lagged cannot be an excuse for her, at all, any more than it could be for a man. It’s never said about men.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes