By Frank Bruni – New York Times.
Weiner or no Weiner, Hillary Clinton is likely to be our next president.
But she can’t seem to escape insatiable men.
She married one — for better, for “bimbo eruptions,” for two terms in the White House, for impeachment.
She’s in the climactic week of a grotesque battle with another. If she prevails, his boasts of sexual aggression will partly be why.
And if she fails? Again there’s a priapic protagonist. The F.B.I. wouldn’t be examining Anthony Weiner’s laptop if he hadn’t invited so many strangers to examine his lap, and her fate is enmeshed once more with the wanton misdeeds of the weaker sex.
Over so many of her travails hangs a cloud of testosterone.
No woman before her earned a major party’s presidential nomination, drawing this close to the Oval Office. Should she reach that milestone and make that history, she’d probably also work with a Congress in which there are more female lawmakers than ever before.
But her journey doesn’t only reflect the advances of women. It has also been shaped by the appetites and anxieties of men. (Maybe the two dynamics go hand in hand.) And it has exposed gross male behavior while prompting fresh examples of it. Prominent men on the edge of obsolescence have never acted so wounded, so angry, so desperate. Yes, Newt Gingrich, I’m looking at you, though you’ll have to wait your turn while I assess your master.
Donald Trump’s candidacy is an unalloyed expression of male id: Yield to me, worship me, never question the expanse of my reach, do not impugn the majesty of my endowment. It’s less a political mission than a hormonal one, and it harks back to an era when women were arm candy and a man reveled in his sweet tooth.
His archaic masculinity is her opportunity: a stroke of good fortune in a presidential bid with plenty of bad luck, too. When he seethed that she was a “nasty woman,” he might as well have been offering to carry her luggage into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It’s hardly the first time that a man’s cravings colored her fate. How much of her Achilles’-heel defensiveness is a byproduct of her marriage to Bill? When he was governor of Arkansas and when he ran for president in 1992, there were constant rumors of his philandering and a ceaseless effort to keep them from spreading. She learned early on to see the media as invasive, her opponents as merciless, and privacy as something to be guarded at all costs. That doesn’t excuse her use of a private email server as secretary of state, but it does help to explain it.
Her husband converged with Gingrich in Washington in the 1990s, and when Gingrich’s Republican troops conquered Congress in 1994, it was widely characterized as the revenge of angry white men, whose provocations included her assertiveness. The president and Gingrich were both portraits of epic neediness. They were as impulsive and messy as little boys. They were destined to torment each other, and did.
The humiliations that she suffered — and the public sympathy that she reaped — were inextricable from the dueling displays of male vanity around her.
Fast forward two decades. While there are still angry white men and they favor Trump, it appears that there aren’t enough to counter her advantage with women, who are poised to get the president of their wishes. Not everyone is taking this well.
Just days after Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman,” Gingrich lashed out at Megyn Kelly of Fox News for being unduly “fascinated with sex,” a rich remark from a thrice-married man with a record of affairs. He wasn’t just a pol jousting with a journalist. He was a portly, toppled despot aghast at how stubbornly an intelligent woman refused to defer to him. He was an aged Everyman, reeling at changed roles and altered rules.
Around the country there are Senate and House races with a similar flavor: older man, younger woman, stew of resentments. In Illinois, Senator Mark Kirk, 57, made fun of the Thai heritage of his challenger, Representative Tammy Duckworth, 48, and when I watched the exchange, I wondered if the tension between them was a function of gender as well as race.
In Florida, Representative John Mica, 73, dismissed Stephanie Murphy, the 37-year-old college professor who is running against him, as a “nice lady” who just isn’t ready for prime time.
Maybe he has always been that big a boor and having a female opponent just made it obvious. But Clinton gets under Trump’s skin in a way that male rivals didn’t. In that sense, her gender is not a weakness but a weapon.
It’s about time.