August 22, 2005
How to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain . . .
I'm wondering whether sexism is raising its ugly head in New York's Senate race:
ALBANY, N.Y. - Is this a Senate race or country music?This puts Hillary in a bit of a dilemma, because she has far greater name recognition, but she's also vulnerable to the charge that she's been coat-tailing on her husband's name. So, if she maligns Jeanine Pirro's husband, that gives Pirro an opening to make the election about Bill Clinton. Yet if she ignores Mr. Pirro's felon status, she might miss a valuable campaign opportunity, and avoiding "the husband issue" might be seen as grounded in a desire to avoid talking about her own husband. A possible no-win for Hillary -- unless she has others do her dirty work for her. (The Cindy Sheehan crowd has helped Hillary too, by making her look moderate, even hawkish.)
What fascinates me about this is that wives are rarely the subject of inquiry in a race between two male candidates. Going after an opponent's wife (even when there's dirt) is seen as dirty politics -- if not "unmanly" behavior.
There's always the ancient technique called praeteritio -- bringing up something by saying you won't bring it up -- but voters are sophisticated enough to catch it, which means it should be used sparingly. And subtly. Hillary could object that she won't allow "them" (that's the VRWC) to "smear" her husband, that she's running on her own issues, and that husbands and families should not be a proper focus of a campaign. This would remind voters that "the husband issue" is there, but that Hillary doesn't think it's right to dwell on it. (Specifically refusing to dwell on her own husband, of course, evokes her opponent's husband without mentioning him at all.)
For extra effect, she could add that she's "paid no attention" to whatever is being paid attention to, and that no one else should either!
Gotta keep this race clean, and focused on the real issues.
posted by Eric on 08.22.05 at 09:03 AM
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