Friday, July 27, 2007


Hillary's peek-a-boob neckline

Somehow I missed it, but Robin Givhan, the Washington Post's Pulitzer-Prize winning fashion editor, didn't: On Wednesday, July 18, Hillary Clinton was caught by C-SPAN2 on the floor of the Senate looking like a Frenchwoman.

Here's what Givhan saw

She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn't an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

Now Givhan is going to the pillory over Hillary. Columnist Ellen Goodman went so far as to suggest that Givhan deserves a booby prize—

Only in Washington would a fashion reporter get tips watching C-Span2. But the Post piece managed to make a media mountain out of a half-inch valley. As one of the thousands who have scrutinized the black V-neck top on the Internet, I can attest that it barely (in both senses of the word) fits Wikipedia's definition of cleavage....

Not even Nora Ephron, who wrote a book called "I Feel Bad About My Neck," could have spent more energy deconstructing a neckline. Isn't there, somewhere, a booby prize for covering pulchritude instead of policy?

Sen. Clinton's décolletage became the topic on "Hardball." Mark Jurkowitz described the debate—

"Directing attention to ‘is she showing cleavage or isn’t she’ is kind of a complete waste of time given the dire straits our democracy is in,” asserted writer and feminist Naomi Wolf. For her part, conservative talk host Melanie Morgan advised the New York Senator to “wear bipartisan clothes [but] she shouldn’t wear her cleavage so low.” ...

Hillary herself is using Givhan's story to launch a fundraising appeal. E&P reports that—

The email to supporters was penned by Ann Lewis, the longtime Dem operative and now a senior adviser to Clinton.

Among her comments: “It’s insulting to every woman who has ever tried to be taken seriously in a business meeting. It’s insulting to our daughters — and our sons — who are constantly pressured by the media to grow up too fast.

“Take a stand against this kind of coarseness and pettiness in American culture. And take a stand for Hillary, the most experienced, most qualified candidate running for president.”

Of course if I were insulted by Givhan's story, I don't know why I'd give money to Hillary. I'd be more inclined to save some by cancelling my subscription to the Washington Post.

But the pundits clearly had not read my recent post on Hillary's choice for a campaign theme song, nor in fact did they give a very good reading of Givhan's article.

It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative — aesthetically speaking — environment of Congress. After all, it wasn't until the early '90s that women were even allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor. It was even more surprising to note that it was coming from Clinton, someone who has been so publicly ambivalent about style, image and the burdens of both.

The last time Clinton wore anything that was remotely sexy in a public setting surely must have been more than a decade ago, during Bill Clinton's first term in office when she was photographed wearing a black Donna Karan gown that revealed her shoulders.

Givhan was not writing about "fashion"; she was writing about her discomfort with Clinton's dress—

.... It's tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!

And she suggests that that discomfort comes from Clinton herself—

Not so long ago, Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, spoke before the House of Commons showing far more cleavage than Clinton. If Clinton's was a teasing display, then Smith's was a full-fledged come-on. But somehow it wasn't as unnerving....

With Clinton, there was the sense that you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private. You were intruding -- being a voyeur....

To display cleavage .... requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever.

Givhan was clearly off on one point: While this may have been Givhan's first introduction to Clinton's cleavage, it was not Clinton's first offering in 10 years. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet has the goods in a photo from the Clintons' visit to Iowa on July 3. Sweet comments that "She’s showing her feminine side." But if that's her feminine side, she's very oddly built.

I suspect that Hillary dropped her neckline somewhere around the time she selected her theme song, and I further suspect that in some recent campaign focus group it emerged that Hillary was viewed as "not feminine enough." As a result—and contrary to her own impulses—Hillary has let some small part of herself hang out.

Though the boobs are real, that isn't quite what we meant when we asked for more authenticity.

And speaking of Hillary's authenticity, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair are running a series of profiles beginning with "Why Hillary Clinton has Always Been a Republican." The blurb for this subscription-only series states

Watch her as she zigzags from Nixon campaigner and vote-fraud investigator in 1960 to Goldwater Girl and President of Young Republicans at Wellesley to her internship for Gerald Ford and campaigner for Nelson Rockefeller. Witness her reaction to the student protests at Yale and the demonstrations at Grant Park during the Democratic Convention in 1968. Learn how she and Bill vowed to "remake" the Democratic Party—using the Nixon model HRC learned about as a member of the House impeachment staff.

Republican Fred Thompson's unannounced candidacy for the Presidency is at risk for his earlier support for abortion. But you won't find knowledgeable Republican politicos trying to bring down Hillary—they're recommending her. And why not? They figure that as the Democratic candidate, she'll offer them their best chance to hold onto the Presidency. On the other hand, if she wins they still win!

Previous posts
Another reason I won't be supporting Hillary for President in 2008 (12/13/04)
Quote of the Day (2/20/05)
Newt nominates Hillary (4/15/05)
Observation of the Day (11/5/05)
Political Profile of the Day (8/30/06)
Iran and the New York "money people" (1/12/07)
Political Jargon of the Day (4/19/07
"I'm Hillary, fly me" (6/27/07)


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