Hillary, aka Senator Clinton, plays the name game
By Michael M. Bates
Kissing up to the Most Reverend Al Sharpton and his associates recently, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton reverted to the singsong Southern drawl she employs before selected audiences:
"When Ah walk into the Oval Office in 2009, Ah'm afraid Ah'm going to lift up the rug and Ah'm going to see so much stuff under there," declared the demurely coquettish belle of Park Ridge, Illinois. She better hope that the Bushes have thoroughly sanitized the White House since their arrival. Heaven knows what sort of devices the irrepressible Billy Boy may have left behind.
Some people would prefer Mrs. Clinton focus on what really matters. You know, burning issues like what to call her. No, no, I'm not writing here of boorish comments from those few detractors she's attracted, but rather to how she is referred to in the press.
Is identifying her by only her first name disrespectful? To the politically correct types who anguish over such questions, the answer is apparent.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews addressed a Hardball panel in January: "The Democrats go with their heart, they go with either Obama or Hillary. Does everyone accept that?" Time Magazine's Mike Allen may have, but he had bigger fish to fry first: "Why do you call her Hillary? She's Senator Clinton."
Matthews answered feebly, as befits a former Jimmy Carter staffer, that Mrs. Clinton is the only Hillary in the country.
Earlier, a contributor to the Clinton-fawning Salon.com wrote of her exasperation over the use of Senator Clinton's first name: "Some of you might think this is nitpicky, but I don't think it is: "I am so, so tired of Hillary Clinton being referred to as ‘Hillary' in basically all media, where as John Edwards, Barack Obama, etc., are almost exclusively referred to by their last names, or by their titles (Senator Obama, etc.)"
In February, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer devoted a column to why Hillary shouldn't be called Hillary – or even Mrs. Clinton. "Words are always loaded and laced. I hear the Hillary and Mrs. Clinton thing as dismissive, whether intentionally or not."
Buttressing the columnist's contention was, predictably, a college professor:
"‘If you keep calling her (Sen. Clinton) Hillary you're setting the stage for how she would be thought of as president,' Di Stefano said. In other words, it's harder to imagine electing and respecting a president and commander in chief named Hillary than it is to envision a President Clinton or Bush."
So who's largely responsible for this dismissive, scornful, disrespectful use of her first name rather than the much more courteous Senator Clinton? A trip to her official campaign Web site suggests an answer.
"Hillary for President" is emblazoned at the top of the homepage. The latest news includes "Hillary's campaign goes carbon neutral" (sorry, there's no mention yet of her position on toilet paper usage) and "Hillary's plan for renewable energy." The latest videos available on her site are "Hillary at Rutgers," "Hillary on Government Reform," and "Iowa Welcomes Hillary." On her blog, we learn that "Hillary joined nurses from Finley Hospital in Dubuque who have been without a contract since last summer."
If you click on the "About Hillary" section of the page you can read 27 paragraphs pertaining to her background and history. The name "Hillary" appears dozens of times; the word "Clinton" shows up just once. Rather than going to work for a major law firm, we're told, she followed her heart and a man named Bill Clinton to Arkansas. Pass the biodegradable Kleenex.
So it appears that Hillary herself has forsaken the Clinton name. It doesn't seem fair.
When he first ran for the Senate, Edward Moore Kennedy's Democratic primary opponent said in a debate, "I ask, if his name was Edward Moore, with his qualifications - with your qualifications, Teddy - if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke, but nobody's laughing."
Correspondingly, if her name were simply Hillary Rodham and she'd not managed to creep into the White House with good old what's his name, her candidacy would be a joke. Her sole qualification, being a senator, resulted exclusively from her tenure as First Lady, a position held because in her lust for power she put up with anything dished out by a shamefully philandering husband.
Distancing herself now from that lug and all his problems may seem prudent, but makes it more difficult for her to take credit for their alleged joint accomplishments.
Senator Clinton also may consider how people react to just her first name. The year Bill was elected president, Hillary ranked 131st in popularity for female names according to the Social Security Administration. By the time the Clintons left the White House, Hillary had dropped to 886th place. There's no way of saying it with certainty, obviously, but that plunge could possibly, just possibly, be a direct reflection on Mrs. Clinton.
Complicating matters further, the terminally politically correct are tormented by the press calling her Hillary.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the April 26, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.