I was up late with last night’s debate, and my full report is now posted at Pajamas Media. This was my third debate report for PJM, and I am very grateful to them for thinking highly enough of my stuff to invite me to join the fun.
And I do mean fun (even if it requires a dark sense of humor…)
I have to say, I was a bit surprised that the debate was not more focused on identity politics, because that’s where the competing campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been mired. I think Balidlocks correctly described this campaign as “the Great Identity Politics War,” for that’s what it is. I guess it would have been too crassly obvious for the candidates themselves to focus on what Michael Weiss called “ovaries and melanin” — but they didn’t need to really. Thanks to identity politics, such irrelevant personal characteristics are the bread and butter of the Democratic Party, and were doubtless on the minds of everyone in the audience.
However, even without resort to crass identity politics, things got personal last night. Very personal. Once again, I was reminded that there is a vast difference in the two major candidates which goes to what most people would call style.
Here’s an excerpt from my report:

Style does matter, and I think one of the things people forget is that there’s a huge gulf between “Obama the Kind” and “Hillary the Cruel.”
It really came through in the health care debate.
Hillary nearly shrieked when she said “I am not running for president to put bandaids on our problems! I want UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE!”
Shrill, braying, and grating. At least Obama sounds reassuring, even if his policies aren’t.
This may be irrational, but if I am going to have to endure socialism, can’t I at least get it with a more calming and soothing voice?

While I’m not alone in that assessment, I’m still struggling with the question of whether this difference is superficial (as in the sense of a personal characteristic) or whether it sheds light on the candidates’ respective character.
Last night Glenn Reynolds linked John Podhoretz’s very perceptive “Disney Villainess” remark:

Because Barack Obama dared make reference to Hillary Clinton’s husband — who has been taking a rather startlingly front-and-center role in her campaign — she called Obama a mouthpiece for a slumlord. It was not a good moment for her, to put it mildly. Angry and condescending in the same instant, not to mention proudly triumphant, she looked like a Disney villainess at the second she finished her attack.

This hits the nail right on the head (although as I’ll explain, I think Mr. Podhoretz is being too kind). Hillary is not one of those people who is just stuck being shrill and condescending as if by accident of birth. She does it deliberately, reactively, when she’s angry or when she wants to drive home a point. Now, had she been reacting to an unwarranted attack on her doting husband, the outburst would be understandable, if not entirely excusable, but as I remember it, what set Hillary off was not merely Obama’s criticism of Bill Clinton’s role, but his remark about her serving on the board of Wal-Mart.

…while I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.

This was led Hillary to slam Obama for the Rezko connection — a well known mini-scandal involving campaign finance irregularities that has been haunting his campaign.

I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, [Tony] Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago.

I can only conclude that she believes sitting on the Wal-Mart is the moral equivalent of a campaign finance scandal.
Aside from the obvious question of who is Hillary to complain about campaign finance scandals, what does it suggest about the woman’s character that to her it’s all the same? Serving on the Wal-Mart board, working for a slumlord who helps your campaign, and (presumably) the Norman Hsu affair, this is just the way the world works. Does this sound like someone with the conscience she claims to have? I don’t think so. The icy shrillness may be just the tip of the iceberg.
I was — and I still am — quite put off by the way Hillary shrieked about mandatory state-imposed healthcare:

“I am not running for president to put bandaids on our problems! I want UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE!”

Sheesh. It’s not only Disneylike, it’s almost Baby Jane Hudson:

I don’t care! I want an ice cream!

Bad enough in a spoiled brat, but in a president? I’m used to people claiming that health care is an entitlement, but her tone made it sound as if it’s her entitlement. The contrast was striking in that Obama sounded as if he wanted to help people, while Hillary sounded as if she wants to grind them down under her heel (which she deems synonymous with the heel of the state.)
So, I’m not at all sure that Hillary’s shrillness is an irrelevant personal characteristic. Millions would, I’m afraid. No doubt they’ll be saying that attacks on her for being shrill are grounded in sexism. Sorry, but I’ve known too many shrill men and unshrill women to accept that. While this is my blog and I can say what I think, many are afraid to remark the obvious. (Such fear is understandable, but it’s another example of how identity politics poisons not only interpersonal dialogue, but the national dialogue. It also encourages and enables the malignant behavior.)
Seen in old fashioned, politically incorrect terms, Obama is polite, and Hillary is rude.
But you can’t say that.
No, really. If you think about it in identity politics terms, you can’t say those things comfortably about either. Say Obama is polite, and you can be accused of implying that he’s a rare exception, that the others in his identity group are rude. Say Hillary is rude, and you’re “stereotyping women!” It’s bad enough that such nonsense is promoted in nearly every college in the country. I hate to see it working its way into the highest offices of the land.
So, at the risk of being a racist pig, I’ll say once again that Obama comes across as nice, while at the risk of being a sexist pig, I’ll say once again that Hillary comes across as rude.
At the rate things are going, it will be considered racist — and sexist — to judge individuals by the content of their character.
MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking the PJM post!
MORE: Steve Boriss has a thoughtful analysis of identity politics and the Old Media’s role in perpetuating it.
AND MORE: If this report is accurate, Obama is hardly the shiftless legislator who simply votes “present” which Hillary has accused him of being. (And a lesser man would have invoked the Law of Identity Politics and accused her of racist stereotyping…)
(Via Mickey Kaus.)