Response to Zelda Bronstein

Response to Zelda Bronstein

Zelda Bronstein thinks I’ve been too easy on Hillary Rodham Clinton. Maybe that was so in 1992, when I published articles in Glamour and in the Nation that explored the extent to which criticism of HRC was motivated by sexism and/or political conservatism. Since those early days, however, I’ve criticized the First Lady in piece after piece. I have also written reams about the cooptation of the liberal feminist organizations (along with other social-justice groups, like the Children’s Defense Fund, and labor unions) by their closeness to the Democratic party. I’ve castigated the Democratic women senators and representatives who were elected as women’s champions and then, among other misdeeds, voted for welfare reform. I’ve attacked EMILY’s List and Donna Shalala (whom Bronstein rather uncritically calls a feminist, despite her despicable role in welfare reform). I wrote two pre-election columns urging Nation readers not to vote for Clinton, and a post-inaugural column pointing out the folly of liberals who imagined Clinton would move to the left in his second term. Indeed, if my Nation columns have had a theme for the last three years, it’s been the dashing of liberal illusions (including a few of my own) about Hillary and Bill, the Democratic party, and the big liberal advocacy organizations. I never, ever compared Hillary Clinton to Eleanor Roosevelt. What more does Zelda Bronstein want?

Bronstein prefers the stands on Hillary Clinton taken by Mickey Kaus, perhaps the most influential basher of welfare mothers in the mainstream press; Alexander Cockburn, who reprinted in his New York Press column Internet pornography featuring Hillary as a lesbian dominatrix; and Robert Scheer, who wrote that both Clarence Thomas and Bob Packwood were the victims of “radical feminists.” I think all three men exemplify the discomfort with strong women and powerful women—in Kaus’s case, maybe women, period—that percolates through criticism of the First Lady, and through the left and right critiques of liberal feminism, too. There’s a glee and a dismissiveness that goes beyond political differences—differences that sometimes, when the dust of rhetoric has settled, aren’t even that big. After all, having attacked the National Organization for Women (NOW) for raising insufficient ruckus against the Personal Responsibility Act, Scheer wrote in the Nation that he felt “pretty good” about the reelection of Clinton, the man who signed it into law! Scheer and NOW, it seems to me, have the same politics: both stand to the left of Clinton and criticize his policies, while remaining captive to the lesser-of-two-evils idea.

Bronstein’s suggestion that I went after Kaus and not Karen Lehrman out of feminist solidarity makes me wonder how familiar she is with feminism (or journalism). I disagree publicly with other feminists all the time—Naomi Wolf, Gloria Steinem, Susan Estrich, ...

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