Monday, August 11, 2008

Why can't our first lady have sex with Mick Jagger?

John Edwards is getting a lashing in the media now, but dollars to doughnuts this will all be forgotten eventually. America subconsciously believes that infidelity is something powerful men just do...hell, we think it's just something MEN just do, sort of like shaving. Just like JFK and MLK and lesser lights like John McCain and Newt Gingrich, we'll forgive Edwards his sexual peccadillos. He'll be back on the political scene one day--trust me. Of course, if the shamed adulterer had been Hillary Clinton or Barbara Boxer or Elizabeth Dole or Laura Bush, me thinks we'd have a different view. Respectable women are not sexual, much less unfaithful. Folks from the streets of Manhattan to the fields of the Bible Belt would pillory a woman who snuck a little sumthin' sumthin' in the Oval Office or was caught creeping on the campaign trail.

Considering the Edwards brouhaha, it was with some amusement that I read Vanity Fair's recent article on Carla Bruni, former model, folk/pop singer, lover of rock lions Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, and, by the way, wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Madame Sarkozy once famously said:
I'm monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry?

During a state visit to England earlier this year, scandal erupted around the Sarkozys when nude photos taken of Bruni in 1993 surfaced at a Christie's auction. The tasteful black-and-whites fetched $91,000. The photographer who took the pics said ominously, "I have other nude photographs of Carla far more explicit, but I would never sell them."

The Bruni-Sarkozys are nothing if not very...French. Karl Lagerfeld is quoted in the Vanity Fair piece as saying of the pair, "They are hunters who met--predators. It's a good thing. He has seduced many women and she was a kind of seductress. When two like this meet, it can be good." President Sarkozy met the previous Madame Sarkozy, Cecelia, when both were married, and both had very public affairs after he took office. Bruni has one son from a previous relationship with a young man she met while dating his father. Vive le France!

Now, I'm not endorsing all this slap and tickle and cheating, but I find it interesting that even though the French are ambivalent about the man they call President Bling-Bling for his flashy ways, they seem to quite like their first lady--adventurous sexual past and all. Meanwhile, back among the amber waves of grain, we prefer our first ladies (and other ladies) mute, maternal and fixed with an adoring gaze. We prefer all "good girls" be non-sexual, no matter how close they are to the halls of power. Come to think of it, perhaps that's why Michelle Obama catches such hell. I mean besides the blackness, out-spokenness, independence and intelligence, she's also beautiful and sexy-as-hell in a strong way. You get the feeling from watching Obama and her husband that this is one first couple who will definitely be "doing it" in the White House. Can't say the same for the McCains. Despite the illicit start to their marriage, I can't imagine enjoying fireworks in the boudoir with a man who squirms like this at the mention of birth control.

In Friday's post I mentioned the radio commenter who said of John Edwards: "I used to think John Edwards was 'soft,' but this makes me think he is a regular guy. I like him now." So, sexuality run amok is the essence of maleness? The reality that Americans hate to hear is that women have the same carnal desires as men. We have other desires...yes. We have more self control...maybe...sometimes. But women like sex, too. But for us, sexuality is something to be forgiven not celebrated.

I think that very soon we will see a female leader of the United States. But I tell you we will not achieve true equality until a woman can not only park her pumps in the Oval Office, but also get her freak on with a consenting young intern and have the forgiveness and admiration of the American electorate.

Hillary Clinton, Mark Penn and the "othering" of Barack Obama

From Mike Allen at Politico:
Mark Penn, the top campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, advised her to portray Barack Obama as having a "limited" connection "to basic American values and culture," according to a forthcoming article in The Atlantic.
The magazine reports Penn suggested getting much rougher with Obama in a memo on March 30, after her crucial wins in Texas and Ohio: "Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without, over these next two months, raising all these issues on him? ... Won't a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?"
Atlantic Senior Editor Joshua Green writes that major decisions during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination would be put off for weeks until suddenly Clinton "would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire."
Green reports that on a staff conference call in January where Clinton received "little response" or "silence" to several of her suggestions for how to recover from the Iowa loss and do better in New Hampshire, "Clinton began to grow angry, according to a participant's notes," Green recounts. "'This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself,' she snapped, and hung up."
The eight-page blockbuster, "The Front-Runner's Fall," draws on internal memos, e-mails and meeting notes to reveal what the magazine's September issue calls "the backstabbing and conflicting strategies that produced an epic meltdown."

Penn, the presidential campaign's chief strategist, wrote in a memo to Clinton excerpted in the article:  "I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."

A key take-away from the article is that Clinton received a lot of accurate advice, including from Penn. He  wrote a remarkably prescient memo in March 2007 about the importance of appealing to what he called "the Invisible Americans," specifically "WOMEN, LOWER AND MIDDLE CLASS VOTERS" — exactly the groups that helped Clinton beat Obama in key states nearly a year later.

But no one synthesized and acted on the good advice. Read more...

First, didn't Vanity Fair already write this article? Second, I find it interesting how the mainstream media is parsing the leaked bits of the Atlantic piece. The consensus seems to be that Hillary Clinton did not take Mark Penn's racist and xenophobic advice, when indeed she did. The sly allusions to Jesse Jackson...the leaked image of Barack Obama in Somali garb...the "He's not a Muslim as far as I know"...the "hard-working white people" quote...those were all examples of Penn's strategy in effect. Notice, too, that the forthcoming article and by inference Mike Allen believe Penn's suggestion to play on Americans' fear of "other" represents "good advice." And I suppose it is "good" if you can stomach winning without integrity and playing to the worst of our instincts. (Hey, Republicans do it all the time.) I have no doubt that if Hillary Clinton had debuted her strangely-accented, Annie Oakley, us-against-them, race-baiting persona in December 2007, she'd likely be the Democratic candidate now. I guess I take some solace in that she at least tried to take the high road (as much as the Clintons ever do) and didn't leap head first into dirty politics until it was clear the ship was sinking.


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