"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hillary Clinton, Being Nice, And The Myth Of The American Regular Guy

Much has been made recently of Hillary Clinton’s sour demeanor after an electoral victory.  “Smile”, said many commentators.  “Show your warm, accessible, human side.”

“Misogynist and sexist”, howled the Left, decrying the focus on ‘women’s virtues’ when there are no such things.  Smiles, gentleness, compassion, motherly caring, cooperation, and allure are only reflect men’s discredited, antiquated views of women.  Hillary Clinton is a nice person, but showing it has no place in a tooth-and-claw political campaign.

Anyone who has been paying attention to Mrs. Clinton over the past two decades knows that she is anything but nice.  Hard-as-nails, duplicitous, dishonest, ambitious, determined, amoral, and dishonest are much more accurate descriptions.  Nice has never applied. 

Who cares? Americans do very much, but it has nothing to do with sex or gender.

“Nice guys finish last”, knows every American; but yet the Myth of the Regular Guy– someone you could sit down and have a beer with – persists.  George W. Bush, scion of a patrician New England family, educated at Harvard and Yale, and no dummy deliberately ‘went Texan’, left all those fancy four-syllable words in the carrels of Sterling and Widener Libraries, cleared brush, put his hand-tooled cowboy boots up on the Louis XVI furniture, and smiled a lot.   People soon forgot his aristocratic roots and adopted him as a true son of the land.  He and Laura were a nice couple who loved each other; and that endearing quality took the sting out of Iraq.


Ronald Reagan was much loved, not because of his brilliance as a statesman and leader – although in his revolutionary challenge of government and defiance of the Soviet Union were enough to earn him a place in the most influential of American presidents – but because of his winning smile, charm, and aw-shucks personality.  According to the many biographies written about him, he was indeed a nice guy – there was no difference between public and private personae. 


Jimmy Carter was a good man – pious, serious, and compassionate – but he was cold, distant, and intellectual at the same time.   He was a one-term president not only because of his failed economic and foreign policy but because of his sanctimony and preachiness.

Lyndon Johnson was a prick and would certainly never made it to the presidency if it had not been for Kennedy’s death; and he would never have been assured an electoral victory if it hadn’t been for what seemed to be a dangerous, deranged Barry Goldwater in 1964. 

Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt satirized the American Regular Guy – an empty-headed hale-fellow-well met who loved business, businessmen, and America.  Babbitt was a ‘booster’, a champion of small town life and values which were those of family, faith, and camaraderie.   He dismissed intellectuals as arrogant and lazy men who never did a lick of real work in their lives.  Art, music, and literature were idle playthings for women. 


America’s victory in World War II, international supremacy, and and economy with room for all helped create the complacency of the Fifties.  Conservative Republicanism with a Nice Guy – Eisenhower – at its head reflected the generalization of Babbitry.   The Regular Guy was everywhere.
Europeans are under no such illusion.  Richard III, Henry VIII, Henry V, John,  were not very nice at all.  Richard murdered his way to the throne.  Henry beheaded one wife after another.  John robbed the peasantry to fund his ambitious wars.  The French kings were no different, and Louis XVI was only the last in a long line of ‘let them eat cake’ arrogant, tyrannical rulers.  Tsar Alexander was no different and met a similar fate.


During the Renaissance Europe was constantly at war and Spanish, Dutch, French, and Holy Roman emperors and regents gave to quarter.  The Hundred Years War, the War of the Roses, and hundreds of other wars were perennial.  No leader was content with what he had, owned, or ruled.
Stalin was never a nice guy, and like Genghis Khan and the Mongol rulers before him was brutal and uncompromising.  Vladimir Putin is cut from the same mold with approval ratings that Western politicians can only dream of.  He is admired because of his ruthlessness, defiance, and absolute confidence.

Churchill and De Gaulle might well have been nice guys in private, but British and French voters looked only to their leadership and politics.  Margaret Thatcher was a brilliant, determined, principled, and strong leader – admired, respected, but not loved, least of all by her cabinet which ditched her after her autocratic and imperial moods became too much.


Sarkozy was admired because he had a beautiful wife, exuded charm, savoir faire, and an intellectualism only the French could appreciate – not because he was a nice guy.  Hollande, although currently in disfavor because of his disastrous socialist policies, was at least admired a la Sarkozy.  His affairs, mistresses, and live-in lovers at the Élysée were what every Frenchman wanted.  They wanted his glamour and allure; and never wanted to or hoped for a café-cognac with him at the neighborhood bar.

While this was all happening, American politicians were stumbling over each other to be regular guys.  The Mitt Romneys were an ideal couple. They were perfect.  They had dinner together by candlelight.  They kissed their children before they go to bed, smiled at the baby pictures of their sons and reminisced about the days when they read them stories and tucked them in.  They never got angry at each other, never threw things.  

A close friend of mine said he taught his children only two lessons:

   1. Charm will get you everywhere; and
   2. A silver tongue will help.

America was built on these two premises. Where would religion be without spiritual hucksters?  Billy Sunday, Amy Semple McPherson, Elmer Gantry, Pat Robertson, and Rick Warren all knew how to cadge, cajole, promise, and endear; and they made millions.  Snake oil salesmen, con artists, shell gamers, tin men, and encyclopedia door-to-door men have been staples of the American scene since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.


Hollywood is all about smiles, arm-candy, and guileless charm. Not only do we buy their exaggerated, heroic and romantic images on the screen, we buy insurance, deodorant, hamburgers, and Medicare Plus thanks to them.

In other words, there are many who profit from America’s love of the regular guy.  Smiles, charm, and a seductive approachability and friendliness hide venal self-interest, ambition, and greed. 
This 2016 Presidential election cycle, however, has shown some cracks in The Myth of The Nice Guy.  Donald Trump is a vaudevillian huckster, bully, and defiant egotist who has come on the scene at exactly the right time.  Much of the American electorate is fed up with pusillanimous foreign policy, capitulation to political correctness, and progressive interventionism.  They could care less whether Trump is a nice guy.  His a bastard and they want more of it.

Hillary, because she needs women’s votes to get elected in a tight race but not lose men’s support has to ride the fence – be as manly as Trump both to show political strength and will and to be defiantly feminist.  As a result she has forgotten to smile.  She laughs, loudly and a lot, but rarely manages a smile, even when it is called for.   She knows that Americans need to like their President and to admire and respect him or her.  She also knows that she had to cater to her feminist base; but  calculating as always, she has not quite figured when to ‘be’ genuine, when to be a steely Iron Lady, and when to be a woman’s woman.


In other words, smiling for Hillary has never been about anything but politics.  The issue is not one of sexism or some perverted electoral misogyny.  It is about a political mistake.  She pulled the wrong flash card out of her deck.  She frowned when she should have smiled.

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