Here's to Hillary, a woman who does all her jobs well

December 02, 1993|By SUSAN REIMER

I am watching Hillary Rodham Clinton crisscrossing the country to explain health care reform, poking her finger in the chest of the health insurance industry, sparring with pompous congressmen. And I am loving every minute of it.

She is so sure of herself that no one can doubt her competence, no matter what they might think of what she proposes. She speaks so plainly from the heart that those who labeled her coldly ambitious have been struck dumb. She has such command of her subject that those who thought the president was under some kind of spell to give her such a project look incredibly foolish.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is not some matronly first lady to us baby boomers. She is a peer. And she is what we infant feminists were promised 25 years ago -- that in our lifetime we would share the power. I have to say I had my doubts.

But what makes Hillary resonate so with me is that, despite the enormous gap in our abilities and accomplishments, Hillary and I share some things.

She can't believe what her daughter wants to wear to school. She has wistfully admitted to wishing she had had one more child. What she likes best about her husband is his combination of "head and heart." The death of her father sent her reeling into her own soul in a search for some meaning in her life, in our lives.

And when she got her hair cut, she had to endure the comments of an entire nation. (All right, maybe it just seemed like an entire nation to me.)

And Hillary has gored some bulls for us. She shut down Rep. Dick Armey, the Texas Republican, with her Dr. Kevorkian comment during testimony on Capitol Hill and sent his Democratic colleagues into hoots of laughter. She did what so many of us wanted to do to those smug, condescending, starched shirts who hold so much undeserved power over women and who revealed themselves for what they were during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. Even if you weren't sure if you believed Professor Hill, you were sure you despised those men.

She sent them slack-jawed and sputtering from those hearing rooms, stunned by the intellectual grasp she displayed as she spoke hour after hour in detail and without notes about health care reform. When she was done with them, they knew they were dealing with more than the nation's hostess. Don't all of us have that kind of daydream?

It is so hard for me to understand women who are suspicious of Hillary or who flat out don't like her. It is usually women who do not agree with her husband's politics. But Hillary transcends politics for me. I swear I would like her if she were married to Pat Buchanan. She is brilliant and vulnerable, warm and steel-spined, she is a mom, but she has another calling, too, and it is filled with the social justice that rings so familiar to those of us who came of age in the '60s. Only she never forgot or compromised on the promises so many of us made to the world then.

I watched her sit next to President Clinton on a stage in the East Room of the White House not long ago, and I saw the gentle byplay with her husband as they listened to the speakers at the podium. He would whisper something to her. She would smile. She would show him something and he would nod. She would point to someone in the crowd, he would smile and wave and she would smile, too. They seemed for just a split second not to notice us around them.

It gave me heart because I have been stung by the reports of anger and coldness in their marriage. I did not want to believe that theirs was a marriage of convenience. That they stayed together for the benefit of his -- and her -- career.

I guess it is because I want to believe Hillary is as good at marriage as she is at motherhood and law. That a couple can still love each other when their child moves into the self-sufficiency of young adulthood. That after the intense cooperation required to raise young children, not all parents look up and into the face of their partners and says, "Who are you and what am I doing here?"

It is unfair of me to ask Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the fulfillment of my feminist aspirations, my '60s politics, my ideals about marriage and partnership, and to share my worries as a mother. She is, after all, a politician and a government official, however ex officio, and I should be detached and circumspect.

But there is something about Hillary Rodham Clinton that echoes somewhere in me. Maybe it is because she is what I wanted to be when I grew up. That smart, that strong, that committed.

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