A lot of political commentary is silly, but I think a new benchmark has been set:
Throughout history, American presidents have been men's men who puff their out chests against evil. Think Teddy Roosevelt on safari, Jack Kennedy in PT-109, Ronald Reagan on his horse, or George W. Bush with a chain saw clearing brush. If leaders show any slackening of testosterone, especially in wartime, they are quickly derided as wimps (George H.W. Bush), a Frenchman (John Kerry) or weaklings (Jimmy Carter). But on the Democratic campaign trail these days, where the first woman in U.S. history is making a serious run at the White House, gender roles are being swapped.
When Obama travels the country, he does not appear to worry much about posing with guns or wearing those khaki workman jackets that made Kerry look so silly in 2004. Instead, he sings an empowerment ballad on the stump that would make most lady folk singers proud. "The decision to go to war is not a sport," he tells crowds, rejecting the male metaphor. "We can discover the better part of ourselves as a nation," he says. "We can dream big dreams."
In contrast, Hillary Clinton has run her campaign with all the muscular vision and authority of the macho candidates of yesteryear. "I've seen her stand up to bullies," announced Christine Vilsack, the former first lady of Iowa, when she introduced Clinton at a rally in Des Moines last week. On the stump, Clinton repeatedly tells people that they should let her take control of the country, eschewing Obama's more abstract calls for national soul-searching. "If you are ready for change, I am ready to lead," she says. "I want to be the president who sets goals again."
Clara Oleson, an Iowa Democrat and former labor lawyer, explained all these distinctions on a riverbank in Iowa City last week, while waiting to hear Clinton speak to a crowd of about 1,000. "Obama is the female candidate. Obama is the woman," she said, after admitting that she was one of his supporters. "He is the warm candidate, self-deprecating, soft, tender, sad eyes, great smile."
So what does that make Hillary Clinton? "She is the male candidate -- in your face, authoritative, know-it-all."
Obama is the woman, and Hillary is the man. Does that make Edwards the gay and Richardson the transgender? We all know, of course, that Bill Clinton was the first black president. How can the boring old white men on the Republican side possibly compete with thse genetic wonders?