A beaming, feisty Hillary Clinton told a raucous AFL-CIO debate crowd at Chicago's Soldier Field Tuesday "if you want a winner, if you want to take on (the Republicans), I'm your girl!" Now that'll thaw the ice princess image. Never mind that Ivy League feminist stuff - this was the Midwest, and Hillary is starting to feel her oats as the frontrunner. Shucks, she's just a corn-fed country girl at heart - the girl next door, by way of Yale Law School, the White House, and the U.S. Senate. Hillary is enjoying being out in front, and is starting to nurture that gnawing sense of inevitability that's boosting her campaign and dogging all the others. Now it's time to woo the good folks of Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - salt of the earth Democrats who may need a dose of girlish charm to knock that outdated image of Stiff Hillary out of their minds before Election Day.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani hopes his daughter Caroline is STILL his girl. While America's Mayor was in Iowa telling Hawkeye State Republicans he's their best hope if they want to protect their children and keep their families safe...his own teenaged daughter was playing Rebel Without A Dad. Not old enough to vote yet, Caroline signed up for Barack Obama's Facebook friends group "One Million Strong For Barack," listing her political views as "liberal." As a potential First Daughter-in-waiting, Caroline is supposed to be part of the Two Strong for Rudy, firmly and proudly in Papa's camp, along with her brother Andrew. Except the Giuliani kids are apparently still miffed at Dad for dumping their mother and marrying Judy Nathan. Caroline is only 17, bound for Harvard this fall, and is certainly entitled to her own political identity, not to mention whatever feelings she has about her father and his divorces. But for the conservative voters Giuliani needs to win the Republican nomination, it's another chink in his already battered armor. Three marriages, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, he wears a dress and he can't even win the votes of his own kids? That won't play in Peoria. Or Paducah. Or Pahrump. For the record, as soon as Slate discovered Caroline Giuliani's treasonous perfidy, she quit Obama's group, and announced that she had only signed up as an "expression of interest" and not because she plans to vote for the Illinois Democrat next year. Rudy told reporters "My daughter, I love very much" and then asked them to respect the privacy of his family.
Now Americans are used to the foibles of First Families - in fact, we pretty much expect them. Billy Carter, Donald Nixon, Roger Clinton, the Bush twins in a bar - whatever. Oh, those silly presidential relatives - how embarrassing! It's reassuring when our leaders' families are as dysfunctional as our own. We enjoy their misadventures the same way we obsess about the train-wreck lives of certain celebrities -it makes us feel better about our own problems, minor in comparison to the woes of those on the grand stage. But even Mary Cheney still voted for her dad - twice, as far as we know. The president's son/daughter/brother/mistress may fall down drunk on the White House lawn, but they're still drinking with the President's party. They are not supposed to join the loyal opposition.
The frontrunner's crown seems to lie heavier by the day on Giuliani's head...while Hillary wears hers like the homecoming queen, letting her hair down as she gets ready for a hayride to the Iowa caucuses.
I have to say that how the candidates' children feel about them may subtly influence my vote. Since much of what we see about the candidates is so packaged, it's revealing to see how they've handled their nearest and dearest. Many parents have rebellious teenagers but Rudy's children allegedly don't speak to him at all. What does that say? Do we think that the candidate's relationship with their children affects people's votes?
I tend to agree with you, which is why I felt it worth writing about. Something like this lets you see beyond the spin and the careful crafting of the image. It's a glimpse at the "real" person beneath all those layers of varnish. I do cut Rudy some slack, simply because I know many children, especially teenagers, really do rebel against new step-parents. But it sounds like this goes beyond that - and who knows someone better than his or her own family?
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