Monday, April 14, 2008
Clinton Downs a Beer and a Bump to Impress the Cool Kids -- And This Dad's Not OK With It
As a father of daughters, I've got a big problem today with Hillary Clinton.
Let's be clear: I've got no problem with a President who occasionally chases down a slice of pizza with a cold brew or a shot of whiskey -- or both. Like most Oregonians, I'm particularly fond of our state's great microbrews and small wineries; I'm no prude about liquor (or much of anything else). And, of course, our current teetotaler President has been a disaster. (I'm put in mind of Lincoln during the Civil War: when an advisor complained that the North's most successful general was drinking too much, Abe ordered a barrel of the general's favorite whiskey sent to each of his other commanders.)
So if Clinton likes an (imported) Crown Royal, neat, back on the campaign plane at the end of the day, or -- without fanfare -- tips back a cool one with supporters at a pizza joint, I'm good. But that's not what she did Saturday night at Bronko’s Restaurant and Lounge in Crown Point, Indiana Saturday night. No: she bumped back a boilermaker to make a point about Barack Obama being "out of touch" with blue-collar voters, playing off his comment about some middle Americans being "bitter" at being ignored by Washington insiders.
Hillary Clinton is not normally a brew-and-a-bump kind of gal; she's just not. But she is a political animal, through and through -- and drinking boilermakers as a strategy for reaching Pennsylvania's working-class voters was even discussed jokingly in a segment of MSNBC's Hardball earlier this month, which Clinton's campaign staff wouldn't have missed. No: Clinton intentionally chose to do a particularly unhealthy kind of drinking -- chugging beer and whiskey at once, a combo designed to make you drunker, faster -- to increase her popularity with people she really has nothing in common with so that they'll vote for her.
Politics is politics, but it's not OK for Hillary Clinton or anyone else in public life to flaunt heavy public drinking in order to be more popular.
I'm the father of two beautiful, brilliant, creative, loving, sometimes gloriously self-confident, sometimes tragically insecure daughters, ages 12 and 14. Both are deeply engaged and opinionated about politics (at a John Kerry rally, my then-8-year-old tugged my arm and said, "hey, Dad, isn't that Peter DeFazio?"). And both, like everyone their age, are sometimes too concerned with popularity.
The older one will start high school next year -- where, I know full well, she'll start making delicate decisions about boys, alcohol, drugs, and the whole dangerous balance between exercising independence and experimenting with life, on the one hand, and remaining safe, on the other. I'm no fool: I know she'll make some decisions I won't agree with. My hope is that she'll be able to draw on varied sources of wisdom to help her make decisions that are still sound, still sensible, even if they aren't exactly the ones her dad would choose. And as she does that -- as she tries to figure out how to grow up and move beyond my paternalistic rules to become a wise and self-sufficient and complete woman -- I'd like her to be able to look to accomplished, self-confident, successful women like Hillary Clinton as role models.
If one of my daughters, trying to win Student Body President, showed up at a keg party and got drunk in order to score points with the "populars" (ask your kid if you don't know who they are), I'd be incredibly disappointed -- and angry, and concerned. Should I feel any differently when Hillary Clinton does it?
Fortunately, my daughters already know that what Clinton did is wrong. At a supposedly irresponsible age, they know it's not cool to misuse alcohol to "fit in." Even for adults, even to win a big election, it's just. not. cool.
But Hillary Clinton -- the candidate who trumpets her experience and worldliness as predictors of her supposed good judgment -- doesn't seem to have figured that out. She's drinking in public to look cool and win votes. For the first woman with a serious shot at the White House to trumpet an unhealthy kind of drinking in order to gain publicity points, is to display either an utter tone-deafness to her role as a model for America's girls (and even adults), or a culpable willingness to ignore her moral compass in order to win. She's either inexcusably foolish or inexcusably calculating; take your pick.
Either way, she deserves to be grounded by the responsible adults in the Democratic Party, not elected Student Body President.
(Photo credit: AP)
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