Wednesday, October 31, 2007

French Letters

Hillary la Française, Cherchez la Femme?
Published: October 31, 2007

“Cherchez la Femme” is a French phrase roughly meaning that behind any odd behavior or other problem, you can usually find a woman involved if you look hard enough. The Phrase Finder website explains its origin:

The expression was coined by Alexandre Dumas (père) in Le Monte-Cristo, 1857:

"Vous connaissez sa maxime, lorsqu'il veut découvrir un secret quelconque: cherchez la femme; dans ce cas la femme n'a pas été difficile à trouver."
(You know his maxim, when he wants to discover an unspecified secrecy: seek the woman; in this case the woman was not difficult to find.)

The phrase was adopted into English use and crossed the Atlantic by 1909. It was well enough known there by that date for O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) to use it as the title of a story - Cherchez La Femme, which includes this line:

"Ah! yes, I know most time when those men lose money you say 'Cherchez la femme' - there is somewhere the woman."
Maureen Dowd compares Hillary Clinton with the ex-wife of the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Cécilia Sarkozy got divorced over the philandering ways of her husband. Hillary got elected Senator.
Cécilia Sarkozy acts so American, while Hillary Clinton acts so French.
Cécilia at one point left her marriage to go to New York and seek love American-style, while Hillary lost the public love in the ’90s when she tried French-style health care reform.
Love American Style was a television comedy anthology show that featured the trials and tribulations of romance in the sexually liberated 1970s. While estranged from her husband, Cécilia and her then-lover briefly lived in New York. According the French Embassy website, the French health care system is a single-payer universal coverage system financed by a combination of payroll deductions and sin taxes. It is very similar to the system Hillary Clinton’s health care commission proposed during the first term of her husband’s presidency.

Dowd then plays up Hillary’s campaign strategy of appealing to women by trying to soften her harsh image.
She returns to Wellesley tomorrow to launch Hillblazers, a bid to attract young Hillarys to the campaign. She will be back in the setting of her 1969 feminist triumph as the commencement speaker who described her class’s desire for a “more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living” and who spoke truth to power, chastising Edward Brooke for being out of touch.
The Edward Brooke incident was a watershed event in Hillary Clinton’s life as it gave her her very first national exposure. The details have been described in many places, but most recently in the October 21st edition of the International Herald Tribune, which is the European edition of the New York Times. Good to see Dowd keeps up with the house organs.
On May 31, 1969, [Clinton] gave the student commencement speech. She was preceded at the dais by Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke, who spoke that day against "coercive protest." Rodham later wrote she waited in vain for any mention of the pain and soul-searching of the time — Vietnam, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the podium, she peered out through thick glasses and said: "Every protest, every dissent, is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age."

The speech was a sensation. She was featured in Life magazine.
Dowd says that Hillary’s strategy of appealing to every possible microgroup is at odds with her former tough talking ways.
Hillary doesn’t speak truth to power any more. Now that Mark Penn believes women can carry her to victory, Hillary speaks girlfriend to girlfriend.
Mark Penn is the author and Clinton strategist that Dowd wrote about recently. To round out the First Ladies Club, Dowd quotes Argentinean President-elect Fernández de Kirchner:
“And why not?,” former first lady Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said about Hillary yesterday. “Another woman wouldn’t be bad.”
After an extensive quote from an Atlantic article on Clinton by Caitlin Flanagan, Dowd points out a telling detail:
Ms. Flanagan … was particularly bothered by Hillary’s callousness in dumping Socks, the beloved White House cat and best-selling author, on Bill’s former secretary Betty Currie.
Not only is Hillary wrong for not dumping Bill on the curb, she’s a bad pet owner too. But Dowd sees Senator Clinton’s toughness as her strength:
Few are concerned that Hillary is strong enough for the job. She is cold-eyed about wanting power and raising money and turning everything about her life into a commodity. Yet, the characteristics that are somewhat troubling are the same ones that convincingly show she will do what it takes to beat Obama and Rudy. She will not be soft or vulnerable. She will not melt in a crisis.
And to drive home the point about who the real man in the campaign is, Dowd goes back to the {verb}-up phrase she has become enamored with and emasculated Obama once more just for old time’s sake.
And, unlike Obama, she doesn’t need to talk herself into manning up. Obama whiffed in the debate last night when Brian Williams and Tim Russert teed up the first question for him to take on Hillary — something the debate dominatrix never would have done.
And with the final alliteration, we see who really wears the pants suits in the campaign. Hillary is a strong-willed political opportunist that stayed with her philandering husband just for political gain, and those are her good points.


Anonymous said...

I read a great commentary on how the Dems, which I am one, can stop Sen. Clinton. It is a sad day when a conservative has the right answer.

Tommy said...

Is the primary presidential issue really, as Dowd suggests, "Who is dispassionate and tough enough though a woman?"
I think "Who would lead us the most wisely" would be a better one.
I love reading Maureen Dowd columns, and sometimes fantasize what a date with her would be like (me scraped off the sidewalk at night's end, no doubt) , but she's letting me down on the Hil thing. .......... Tommy Paine, Democrat, but far from a Hillary enthusiast.

Tommy said...

Oops, perhaps the layers of irony here lost me above, but upon un-deconstructing the original Dowd article, I *think* that she was piling on Hillary herself, an activity I'm in favor of, in all but the most literal of senses. My apologies.