Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Yond Hillary has a workaholic look

Let Brooks have men about him that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.

Buster Keaton in Roscoe Arbuckle's His Wedding Night (1917). Via Oh, So?
Shorter David Brooks, "Why Is Clinton Disliked?", New York Times, May 24 2016:
I think I've got the answer to this vexing question—it's got to be because we don't know what her hobby is. Why, she may not have a hobby at all! You can't expect Americans to put up with that!
Because it can't possibly have anything to do with a 25-year campaign of calumny, libel, and prurient fantasies accusing her of everything from insider futures trading to murder, with allegations of sexual oddity, support for terrorists, simple bribery, and selling the influence of the secretary of state to fund her gigantic appetite for um funding Haitian earthquake relief and bolstering her hated husband's reputation as a humanitarian, with the eager complicity of the media widely reporting every story ("some say, said some") though it can never show a foundation in fact for any of them. Somewhat abated after 2000 when she wasn't running for president and then when Barack Obama was, but revived since a couple of years ago at triple the original force.

No, it's because we don't know whether she collects cat figurines, or works on cryptic crosswords in her spare time:
We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun. But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms.
What's that about the Trump? As far as I know, he plays a lot of golf too. Is Brooksy making an innuendo there with reference to Donald's alleged woman-chasing in the 1990s, and his many affairs at the time with celebrity figures like Carla Bruni, Madonna, and possibly the Princess of Wales, as reported to radio broadcasters by John Miller and John Barron?

Actually back then Trump's hobby was calling into radio stations, same as now, except of course now he has Twitter as well. Imma come out and say he has had only three sex partners in his life, Marla and the two mail-order brides. All the rest is sock puppetry.

I'll go further than that: Trump has, in fact, retired, having given up most of his business interests over the past months. Everything he does is a hobby, running for the presidency being hobby no. 1. And yet he's even more unpopular than Hillary. Matter of fact, a good deal more. What's up with that?

But I digress.
For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organized” or “deceptive.”
Sadly no. Hart's subjects did not think of "deceptive" as a typical descriptor of on-the-job performance, Clinton's or anyone else's. He's smushing together two unrelated parts of the study.

Women in the focus group talked about typical qualities they thought would contribute to any woman being a good president:
women in this discussion expressed positive attitudes toward having a woman president, saying that electing a woman would be a great achievement. They want this not only for gender implications, but also because they believe that a woman (be it Clinton or Fiorina) would bring key attributes to office. Among those attributes, they cite “organized,” “determined,” “good listener,” “multitask-oriented,” “level headed,” and “a strong fighter.”
Those descriptors were related to on-the-job performance because that's what the investigator was asking about, and they weren't being applied to Clinton anyway. "Deceptive" was among their responses when talking about Clinton in particular, asked to describe her with a single word or phrase:
To some men, Hillary Clinton is “smart,” “honest,” and has “something to prove,” while to women she is “powerful,” “strong,” and “experienced.” However, among both genders, one also hears terms such as “liar,” “questionable honesty,” “not good vibes,” “deceptive,” “controversy,” and “polarizing.” 
This is a focus group of 12 people (in Columbus, Ohio), and there are 12 items listed, so that looks like the whole thing. Half offered positive assessments, a third offered negative ones, one of which was "deceptive", and the remaining sixth didn't describe their views of Clinton at all but instead their views of what other people's views might be. For those two the media coverage looms so large that it hides her entirely.

When they were allowed to speak more at length, their positive views, interestingly, related a great deal to the way she has handled the long years of continual assault on her character, while the single negative one we're given is basically a familiar criticism of her microphone technique:
For Tai: “I like her [Clinton’s] experience. I like just how she’s handled herself through the controversy.” For Dustin: “I think she’s graceful under fire. I think she’s thoughtful, confident, and I think she has the experience.” And for Kamon: “She’s resilient. She’s unwavering…she hasn’t let anything stop her so far.” But for Scott: “I honestly just want to see that she can be down to earth, she can have that conversation because politics isn’t all about standing up, being serious and showing off how smart you are. It’s about being human and showing that I can be empathetic and I can have a conversation with somebody that is different…you can say something without having to come across as I know everything or I’m super intelligent. Just talk to me. Talk to me like I’m a person.”
Since, as we have known for a long time, the thing Scott objects to is something that happens to her when she's on a stage, and not in small groups, when she comes across as especially empathetic and warm. At any rate, it is not about the suspicion that she doesn't play enough golf or do a garden.

And then his other piece of evidence is even more imaginary than that one:
Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.
"Appear" to whom?

The funny thing there is that I could say precisely that Brooks's friendships appear that way to me, since I see him only through the column, and catch him talking about people he meets at Aspen and the like, Arianna Huffington, Stewart and Lynda Resnick,  Daniel Casse (of the Hoover Institution, "advisor to CEOs"), Mike Murphy (the Republican political consultant), "a friend, not at the Times, who is in our business and has opinions leaking out of his pores". I don't go around saying this proves he doesn't have any normal friends, because I'm not an idiot. Although maybe he doesn't: because if I try to imagine an explanation of why anybody would make such a bizarre statement about somebody who's not in their own social circle, projection is the first thing that comes to mind.
Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul.
Anger translator: "That Krugman is just a suckup. Work work work. I bet nobody likes him."
Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the Sabbath is “a palace in time which we build.” It’s not a day of rest before work; you work in order to experience this day of elevation...
I really don't think Heschel was referring to tango lessons, or training show dogs, or buying antiques as building a palace in time, but never mind that; Brooks is coming to the end of his 800 words and ready for a Sabbath-like moment of his own, not a palace of time but a comfy little service flat of time, perhaps, or a nicely appointed hotel room of time, with room service; maybe he fixes himself a cup of cocoa and turns on the Cooking Channel, maybe he calls up Ramesh Ponnuru for a game of Words with Friends. Or hangs out with the bartender at the Stars and Garter. We don't know, do we? What are your hobbies, David? Should we be trusting you?

He looks up and sees his new theory, standing there somehow surprisingly, as if it had just wandered in from the fields, through the French windows:
Even successful lives need these sanctuaries — in order to be a real person instead of just a productive one. It appears that we don’t really trust candidates who do not show us theirs.
How can I trust you if you won't show me your sanctuary? Lolwut? No, it doesn't "appear", for the second time—you just made it up!

Update: I was afraid the column was so empty that after I'd messed with it there'd be nothing left for Driftglass to chew on, but there turned out to be lots. Drifty gives special attention to the autobiographical aspect, where "Hillary Clinton" is actually a secret code name for David F. Brooks. And honorable mention to Matty Yglesias for pointing out that, according to the most cutting-edge recent research,
she enjoys speed walking, gardening, crossword puzzles, and Scrabble, which seem like pretty normal hobbies for her demographic, much as playing golf and watching basketball on TV are pretty normal hobbies for someone like Barack Obama.... Further research reveals that Clinton watches Dancing With the Stars and that she loves her baby granddaughter
It wasn't a secret after all! And Steve M manages to milk the thing for a bit more than shits 'n' giggles, examining the unpopularity issue with some actual ideas.,

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