Insincerely charming

Clive Crook’s column in the Financial Times today (3/3/08), "Clinton Gets it Sincerely Wrong," is sadly on target.  Senator Clinton does not have a particularly charming or personable personality, but that was not her greatest undoing.  Her greatest undoing was trying to become something else.  Margaret Thatcher was comfortable in her own skin as a tough cookie, and people liked that about her – and voted for her.  Senator Clinton instead has been switching personalities based on what the pollsters say.

I remember listening to Hilary Clinton about 8 years ago when she spoke to an enthralled audience of leaders at the World Economic Forum.  She spoke for about one hour and covered a plethora of topics.  She had no notes.  And yet she spoke immaculately, exceptionally, mastering  both the substance and tone of the presentation.  Outside the halls everyone was in awe of her intellect and poise.

What happened to that extraordinary leader? 

Clinton was leading in the polls early on being herself.  And tracing back to my thoughts about her back then, I thought she was a strong and fine leader (I was undecided between her and McCain and Obama, who are now fortunately the three remaining contestants, and I think they all are strong candidates, each with their strengths and weaknesses). 

But somehow she started losing the comfort of being herself, listening to pollsters telling her she needed to be more "likeable", "warmer", "funnier," "friendlier." And when she tried to become someone else, she turned voters off by seeming extremely fake.

Then, besides the low moments in late January when her campaign was downright nasty to Sen. Obama, when Sen. Clinton started fighting Barak Obama’s personality and charisma, she dug her cave further.  She was only forcing everyone to contrast his comfort in his own skin to her ever-changing persona.  She would have done better to praise his personality SINCERELY (not with fake praise) and commend him as a great public servant, while focusing on her vision and message.

Her aggressive "us-vs-them" style also turned off a lot of people that are hungry for a leader who will unify the country – and our world.  If she truly believes we are "naive" about that possibility, then she certainly has no chance of getting us anywhere near as a leader.

Indeed, when her campaign started to falter and to paint Obama’s message of unity as naive, it only sounded more depressing and dour and made people want to distance themselves.

Now here in San Antonio Texas one day before the primaries, I hear from a lot of people that the Clinton campaign is stopping at nothing, including fanning the flames of rumors about Obama’s allegiances and religion, and rumors about how the Obama base is suffering from "buyer’s remorse." I keep hearing interviews from Clinton surrogates taking off the gloves, with dirty innuendos and attacks.

I guess you can’t blame her campaign for trying to do everything they can to win.  But then again, you CAN blame them.  When McCain was losing in the polls, he stuck to his principle, and eventually, lo and behold, he came out on top.  THAT is leadership worthy of admiration.  It is not just about getting there, but also about the way you get there.

At this juncture, even if she were to pull off a miracle and win the Democratic nomination, she would have antagonized half of her potential constituents in the process.

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