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Janecek’s trashing of Hillary is unfair to her and hurtful to many


It takes two, baby
To make a dream come true, just takes two.

— Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston, with no apologies

Sarah Janecek owes an apology all right, not just to Willie and Waylon for her unimaginative twist on their lyrics or for resorting to cheesy lyrics in the first place, but to people like me who support Barack Obama but refuse to engage in this sort of misogynistic trashing of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There are legitimate reasons to find Team Clinton’s campaign tactics off-putting, but to say that she only got ahead because of her connections to Bill holds about as much weight as a Post-it Note.

As Amy Rotenberg et al. detailed here Jan. 22, Clinton is incredibly bright, hard working, well educated and credentialed. Janacek derides her for working “as one of thousands of U.S. House staff attorneys and as a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund,” as if these are bottom-of-the-bin choices for someone right out of law school — especially for a woman, who, as the writers above note, was asked how she could succeed in a law firm without a wife to keep her socks clean. And, in fact, Hillary’s connection to Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, turned out to be a very good political connection for Bill. It goes both ways.

Where would Bush be without his daddy?
I also don’t recall Republican Janacek ever commenting on the subject of George W. Bush using his daddy to get into — or out of — anything he ever did. “But for the fact” that his father was rich, powerful and the president, little Shrub would have never have made it to Yale, much less to the Oval Office.

As was typical of the era, Hillary took a back seat to Bill’s ambitions. The “little woman behind the throne” has long been winked at as a given, but when it’s a man behind the throne, people like Janacek get squeamish. Feminism pretty much holds that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and vice-versa. I don’t recall “making it on your own” being part of the feminist pledge anymore than it being part of the corporate fat cat pledge.

It’s anyone’s guess where Hillary would have wound up had she not married Bill and moved to Arkansas. But given her history and her own ambition, I suspect she’d be doing something of substance, perhaps even running for president without the baggage, both good and bad, of Bill.

So instead of trying to make her over into some ditzy Gennifer Flowers, sliding by on Bill’s coattails, why not give her her due and credit her with Bill’s many successes? Like her or not, she’s a strong and driven person in her own right, hardly a simpering first lady of the Nancy Reagan mold.

With his famously undisciplined appetites, surely Bill was the longer shot to make it. He needed Hillary’s discipline, strength, intelligence and, yes, forgiveness to win the presidency. So leave feminism out of this and call it what it is — a partnership, for better or worse. And isn’t that what marriage is all about?

Susan Lenfestey lives in Minneapolis and is a frequent contributor to the Star Tribune opinion pages. She is a member of the Minnesota Obama for President Finance Committee.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Urbanek on 01/24/2008 - 01:44 pm.

    That was well said. Well-written, well-researched, well-reasoned. I am leaning toward Obama myself, but can’t help but admire the resolve and toughness Hillary Clinton has shown throughout the last 15 years. She has been attacked personally, her husband’s philandering was world-wide news. Yet she has always demonstrated calm under fire. The intensity of the venom directed at her (and the people directing it at her) has made me wonder if she has perhaps touched a nerve — one that needed to be exposed.

    Thank you once again for your eloquent rebuttal to Janacek. There’s still hope.

  2. Submitted by Craig Westover on 01/24/2008 - 02:46 pm.

    “We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what does all that mean to a mother or father who can’t take a sick child to the doctor?” – Hillary Clinton speaking about healthcare at an Iowa rally.

    That a candidate running for the highest office in the land can ask that question kinda relegates to trivial whether or not she’s a feminist, doncha think?

  3. Submitted by Jeff Urbanek on 01/24/2008 - 05:25 pm.

    Mr. Westhover, it sounds like the kind of freedom you are speaking of is principally the freedom of the corporation. I think individual freedom is precisely what Clinton is speaking to — for when you can not have health care, when you do not have a decent wage — your freedoms are severely limited. Business was making much the same arguments against public education 150 years ago — and yet it has been a healthy and skilled population that has catapulted our country to the forefront of the world’s economy.

  4. Submitted by Craig Westover on 01/25/2008 - 09:52 am.

    Jeff –

    I somewhat agree with your statement, “when you can not have health care, when you do not have a decent wage — your freedoms are severely limited.” Your “freedoms” are not limited, but “opportunities” certainly are. The types of programs Clinton and other progressives are offering to solve real problems limit people’s freedoms and don’t really solve their problems or provide opportunities.

    If freedom and opportunity is the objective, instead of government-run health care programs why not take the same dollars and create health savings accounts for low-income families coupled with catastrophic health care insurance and let them choose when and where to spend their health care dollars – and keep what they don’t spend.

    If freedom and opportunity is the objective why not fund individual families with vouchers and let them choose the school, public or private, their children attend.

    There are many other examples. Providing services to low-income families is not an effective way to involve them in the economy. Providing capital that allows low-income families to particiapte in the economy by making consumer choices and in the process bilding their wealth so they no longer need government assistance – that’s real freedom.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Urbanek on 01/25/2008 - 11:22 am.


    I know we are getting off topic — but your idealization of HSA’s with catastrophic coverage is a joke. I am on an HSA with a $4000 deductible. I can not afford the mental health care that my family needs, I pay $600 a month in premiums and HSA deductibles. This is not an opportunity to people who are stretched. HSAs are only a good deal for single, young and healthy individuals. For anyone with a chronic condition it is financially devastating. Those of you with better situations frankly are out of touch with the rest of the masses who are struggling.

    Vouchers are not such a panacea either. Those vouchers will not pay for children’s education in entirety. And many families are stretched just keeping a roof over their head and food on the table. All of these assumptions are based on a large assumption — that somehow people have the money to put away into savings, etc. If they would just spend less, etc. I find it paternalistic and unrealistic.

  6. Submitted by John Olson on 01/25/2008 - 11:35 am.

    Mr. Westover, when was the last time you saw a detailed, line-item bill for a visit to the ER?

    My kid hit his knee hard in a sporting event and the trainer recommended an X-ray and evaluation. Since it was late, urgent care was no longer an option.

    At the end of the four-hours, the knee was diagnosed as bruised, but otherwise OK. We already had crutches at home, so those were not needed.

    The cost of this visit? $1,500. My co-pay? $50.

    I have no issues with the concept of a health care savings account, but for a low-income family, just one visit like this would likely wipe it out in total and I’m guessing there would be a leftover bill to pay as well. That is not a solution–free market or otherwise.

    Keep in mind that many of these low-income families end up using the ER as their primary physicians. That needs to change. A lot needs to change in health care. I wish I had concise answers, but I don’t. If I did, I’d be worth as much as Bill McGuire from UnitedHealth!

  7. Submitted by Craig Westover on 01/25/2008 - 04:58 pm.

    Jeff –

    I can’t comment on the specifics of your HSA policy, but in general I can make a few observations.

    First the HSA you have is developed in the context of a health care system dominated by managed care. If there were more competition in the system, and fewer state mandates, you would have more choice in policies and more affordable options. Second, you are right about young and healthy versus old and sick – but again, you are speaking from the perspective of the current system. The theory of an HSA is that a person puts money into it when he or she is young and healthy. That money is his or hers. It compounds over time and is available when they are old and sick. Should they die, the money is available to their beneficiaries – it doesn’t disappear in the bowels of the bureaucracy. As for low-income people, if we took the money we currently spend on dictated government programs and allowed people to use it in HSA approach, we would continue to provide low-income families health care AND provide the opportunity to build capital.

    On education vouchers – a voucher in the amount of state formula aid is equal to or greater than tuition at about 85 percent of the private schools in the Twin Cities area. Not Breck and SPA, but neighborhood parocial and secular private schools. These are two-year old numbers, but would be about the same today. A voucher doesn’t allow a family to send its children to any school, but it does allow them the option of getting out of a failing school into one that works.

    John –

    My son played soccer. Both my son and my daughter were competitive roller skaters. Nuf said about emergency rooms. I had policies very similar to yours.

    As noted above, a viable option to cover low income families is taking the money we currently spend on government programs and provide it directly to families in the form of an HSA and a policy that kicks in after the deductible. If they use up the HSA, they are no worse off than under the current system; if they don’t, they are better off. The HSA does two things vis a vis using the ER for primary care: 1) they no longer have to do so because they have funds to pay for a clinic visit and 2) they are motivated to go to a clinic because it is less expensive than the ER and preserves funds in the HSA.

    And yes, I know that not all people will respond in that logical way and some will still go to the emergency room and so forth. Nonetheless, many more people would benefit and those that did not would ultimately be no worse off than they are under the current system. And we all benefit from a competitive system that improves service and lowers prices for everyone (the Lasik surgery phenomenon.)

    (BTW – government policy favoring HMOs and reducing competition in the insurance industry made Bill McGuire a rich man. He couldn’t lose – only patients did.)

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