At the Boston Park Plaza on 2 September, Hillary Clinton is speaking to over 1500 supporters, mostly women, each of whom has paid $250 for a sandwich and a chance to hear her. The Republican National Convention has only just ended, so Clinton gets warm laughter and applause when she thanks Phyllis Schafly, Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan for the attacks that have brought out her defenders in such great numbers. She speaks of an America where women have a right to make choices about their bodies, their careers and their families. She speaks of equality in jobs and pay and of decent education and health care for everyone. Join her. Join Bill. We can make the future. I remember how I felt listening to John Kennedy’s inaugural address as a 12-year-old schoolgirl. I was excited but anxious, aware that I was too young. It wasn’t yet time for my generation. Perhaps it would be time now. Embarrassed by my reverie and my emotion, I pull myself back to the present. Clinton is no longer speaking. At my table sit a lawyer, a real-estate broker and an architect. They are debating whether she is ‘too hard’.
Vol. 14 No. 22 · 19 November 1992
Personally I find in ambivalence life’s only certainty, although Sherry Turkle is probably right (LRB, 22 October) that most people find it very hard to tolerate. However, if American women are ambivalent about Hillary Clinton, it is perhaps because she herself is not just ‘betwixt and between’ and thus a target for projection, but gives out contradictory messages. She has made a name for herself as an exceptionally able lawyer – except that the name is her husband’s. On the one hand, she is saying that she is an independent professional: on the other, that she wishes also to glow in her husband’s limelight. Perhaps American women simply distrust those who wish to have their cookies and eat them: just as many British women distrusted Glenys Kinnock.
It is fortunate that one of the contributors to your 22 October issue, Sherry Turkle, is psycho-literate and so able to describe correctly the phenomenon of ‘projection’: ‘we reassure ourselves that we are not X by placing the label on someone else.’ Christopher Hitchens cites the bizarre conspiracy conceived by Richard Nixon to have Henry Kissinger placed under the care of a psychiatrist as an instance of precisely this psychological process. Sadly, he spoils the story by misnaming it ‘transference’, which is, of course, something quite different altogether.