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Sweet column: Clinton's "evil men" What was she thinking?

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DAVENPORT, Iowa -- What was she thinking?

"You guys keep telling me, 'lighten up, be funny,'" said Hillary Rodham Clinton. "You know, I get a little funny, and now I am being psychoanalyzed!"

Of course she is.

What did one of the most scrutinized women in the United States expect when she ran for president?


The matter at hand, which reporters would not let go of at Clinton's news conference -- her first on the 2008 White House trail -- was a remark she made at a town hall meeting here Sunday morning.

What she said -- and her delivery and Cheshire Cat grin -- triggered a communal gale of hoots, hollers and laughter from the audience.

Why they laughed is another matter.

Clinton may have unwittingly said something people thought was about her storied marriage to Bill Clinton.

The New York senator offered conflicting explanations about her intended target at the news conference. Her warmth turned chilly when a reporter said the audience may have thought the "evil man" was about the "bad side of Bill.''

"I don't think anybody in there really thought that," she said.

But they did.

Here's what happened:

A man in the crowd asked Clinton what she had in her background that would make her a good commander-in-chief, given that the world has "evil" leaders and a lot of them "happen to be men."

Clinton rephrased the question for the audience because most did not hear what the man said.
"The question really is," she said, "we face a lot of dangers in the world, and in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of 'evil men.'

"People like Osama bin Laden comes to mind."

She paused.

"And what in my background equips me to deal" --Clinton waited a beat and got a gleam in her eyes -- "with evil and bad men?"

Bingo.

It took about 30 seconds for the crowd to stop guffawing.

As I read the quotes I just typed, I'm not moved to laugh. (It was one of those you-had-to-be-there moments.)

As was Dustin Burnaugh, 21, a Davenport resident who said he thought she was referring to "the whole Clinton scandal.

"Everyone was thinking it, and she didn't want to say it. That's what everyone was thinking."

Pat Baxter-Rebal 64, of LeClaire said Clinton was making a sly allusion to "her history with her husband, all played out on a public stage. It was totally disarming" and a "masterful display of self- deprecating humor."

Clinton, asked to explain the crowd reaction, first said the "evil" man was bin Laden.

Pressed as to why she thought the audience laughed, she said it was the "failed leadership" of the Bush administration for the last six years.

Clinton spent the weekend in Iowa, with the crucial leadoff presidential vote.

Her motto is "Let the Conversation Begin."

It has.

15 Comments

She knew exactly what she was saying. Looks like she learned something from Slick Willie.
Great job, Hillary! Your cunning and calculating style got you a few more votes.

Take a break. Consider following Kucinich around for a couple of weeks.

I was there, and she wasn't talking about Bill Clinton.

The laughter was there because it was a 'take your pick' kind of thought.

Has Hillary had experience in dealing with evil and bad men?

She's a female in a man's world. That was the vibe from other questions.

The 'evil and bad men' could be any male politician, administrative appointee, or the commander and chief himself.

She deals with harrassment from the GOP and conservative talk show hosts on a daily basis, most of them men.

The laughter was because depending on a person's definition of an evil or bad man, she would claim direct

experience with dealing with them on a daily basis in the halls of congress, in media conferences, etc.

The laughter was also because everyone, but the media, got the joke. The Democrats got the joke and knew it was

something to laugh about, not to take seriously and make up a real list of men she would consider evil or bad.

The lingo of labelling people evildoers is a label Evangelicals use and one that's used as a tool to devide.

That's not what Hillary Clinton wants to do.

It's not the job of government to label people as evil or good. The government doesn't do the Lord's work. Our

representatives are there to represent the people, not to try to confer with God and to bring religion into

government.

As soon as the 'evil' label was brought into the discussion Hillary was put off. She's not Bush and I doubt she

wants to speak using the same labels.

If she was directly asked if Saddam was 'evil' she would more than likely say yes.

Speaking in the terminology of 'evil and bad men' belongs on the pulpit, not on the political stage.

That's really why it was a joke before she even spoke to it. Myself, and the fellow Democrats in the room, were

shaking our heads at the gentlemen's comment and Hillary only gave us the opportunity to laugh at him.

It was funny.

So. You've resorted to trying to drive a wedge between Hillary and male voters now, huh?

Think about it. If this question were asked of any woman politician, Nancy Pelosi for instance, I think you would have had a similar reaction. Many successfully women must have moments when they can't think of men in terms other than "Just a bunch of evil and bad bastards; that's what they are." So if you ask a woman what qualifies her to deal with these guys, she just might look a bit amused while she's trying to think of some politically correct way to answer the question.

And I doubt that any male politician would be asked this question, since it's assumed their very maleness gives them the right stuff to take on all evil and bad men in the world.

She is a shrewd and cunning politician. I believe she knew exactly what she was saying and how the MAJORITY of the listeners would view it.
She also knew that it would get a whole lot more publicity. Dick Morris has stated that before Hillary says anything it is checked and scripted. Why, because she has said some really bad things at times in the past when speaking off the cuff.
She also took this time to "swing her words around on the war vote", now she says she was "misled" and her vote was wrongly used! How could such smart and capable person take 5 years to figure this out?
She says she is the best qualified person to be Queen er, I mean President! She may be the best qualified in the Democratic Party but I question that she is the best qualified in all those running or "possibly running"!

I'll tell you what she was thinking. She had in mind Osama bin Laden, obviously, but also the names she could not label out loud as evil and bad: Bush and Cheney. I don't often use such words, but I now consider Bush/Cheney to be evil men.
She is so far beyond the "Clinton scandal", and she clearly does not regard her husband as evil and bad. It is only the most adolescent reporters and Republicans who are fixated on her husband's past affair and imagine that is what "everyone" is thinking.
Reporters like the author of this story are determined to keep our political discourse on this utterly silly, irrelevant level. Knowingly or otherwise, they are supporting the typical Republican strategy of incessant mockery instead of honest, open discussion of issues.

Geez Lynn,
You're on Hardball tonite looking like a horse rode hard and put away wet. Please get your hair professionally done before going back on the air!

Ms Sweet tells us Clinton put her foot in her mouth. Lynn Sweet the mind reader "knows" everyone was thinking about her husband's past affair and laughed at her. Here is how the Associated Press reported this event:
Senator Clinton - "...in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men and what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men," Clinton said. She paused to gaze while the audience interrupted with about 30 seconds of laughter and applause. APPLAUSE
The photo shows an exuberant crowd of her supporters.
This is important because Sweet's deceit is an early shot in the coming Republican smear campaign. It will be repeated endlessly until it magically becomes the accepted truth. This is ugly, folks.
Hillary is not even my first choice as a candidate, but this typical Karl Rove type smear is what will happen to any Democrat no matter what their background is.
We deserve better from the press than to be a partisan hack in a smear campaign.

LYNN SWEET REPLY
FYI...I never wrote or said Clinton put her foot in her mouth. I reported on the 30 seconds or so of applause...I use the same quotes that AP did because that's what she said. I was there. No smear.

Her motto is "Let the Smear Begin."

It has.

To Poster Judi on LS's hairdo on Hardball -- Everyone looked bad on last night's program from Vegas, not just LS. Must have been camera, lighting, makeup, or something. You could even see the dribble from CM's bottom lip going down his chin. Something was amiss.

I actually don't think she intended to imply Bill was the evil man but obviously it's what they crowd and millions of other people thought...that's all that matters.

If Hillary Clinton wins it all,we need a better term for the presidential spouse.First gentleman or first husband will elicit snickers and a flurry of outraged letters to the editor.How do other counties with a Female head of state, address a less than perfect male spouse?I suggest the first mate.

You can take the reporter out of junior high... What's next, Lynn, an article on cooties? A whole lot silly and a little bit bitchy, me thinks.

>WHAT IF CHRIS MATTHEWS OR JOHN KERRY OR MRS CLINTON HAD BEEN PRESIDENT ON 9/11/2001

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 29, 2007 7:43 AM.

Sweet blog special: Clinton, the comedian, knows from "evil and bad men." Iowa report 7. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet column: DNC meeting gives stage to other (non Obama/Clinton) 2008 hopefuls. is the next entry in this blog.

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