No Whining On Team Hillary

Hillary Clinton doesn't have much sympathy for her former aide's inability to "have it all."

Back in June, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who had served as the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department before taking a position at Princeton University, wrote a piece at The Atlantic entitled ”Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” that set off quite a discussion in the blogosphere and elsewhere. It led to an entire series of follow-up articles at The Atlantic itself, including two by James Joyner (here and here) and once again ignited the seemingly endless debate over the work-life-family balance and the demands placed on women and men in high-powered and workaday positions who are also struggling to raise children and, well, have a life. Now, Slaughter’s former boss at the State Department, Hillary Clinton herself, has chimed in on the debate, and she doesn’t seem to be at all sympathetic to Slaughter’s arguments:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has finally weighed in publicly on Anne-Marie Slaughter’s July/August Atlantic cover story, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and in the process reminded me of both understandings of Washington life. Slaughter’s article detailed how she found “juggling high-level governmental work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible” and stepped down from her role as Clinton’s director of policy planning in order to save her family.

I found this via The Atlantic, but the comments actually appear in a longish Marie Claire article that also includes yet another denial by Clinton that she is at all interested in running for President in 2016 which I’ll let everyone evaluate on their own. As far as Slaughter goes, though, it doesn’t seem like Clinton has much sympathy for her argument, and that she has a much thicker skin than her former aide:

Defectors from Hillaryland are a rare species, which helps explain the epic dust storm kicked up by “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” last summer’s cover story in The Atlantic written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clinton’s former director of policy planning, in which she explained why she felt obliged to quit Clinton’s staff. When I asked Clinton about Slaughter’s claim that “juggling high-level governmental work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible,” Clinton’s disapproval was palpable. She reminded me that she has spent her career advocating on behalf of women, that she is committed to the idea that “it’s important for our workplaces … to be more flexible and creative in enabling women to continue to do high-stress jobs while caring for not only children, but [also] aging parents.” But, she said, Slaughter’s problems were her own. “Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs … Other women don’t break a sweat. They have four or five, six kids. They’re highly organized, they have very supportive networks.” By all accounts, this was precisely the kind of mother Clinton was to Chelsea—hands-on, prioritizing her child, and yet ever committed to work.

Clinton has very little patience for those whose privilege offers them a myriad of choices but who fail to take advantage of them. “I can’t stand whining,” she says. “I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they’re not happy with the choices they’ve made. You live in a time when there are endless choices … Money certainly helps, and having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don’t even have to have money for it. But you have to work on yourself … Do something!”

As The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta notes, it’s perhaps not surprising that Clinton has developed such a thick skin on issues like this. This is a person who has been in the public eye incessantly for twenty years now and, from the beginning, she’s been criticized and mocked by the political opposition, scrutinized by the press, and pretty much humiliated in front of the entire nation by her husband. Other people likely would’ve crumbled under such pressure, or simply left public life at the end of the Clinton Presidency and retired to something like a quite life in academia or the private sector. That just goes to show you that intelligence aren’t the only keys to success in politics, you’ve also got to have the kind of personality that lets you take the slings and arrows and, even if they do bother you, not let it show in public. Ronald Reagan had that kind of personality, so does Bill Clinton. Even George W. Bush never really seemed to let the barrage of public criticism he was subjected to during his Administration get to him very much. On the opposite side of the coin, though, you’ve got politicians like Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Alan Grayson, and others who have made exploding in public a regular part of their political career. Politicians like that don’t tend to go very far, at least not on the national level.  Of course, it’s also possible for someone with this type of personality to become self-destructive. John Edwards had so perfected the ability to create a public persona that didn’t match his personal  life that he became what can only be described as an amoral sociopath who didn’t care how many lives he wrecked to advance his career. Hillary Clinton is one of those people who has created a tough outer shell. What it’s hiding from the world is anyone’s guess.

What to make, though, of Clinton’s dismissive attitude toward the issues that Slaughter raised in her June article? Some, I think, are going to find it quite surprising given both that Clinton is herself a woman and that she has spent the better part of her public career advocating for women’s causes. One gets the impression that she feels as though Slaughter was making excuses for her inability to keep up with the face  paced world of Foggy Bottom life. It also seems possible that Slaughter’s departure from the State Department didn’t occur under the best of circumstances and that Clinton still holds a grudge in that regard. Personally, I thought that Slaughter’s original article was just a little over the top considering the fact that she was getting paid a heck of a lot of money to do a very important job. Did she expect her hours to be 9 to 5? I’m not saying that people should be tied to their careers, indeed I’ve come to learn that what you do is far less important than what kind of person you are, but she could not possibly have gone into this position with the State Department without at least some awareness of the demands it would take on her time. You make your choices, you pay the price. And perhaps that’s what has Hillary Clinton so annoyed at her.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    On the opposite side of the coin, though, you’ve got politicians like Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Alan Grayson, and others who have made exploding in public a regular part of their political career. Politicians like that don’t tend to go very far, at least not on the national level.

    Well, actually, guys like Dole and Gingrich did go very far — Senator and Republican presidential candidate on one hand, and Speaker of the House on the other. That’s getting along pretty far in American political life in my book. They just didn’t go as far as president — but then again, who does? It’s only about four to five men in a generation.

  2. Rafer,

    To be fair, Dole just needed to keep getting re-elected in Kansas as many times as it was necessary for him to build up seniority in the Senate to become GOP Leader. Gingrich just needed to keep getting re-elected in a single Congressional District in Georgia.

    When they crossed onto the national stage, they failed miserably. Dole ran nationally three times (1976 as Ford’s VP, 1988 for the GOP nomination, and 1996 as the GOP nominee) and each time his personality was one of the reasons he was destroyed in the end. Gingrich, meanwhile, had his moment on the national stage with a confrontation with Clinton that he lost miserably largely because of his own ego.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    To borrow a phrase from that infamous Leona Helmsley trial, Hillary Clinton is one tough bitch. And I mean that as a compliment. Sincerely. Hillary takes shit from nobody. Unforgiving and utterly ruthless. That’s a good thing. Politicians holding significant offices can’t be shrinking violets.

    This quote of hers made my eyes glaze over, however:

    “it’s important for our workplaces … to be more flexible and creative in enabling women to continue to do high-stress jobs while caring for not only children, but [also] aging parents.”

    Um, no. It’s important for our workplaces to be productive and to allow the country to compete in a cutthroat and ruthless global marketplace. People make choices. Nobody holds a gun to one’s pelvis and forces one to have kids. If you can’t keep up with the rigors of the workplace then you shouldn’t be in the workplace. Besides, with the existing alphabet soup of bend over backwards workplace regulations — FMLA, ADA, OWBPA, ADEA, not to mention their various state law counterparts — the playing field already has been more than tilted.

    Regarding Hillary in ’16, well, let’s put it this way: As much as she despises Obama she’s really rooting for him to win. Because if Romney wins then barring a horrible economy in 2015-2016 Hillary’s presidential aspirations are all but over.

  4. Mr. Replica says:

    I agree with Hillary.

  5. scott says:

    I kind of agree with Hilary. I think she’s saying: Make your choices, live with them, and don’t complain after the fact that others are hindering your desires. I think all of us do that. I don’t take a job that pays a lot more if it includes travel or large amounts of regular overtime. Consequences: I don’t rise up in the organization, my house is smaller than my peers, the cars are a little cheaper and older. So what! That’s my choice and the benefits are family and less stress. It’s a cliche but people really need to look deep and determine what’s important to themselves as individuals.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Well, what about the aging parents? You can’t really claim that that is something you “chose”, did you? (If it is, I’m sure a lot of us would have chosen to be born to much richer and less dysfunctional parents thank you very much.)

    Because modern societies now don’t clear out their aging populations via periodic flu epidemics (the historical mechanism by which older people used to die off) more and more of us will have to deal with increasingly doddering parents. I doubt the standard traditional tactic of dumping the care of said parents off on the closest daughter will remain effective.

    Again, a Somebody Else’s Problem that no one wants to tackle. I honestly don’t know how we’re going to handle it.

  7. @grumpy realist:

    We handle it this way.

    People are going to have to make choices in life. Do they want to have the high powered, 90+ hours a week, big money job, or do they want to have less stressful career that allows them to spend time with, and take care of their families?

  8. Franklin says:

    Agreed. And one of the choices Hillary and Bill made was to have only one child. (Or at least, I presume it was a choice and not some force of nature.) That’s not to take anything away from Hillary, though, who is likely so organized that she could have handled more. You gotta give her credit, she was attacked relentlessly during Bill’s terms, and she’s now pretty well respected on both sides of the aisle.

    Oh, and Doug: Go Tigers!

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: So what do you do when you are holding down one of those 80 hour work week jobs and your elderly mom goes gaga?

    Guess you hire a caretaker or dump the task of taking care of her on your wife, right? What if she’s holding down an 80 hr work week as well?

    (What I’m getting at is that there’s a lot of care taking stuff–taking care of your kid who has turned out to be autistic, taking care of your gaga parent, etc. which seems to get automatically dumped on any family female who happens to be nearby. It’s still far too much taken for granted as being “the woman’s job” no matter how many hours she works.)

    Makes me glad that I’m single and my parents died many years ago…..

  10. superdestroyer says:

    Considering that Hillary Clinton does not have grandchildren and its looking like she may never have them. Also, Sec. Clinton was notoriously hard on the staff during the Clinton administration.

    Of course, the idea that you choose between having a life and your job leads to an administration filled with egomaniacs who are power hungry and obsessed.

  11. bandit says:

    On the list of people I’d take family life advice from HRC’s about … how many billion other people are there?

    Nice Yankee hat loser. Incredible how 1 guy gets hurt and 24 guys quit.

  12. Let's Be Free says:

    One thing you got to ask yourself about your elderly parents is do they really want their children and grandchildren to put their lives on hold when grandma or grandpa go gaga? I’ve made it very clear to my children I want them to lead full and glorious lives, and not be held back by Dad’s difficulties when I’m slurring and slobbering. I didn’t raise them to be caretakers for me. Go live your lives girls!!!!

  13. Moderate Mom says:

    As to work/family balance, it’s all up to the individual. Some people have what it takes to balance a high stress career and family successfully, and others opt to cut back on work in order to spend more time on family needs. I have two children and chose to quit work to stay home with them, even though it caused some tight times financially in the early years, but for me it was the best decision I ever made. My sister, on the other hand, is a single mother with six children. She is a self-employed systems analyst, makes an extremely comfortable living, and works absolutely insane hours – probably exceeding sixty every week. While she does have the luxury of working from home much of the time, she still has to travel a couple of weeks each month. I don’t know how she does it, with no help other than a weekly cleaning lady, but she is a great mother, very active with her children’s activities and all are really good kids and excellent students. I only half-jokingly call her Superwoman.

  14. aida says:

    I think AMS’ main problem is that her family did not move to DC with her, probably because of her husband’s career. Even if she wasn’t working long hours, she still would not be seeing her son every day.

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @aida:

    Isn’t this one of the issues that is more common these days. the highly educated marry each others and have to balance two careers. Since her husband was a tenured profressor at Princeton, he could not pull up roots and move to DC. The generation of ambitious men with SAHM is over. Of course, HRC did not have a full time job while Chelsea was growing up and HRC definitely did not have a boss who could dictate a schedule.

    In the changing culture of the U.S. , the brithrate of the highly educated elites is very low because people have the choice of having kids or having a high powered career.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @superdestroyer: Precisely. And if we want the highly educated to have more kids, we had better find good ways to support them–as opposed to the hard nosed “you made your choices, now you have to live with it.” There are indeed some women who can act like Supermom–but it’s unrealistic to demand that all women do so.

    We still don’t value the task of taking care of children (or gaga elders). Believe me, we don’t. If we really did think that a woman who stays home and takes care of her kids to be an important job, we wouldn’t be so antagonistic towards moms on welfare. Somehow, the value of taking care of one’s kids depends on class. We can’t possibly say a word against Ann Romney for staying at home and taking care of her five sons, but an unemployed African-American mother with five children in the ghetto? She’s fair game for all the derogatory language anyone can drag up.

    Which leads me to the conclusion that the U.S. only values caretaking of kids if it doesn’t have to pay for it. Which is the typical dismissal of “women’s work.”

  17. Scott says:

    @grumpy realist: Gender also counts. Wrap your head around an unemployed African-American father with five children on welfare.

  18. Me Me Me says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “To be fair, Dole just needed to keep getting re-elected in Kansas as many times as it was necessary for him to build up seniority in the Senate to become GOP Leader. Gingrich just needed to keep getting re-elected in a single Congressional District in Georgia. ”

    Wrong. Neither of these positions are awarded on the basis of mere seniority.

  19. @Me Me Me:

    Schmoozing your fellow Senators or Congressmen is far different from campaigning at the national level.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Franklin:

    Go Tigers!

    GO CARDS!

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Even George W. Bush never really seemed to let the barrage of public criticism he was subjected to during his Administration get to him very much.

    Are you sure he even knew he was being criticized?

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    We still don’t value the task of taking care of children

    We don’t care about children period. If we did we might actually pay teachers a decent wage.

    (or gaga elders).

    Oh, we care about them. That is why we are going to have Vouchercare. So our elders can navigate the vast bureaucracy of health insurance with an ever decreasing in value voucher and ever decreasing mental capacities.

    Because we are a compassionate country…. My a$$. I got mine, fwck you.

  23. Franklin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Looks like the rematch may be on. I hope we’re prepared this time.

    And to Bandit: when it degenerates into name-calling, I think it’s gone too far.

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Franklin:

    Looks like the rematch may be on. I hope we’re prepared this time.

    If it is, I would take the Tigers in 5. Our hitting is just way too inconsistent and with the starting pitching you guys got ….

  25. grumpy realist says:

    Or we could end up like what has happened in Japan: the continued sidelining of mothers as “stay-at-home moms” with no career path possible has resulted in the obvious: women have voted with their feet away from motherhood. There’s a very good reason why the birth rate in Japan has collapsed so much.

    I feel that nothing will happen about childcare and elder care in the US until all the unpaid caretakers go on strike….

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Schmoozing your fellow Senators or Congressmen is far different from campaigning at the national level.

    OK, but so it seems like your “having success at the national level” is then restricted solely to getting elected president, since that’s the only true national level office. Which, fine, but it’s such a small sample size (as I noted above, only about four to five men a generation) that you can’t really deduce that having an explosive personality is what keeps anyone from getting elected president.

    There are so many factors that go into it — who the incumbent is, the state of the economy, foreign crises, electoral trends, the Supreme Court’s whimsy, etc. — that you really can’t pin success or lack thereof on the peculiarities of an individual’s emotional makeup.

    Also, too, you’d think that “having an explosive personality” would be more, not less, of a hindrance when it came to “schmoozing your fellow Senators or Congressmen.” After all, unlike national campaigning, that’s intimate, face to face work among your friends and colleagues, people who will be fare more likely to personally be on the receiving end of an explosion. You can hide an explosive personality from the general public — you can’t hide it from the people you work with every day for decades.

  27. john personna says:

    I’m not sure about having it all, but I enjoyed reading this list yesterday. Things to avoid on the way to having it all:

    List of Unusual Deaths

    Ladies … don’t wear long scarfs on open vehicles.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna: I couldn’t find it on the list cause I don’t have time to do a thorough search, but my all time favorite was the guy who was killed by a box turtle… Really. It seems a hawk in an effort to get at the delectables inside the shell dropped it onto a sidewalk but missed it by a head.

    1975: Bandō Mitsugorō VIII, a Japanese kabuki actor, died of severe poisoning when he ate four fugu (puffer-fish) livers. Mitsugorō claimed to be immune to the poison and the fugu chef felt he could not refuse him.[118]

    I will always wonder how many Japanese fisherman died learning to catch the fugu without killing themselves…. and how many died learning how to clean one without dying…. and how many chefs died learning how to cook it without dying… and how many people died eating it before they finally figured out how to cook it so it could be eaten without death being the inevitable result.

    Every year, a few really rich Japanese die after eating this “delicacy”.

  29. Scott says:

    @john personna: As Edna Mode said in the Incredibles: “No capes”.

  30. john personna says:

    @Scott:

    lol, exactly!

  31. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Gotta bust this rumour. It’s not “really rich people” who have problems with fugu; it’s fishermen who think they can prepare the damn stuff at home. Oh, all right, if you’re a really rich guy and you decide to play he-macho by eating the damn liver, you have a good probability of kicking the bucket but I consider this Darwin Award category behavior.

    Yah, have had fugu myself in the form of sushi and as marinated tentacles. Former was boring and insipid, latter was tasty.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    (And how did we get from Hillary Clinton to fugu liver poisoning? Ah, the wonder of internet conversation.)

  33. Andre Kenji says:

    @grumpy realist:

    There’s a very good reason why the birth rate in Japan has collapsed so much.

    No, Japan is more complicated. There is a very high number of adults that does not ever had sex, and part of the problem is that the country does not support a growing population. By the way, Scandinavian countries have low fertility rates, and they have generous motherhood support. Brazil has things like 180 days of paid maternity leave, daycare and even reserved seats on transit, and still has a lower fertility rate than the US.

  34. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Well, eating fugu livers is a way not to have it all.

    (Eating fugu livers might be suicide with plausible deniability.)

  35. grumpy realist says:

    @Andre Kenji: Isn’t that what I said? Japanese women don’t want to get derailed off onto the mommy=housewife track, and one of the reasons that mommy=housewife is because Japan has absolutely no support for working mothers. So Japanese women have looked at this and the traditional role laid out for them, muttered “bugger this for a lot of soldiers”, and headed off in their own directions. Add to this the present interactions between men and women…I had a LOT of conversations with my Japanese friends during the 12 years I lived there. Quite a few of them quit working for Japanese corporations and started working for foreign corporations because of the greater freedom they were given; some of them left Japan completely.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Gotta bust this rumour. It’s not “really rich people” who have problems with fugu; it’s fishermen who think they can prepare the damn stuff at home.

    I bow my head to the superior knowledge of one who lived there for 12 years…. So how many do you think it took before they got it right?

    ps: I have niece in Sendai right now. I hope to go see her there next year.

  37. LC says:

    I really, really, really dislike these kinds of “can’t have it all” articles. They are inevitably written by very privileged women (nobody else gets published) who have worked in high-paying jobs and, although there may be an exception or two, have husbands (or large financial portfolios) who can support them in the style to which they have become accustomed.

    The point of this type of article seems to be to establish that the writer is a “real” woman, who places the needs of her family front and center. It goes along with the de rigueur assertion by all professional women in public positions that “I am a mother, first”. (Remember the uproar created when Ayelet Waldman wrote that she loved her husband more than her children? Unnatural, immoral.)

    No mention is made, of course, of the women who work 40, 50, or 60 hours a week at low-paying jobs to support their families without the help of nannies, cooks, and cleaning women. These women don’t have the luxury of working or not working. Those that work in positions where there is no vacation or sick leave, no health insurance don’t even have the “luxury” of staying home when a child is sick, let alone if they are sick because it would mean losing their jobs.

    But the media simply love these kinds of confessions because they prove that women are biologically destined to be second-calss citizens, to never crack the glass ceiling. It goes along with the incredible nonsense by commenters (including the usual Benedict Arnold women) after the last debate that women don’t like to see aggressive debates. We might get the vapors!

  38. Paul Hsieh says:

    Some further back-and-forth between Clinton camp and Marie Claire writer:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/hillary-clinton-slaughter-why-women-cant-have-it-all_n_1981470.html

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Sendai was nice when I visited…but that was of course before the tsunami….