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Hillary Clinton, the Washington scene-stealer

by Hayden Wright / Beacon Staff • November 29, 2012

The space between Hillary Clinton’s ears is hot property. Every political writer is dying to pick her brain and deigning to read her mind — will she, or won’t she, they ask. Yes she will, no she won’t, they say. 

Hillary looks tired. Hillary’s hair has never looked better. In 2016, Hillary will be too old to make a legitimate bid for the presidency. The presidency in 2016 is Hillary’s for the taking. Monica Lewinsky is writing a book. 

According to Gallup, Hillary Clinton has been the most admired woman in the world for over 10 years running, without a sign of jet lag. It’s this generation’s turn to embrace her as our own. 

Marital problems? We’re over it. Style struggles? She’s resolved them — but we don’t care, anyway. A delightfully awkward wonk with an ever-expanding sense of irony, Hillary has never been cooler — and might emerge as the most significant political figure of our time. 

Our parents wonder how this happened, but we just don’t care. This iteration of Hillary Clinton is completely ours. Even Tumblr has embraced her. 

Madam Secretary’s comprehensive story is largely lost on my generation. We know her better as the crusading junior senator from New York, the headstrong presidential candidate, and the indefatigable Secretary of State, than as a divisive First Lady who sneered at baking cookies and threw shade on Tammy Wynette. 

“I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession,” a decidedly un-camera-ready Hill scoffed to a reporter in 1992. When the public rained outrage on her honest and thoroughly feminist remark, her cookie recipe bested Barbara Bush’s in a public vote. 

“I want people to vote for my cookies,” she said. “It’s a matter of honor.”

Never has a gaffe aged so well. 

The good news is that the tricky, polarizing Hillary is virtually irrelevant to this electorate. We are not Clinton Democrats. We know Obamacare, not Hillarycare. We were children during President Clinton’s impeachment and less than a decade old when George W. Bush took office. We don’t know “Divisive Hillary,” the Lady Macbeth who was at once arrogant, humiliated, scorned, and submissive. Those narratives just don’t stick anymore. 

The culture that supported the vilification of Hillary Clinton is not ours. Her role as diplomat-in-chief has yielded scandals from Wikileaks to Benghazi, and she’s weathered them with aplomb. What’s more, this Hillary loves to laugh at herself. The Hillary we see today looks more like the vampy, confident Wellesley graduate from Life Magazine snaps than ever before. Letting one’s hair down has never seemed more authentic or magnetic. 

When introducing Clinton at Newsweek’s Women in the World Summit, Meryl Streep pointed out their similarities. 

“We both went from public high schools to distinguished women’s colleges,” she told the audience. “And we both called home collect from the dorm phone freshman year from the colleges saying, ‘I’m not as smart as the other girls here. I should leave.’ And both of our mothers said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, you’re not a quitter.’ And we both went on to graduate school at Yale, which is where the two paths diverged in the wood.”

The question, then, is whether Hillary Clinton is the Meryl Streep of politics, or if Meryl Streep is the Hillary Clinton of acting. It’s about time those brands are regarded at the same level of excellence. 

As Streep concluded in her introduction, raising her Oscar earned for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher: “This is what you get when you play a world leader. But if you want a real world leader and you’re really, really lucky, [Clinton] is what you get.”