Stephen Gottlieb: Hillary
I’ve been traveling and so I’m playing catch up. But I was shocked at the reactions I heard to Hillary’s illness. I expected people to do what we do when most people get sick – wish her well and hope she can get over it quickly. What I heard was just grousing that she said she was fine.
What do you and I do when people ask how we are? “Fine how about you?” “Good, I’m fine too.” Got a cold? “Nah, I’m fine. How about you?” In America we’re taught to be tough and not complain. In fact, if I ask my students how they are, their most common answer is “Can’t complain.” I often joke back, asking what they’re doing in law school if they can’t complain. I once passed one of my best college profs and with the usual pleasantries, I asked him how he was. Prof. Babbitt leaned in toward me, with a smile on his face, and burst out “Terrible!” Then he straightened up laughing and walked on, leaving this college kid totally nonplussed. But I got the message. We’re taught to be strong; that’s the way Americans handle illness. And we admire that in others.
But people didn’t give Hillary the benefit of adhering to our standards of behavior. The woman tried to tough it out like we’re all taught to do but the press crucified her for it. Thank heavens I’m not running for president; I don’t need that nonsense. You’d of thought people would have the grace to wish her well instead of crucifying her for trying to put a strong face on an illness.
I hate to tell you folks but anyone can get sick, including presidents and candidates, whether they try to tough it out or play bluster about their health. We can argue ‘til kingdom come about what Hillary should have done. But what she did do was to behave the way we are all taught to do. How bad is that? As for me, I wish her well.
I also wish that people would give her the credit she deserves. She’s pretty obviously a very intelligent person, and had the benefit of a terrific education. She could have earned a mint as a lawyer. But she left her practice and devoted herself to public service. I respect her for that.
She was our senator here in New York and what I kept hearing was that she won a great deal of respect all over the state and in Congress because people quickly saw that she worked hard at the job, worked on the needs of the whole state, studied the problems, and worked with everyone she could to solve problems. She was our senator and she took that seriously. I respect her for that.
She’s also been criticized for the way she handled some of her husband’s mistakes. But we are all taught to forgive. Hillary did, and she was crucified for it. We used to be taught that marriage is permanent, for all time. Hillary stuck by her husband and got crucified for it.
It seems that there is no code of behavior that is good enough for Hillary. But I respect her as a person who is doing her best to work for me and for you. She ought to get a lot of credit for that.
Steve Gottlieb is Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School and author of Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and the Breakdown of American Politics. He has served on the Board of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and in the US Peace Corps in Iran. Steve maintains a blog: constitutionalismanddemocracy.wordpress.com
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