early and often

A Brief History of Hillary Clinton’s Body Politic

Last week’s attempt to turn Hillary Clinton’s laugh into 2007’s equivalent of Howard Dean’s scream has thankfully petered out. Of course, it’s not like the media have given Clinton’s dress sense, manners, or grooming a pass up until now. Herewith, a visual guide to the nation’s long obsession with the minutia of Hillary’s appearance.

In 1996, a site devoted to Hillary’s changing haircuts becomes one of the earliest viral sensations, with 40,000 daily visitors (again, in ‘96!) and mainstream press. Today Hillaryshair.com leads to a “Completely Free Lesbian Slideshow.”

In September 2007, Dick Morris calls Hillary’s laugh “a scary sound … somewhere between a cackle and a screech.” The substitution of the loaded “cackle,” with its intimations of witchery, for “laugh” rips through the media: Behold results one through ten of about 64,000 for “hillary clinton cackle.” Drudge posts an audio clip; conservative radio makes it a sound effect. Even The Daily Show makes a quickie montage of the Hillary Laughing Machine.

Hillary’s preference for pantsuits makes easy fodder for lesbian-themed wink-winkery from 1992 on. She tries to defuse the issue on Letterman, twice; in February 2007, P.J. O’Rourke dubs her “Hugo Chavez in a pantsuit” on CNBC. The quip is quickly enshrined by conservative bloggers.

During the 2006 Senate race, Hillary’s hapless opponent, John Spencer, suggests Clinton has had “millions of dollars’” worth of plastic surgery. The Daily News runs with the story; the Times, taking an odd turn along the high road, posits the question “And if she had: Would it matter?”

Hillary’s cleavage makes front-page news in July 2007. The Washington Post notes an outfit in which the “neckline sat low on her chest.” Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London wonders “if political analysis in America plunged to a new low.” (Back in the U.S., Murdoch’s New York Post has “‘Showy’ Hill” saying “Eyes off my neckline.”)

Carl Bernstein’s Hillary bio, A Woman in Charge, includes the sentence “Her ankles were thick.” A discussion of the book’s underlying sexism breaks out. Joe Sobran, Pat Buchanan’s favorite columnist, cements the meme by saying Hillary “has ankles like a rogue elephant.”


September 2007: In the pages of The New Yorker, Donatella Versace advises Hillary to avoid chunky shoes and keep to “very small heels.”

Photo: WireImage

A Brief History of Hillary Clinton’s Body Politic