Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Women and/as folksy

A couple of recent New York Times stories referring to female politicians as folksy--in headlines no less--caught my eye. The first item is Jeffrey Gettleman's Sunday Review piece on HRC's recent trip to Africa, "Hillary Clinton's Folksy Diplomacy." The second is David Kocieniewski's report on New Jersey politician Loretta Weinberg, "Corzine Running Mate Brings Folksy Pragmatism."

What, I wondered, did they mean by "folksy," especially in light of the fact that one of the women so labeled was Hillary Rodham Clinton? Now, I'm a big fan of Hillary's, and I think of myself as a bit folksy, but what is folksy about Hillary? After all, hasn't her aloofness--a seemingly opposite trait to folksiness--been more often commented upon and criticized? In short, I thought Bill was the folksy one.

Well, apparently what Gettleman saw as folksy is what he elsewhere characterizes as her being "a recovering politician, with First Lady tendencies." He suggests that it is folksy to smile a lot, which Gettleman says she did, whereas her Secretary of State forerunners like Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger did not. Maybe it is folksy just to be gracious--if those to whom you are being gracious are regular folks and not just other diplomats.

Here's a quote that Gettleman says sums up Clinton's "emerging style":
She stuffed her days with what felt like a dozen events, a blur of high-level meetings, roundtable discussions and “townterviews.”
* * *
She can’t resist the rope line even when it’s in a South African housing project teaming with glassy-eyed men and her secret service agents are practically shouting into their cufflinks. Her style is to go heavy on the politics, heavy on the policy, but mix in some real people as well.
In short, I guess when you are U.S. Secretary of State, pretty much anything that puts you in touch with the hoi polloi is "folksy."

As for the Loretta Weinberg story, here's the lede:
When she signed on as Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s running mate in late July, Loretta Weinberg, a longtime state senator, introduced herself to voters as the “feisty Jewish grandmother” of New Jersey politics. Since then, she has wasted little time trying to fulfill her colorful proclamation.
And here's another excerpt:
And in a smattering of face-to-face political appearances, Ms. Weinberg, 74, has done nothing to diminish her reputation as a seasoned schmooze artist, doling out small talk and compliments as if she were serving up brisket and kugel.
I thought most politicians were schmoozers, but maybe in the context of New Jersey, it doesn't take a great deal of "common touch" to be folksy.

Some posts about folksiness, politics, and gender can be found on my Legal Ruralism Blog here, here, here, here, and here.

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