First Whiffs of Sexismin in Hillary's Presidential Coverage

Have you heard? Has she called?

Will she or won’t she?

Is she or isn’t she?

Of course she will. Of course she is.

Is this a mystery? Is there really a question?

It’s not the political season that has begun, but the silly season.

The speculation has reached a fever pitch since Sen. Hillary Clinton hit the phones this week.

“I’m IN,” screamed one New York tabloid headline. This is news? Hillary calling Iowa Democrats rated another headline. Barack Obama may be the flavor of the month, but Hillary is till the toast of the town. Imagine what will happen when she actually declares.

She is doing exactly what she said she would do. She is doing exactly what any man in her position would do.

She is doing it in a careful, methodical, entirely appropriate way. She is doing what you (actually I) could, would, and did predict she would do. As a matter of fact, I’ve been predicting it for years.

Hillary Clinton is running for president.

So why is everybody getting so crazed about it?

This week, Hillary started reaching out to New Yorkers (step one) and Iowans (step two). She hired a top notch national finance director, and an experienced New Hampshire field organizer. Before you know it, she’ll be calling folks from New Hampshire. Will that make the pundits go crazy too?

Evan Bayh does these things and does Drudge go nuts? No.

John McCain announces an exploratory committee and it’s a story, not a phenomenon.

Hillary gets on the phone, and you’d think something had actually happened. It would be news if she didn’t get on the phone.

Why now? Why not wait even longer?

Because having first secured her re-election to the United States Senate, she is facing a process that will cost tens of millions of dollars and require literally thousands of organizers. She is, to be honest, already behind the curve. McCain has already announced his committee. Obama is already on tour. Bayh has already been working the phones.

But it’s always different with Hillary.

There’s something about Hillary. And it definitely has to do with her sex.

Dick Morris criticizes her for the “coy pretense of indecision” that he says characterized her attitude towards the presidency until she won her Senate seat.

Who is kidding whom? Was Dick fooled? Was anyone in New York confused?

Since when does putting first things first, dealing with challenges in an orderly fashion, constitute a “coy pretense of indecision?”

Did anyone accuse George W. Bush of a “coy pretense of indecision” when he ran for re-election as governor of Texas – and then ran for president?

Are men routinely accused of being “coy” for being organized, or is this just the beginning of how it will be to see subtle sexism at work in the coverage of a woman candidate?

This is part of why Hillary is different.

This is also how women will be pushed to Hillary’s side.

Morris said to Fox’s John Gibson that Hillary would insist on being called President Rodham if/when she is elected president.

How does he know? He hasn’t spoken to either Clinton in years, other than a handshake with the former president in a hotel lobby. Yet there he is, pontificating as to how she will insist on being addressed as president. And on television no less, taken seriously, as if he knows. But then, when it comes to Hillary, hysteria reigns, and the facts don’t matter.

You don’t have to like Hillary to hate sexism. You don’t have to sympathize with Hillary to take issue with how she is treated.

It will be a long road to November 2008. And don’t expect anyone to be coy when it comes to Hillary. Our reactions may, in the end, count for as much as anything she does. Interesting times, these.

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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