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New York Magazine Profile Desperately Tries To Humanize Hillary Clinton

Rebecca Traister’s profile of Hillary Clinton for New York Magazine is a lengthy and desperate attempt to humanize the former Secretary of State.

In it, Clinton is serious, engaging, and “Hulk-like,” and the fiction only intensifies after reading of the invasive media coverage, how we may already “know too much about her,” and how there’s still a “real [Hillary Clinton]” that’s kept hidden away when she is not trying to sell the Clinton brand.

Traister’s character sketch reads like an imagined history, filled with nauseating pop culture references that are pointlessly threaded into a profile meant to persuade potential voters into falling for a campaign running on what even Traister describes as paranoia. “Clinton and her team think that everyone is after her,” she writes. “And their behavior creates further incentive for everyone to come after her.”

The Clinton dynasty has long been a familiar presence in the American political scene. This has led many prominent commentators and potential voters to argue they are a safe political investment, and yet still, there is more we do know about the Clintons, specifically Hillary Clinton, than we don’t know.

Jill Abramson, visiting lecturer at Harvard University, has gone as far as to argue that Clinton is “fundamentally honest and trustworthy”, while the Guardian’s Jessica Valenti has called her a “lifestyle brand”.

In Traister’s profile of the former Secretary of State, she writes:

To her critics, she is Lady Macbeth, to her adherents, Joan of Arc. As a young Hillary hater, I often compared her to Darth Vader — more machine than woman, her humanity ever more shrouded by Dark Side gadgetry. These days, I think of her as General Leia: No longer a rebel princess, she has made a wry peace with her rakish mate and her controversial hair and is hard at work, mounting a campaign against the fascistic First Order.

In the age of clickbait, this bumbling description of a politician, whose career is mired by war and secrecy, is what sells.

Because Clinton has found herself hounded by members of the right wing, far too many liberals have decided that this is more than enough evidence to then cast her to their left, and in this case Traister finds that this somehow makes her General Leia. So, in essence, in the language of vapid pop culture references, this is a battle between good and evil.

If the Republicans are the Eye of Sauron, that must mean the Democrats are Frodo, or something.

This kind of black and white, completely nuance-free characterization is arguably what it boils down to for most. Because Clinton has suffered under unflinching right wing attacks that must mean she is a left wing hero. This is not only a dramatic misrepresentation of reality, it does a great disservice to those on the left who have been fighting both camps.

Another troubling aspect of Traister’s character profile of Clinton is that she only spent “several days” with Clinton, and yet she’s somehow convinced of her capabilities.

The idea that a writer can embed themselves into a campaign operation for such a short period, find themselves close to a presidential candidate, who covets their privacy to the ‘paranoiac’ degree that Clinton does, and walk away with the belief that they’ve seen an authentic presentation of this person is absurd. After all, Clinton’s marketing scheme doesn’t end in a situation like this, especially not in the presence of someone who has informed the Clinton campaign that they’re writing a profile for New York Magazine.

Traister deploys even more pointless movie references when describing the inevitability of a Trump-Clinton face-off:

There is an Indiana Jones–style, “It had to be snakes” inevitability about the fact that Donald Trump is Clinton’s Republican rival. Of course Hillary Clinton is going to have to run against a man who seems both to embody and have attracted the support of everything male, white, and angry about the ascension of women and black people in America. Trump is the antithesis of Clinton’s pragmatism, her careful nature, her capacious understanding of American civic and government institutions and how to maneuver within them. Of course a woman who wants to land in the Oval Office is going to have to get past an aggressive reality-TV star…

Hillary Clinton’s “pragmatism,” what I’ve previously called “predatory pragmatism,” is not without its consequences.

The material repercussions of Clinton’s actions, and the policies that she has pushed for, aren’t mentioned by Traister.

What’s a profile on a presidential candidate without some kind of analysis of their specific principles and methods that goes beyond how “warm” they are and the sound of their laughter?

Despite how deeply colorful Traister has painted Hillary Clinton—how human and grandmother-like she is—there’s no mistaking the fact that “the cumbersome machinery that trails [Clinton] everywhere” is not as separate as Traister contends. Clinton is as much a part of this “machinery” as any other politician.

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at