Monday, January 14, 2008

Likability - Dorothy Rabinowitz gets it right

If you didn't see the N.H. debate in which Hillary was asked about her likability, all you probably know of her answer is that she said it "hurt her feelings" which makes it sound as if she were whining or asking for pity. It has certainly been characterized that way.

But if you watched the debate, you know how different her answer was, and the only person I've heard, seen or read who characterized it properly is Dorothy Rabinowitz in her Jan. 11, 2008 WSJ TV Review column:

. . Sen. Hillary Clinton playfully [my emphasis] allowed that she was hurt at the suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama was better liked than she was

Here is a transcript from the New York Times:
MR. SPRADLING: Yeah, I did notice. And I'd like to ask you this.

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center has been consistently trying to probe the minds of New Hampshire voters and get a sense of what they think about all of you. I'd be happy to report that the experience-versus-change debate seems to be sinking in. And what I'd like to get is to this:

New Hampshire voters seem to believe that of those of you on the stage, you are the most experienced and the most electable. In terms of change, they see Senators Obama and Edwards as the agents of change, in New Hampshire mindset. My question to you is simply this: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight, who see a resume and like it but are hesitating on the likability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings. (Laughter.)

MR. SPRADLING: I'm sorry, Senator. (Scattered applause.) I'm sorry.

SEN. CLINTON: But I'll try to go on. (Laughter.)

He's very likable. I agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad.

SEN. OBAMA: You're likable enough, Hillary. (Inaudible.)

What makes Obama's answer sound so churlish is its contrast with the warm and funny way in which Clinton responded to this difficult (and rather insulting*) question.

*Has any male candidate ever been asked if he is likable enough to be elected?

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