On May 22, Hillary Clinton was on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. I didn't watch it because a whole hour spent with Chuck Todd is not how I want to spend my Sunday mornings, especially when I could be doing something far more stimulating and invigorating, like scraping bird crap off the balcony railing.
But Anne-Laurie at Balloon Juice linked to the transcript, and one of the bits she highlighted made me want to fling my laptop into a live volcano.
After a question about what kinds of people Clinton would have on her list for potential running mates, to which Clinton answered, in part, that she would include "businesspeople who are really successful as opposed to pretend successful" (heh heh), there was this exchange:
TODD: Pretend successful? You don't think—Well, do you? DOOOOO YOOOUUUUUU??!!
TODD: —is there anything Donald Trump's done that you think should be praised?
CLINTON: I think he needs to release his tax returns. The only two we have show that he hasn't paid a penny in taxes. And yet he goes around talking about "Make America Great." You know? That means paying for our military. That means paying for our roads. That means paying for the V.A. That means a lot of things. And if you've got someone running for president who's afraid to release his tax returns, because it will expose the fact that he pays no federal income tax, I think that's a big problem.
TODD: No, my question was there's nothing about his background that is praiseworthy?
CLINTON: We'll find out. Because we have to get below the hype. We have to find what the reality is. And—
TODD: You don't feel like you know that?
CLINTON: I don't think the country knows it.
TODD: Do you?
The audacity of demanding that Clinton find something to praise about someone as odious, hateful and ignorant as Trump just galls me. To ask the question in the first place and then to keep hammering away at it when she refuses to take the poisonous bait is not only pathetic and eye-roll worthy; it's also insulting and disrespectful to Clinton as a woman, as a presidential candidate, and as a person who does have a lot in her own background that is praiseworthy.
From working for the Children's Defense Fund to trying to help secure healthcare reform to being a tireless fighter for women's equality around the world to a thousand other things, Clinton has a personal and professional history that can be admired and emulated. She has spent much of her life trying to make the lives of others, many of whom were far less privileged than she was, a little bit better and a little bit fuller. She has made this work a central focus of her presidential campaign.
Donald Trump has...not done that. I am not going to enumerate the mountains of reprehensible garbage that make up his life's resume thus far. We know who he is, and who he has always been, with his employees, his girlfriends and wives, the media, the contestants on his reality shows...we all know just what kind of man he is.
And it's not a praiseworthy one. And Clinton knows that as well as, or at this point even better than, the rest of us.
But Chuck Todd just couldn't stand letting her get away with not giving in and offering up some laudatory remarks about him. He's a rich and powerful man, and in this society that clearly means he deserves esteem, no matter what else he is besides rich and powerful.
Money, might, and masculinity are in and of themselves praiseworthy in a capitalist, patriarchal oligarchy. Clinton challenging that status quo makes a lot of people, a lot of men, uncomfortable.
I hope she keeps doing it. That's praiseworthy.