Hillary Clinton is just the opposite. There is something about her persona that seems uniquely vulnerable to campaigning; something is getting lost in the Gap. So as I interviewed Clinton's staffers, colleagues, friends, and foes, I began every discussion with some form of the same question: What is true about the Hillary Clinton you’ve worked with that doesn’t come through on the campaign trail?Hillary listens to what her allies and staffers say to her, and she remembers it, and she also reads their memos and remembers what they said, and likes to surprise them by mentioning something they wrote in an old white paper that they thought nobody in power had ever read. It's the most flattering possible thing for a political staffer and explains why so many Hillary people have been very loyal to her.
The answers startled me in their consistency. Every single person brought up, in some way or another, the exact same quality they feel leads Clinton to excel in governance and struggle in campaigns. On the one hand, that makes my job as a reporter easy. There actually is an answer to the question. On the other hand, it makes my job as a writer harder: It isn’t a very satisfying answer to the question, at least not when you first hear it.
Hillary Clinton, they said over and over again, listens.
As Klein says, there is something very gendered about this. Stereotypically, what most politicians do – make speeches, hold debates – is male behavior, whereas women always say that the thing they value most is listening. Here is linguist Deborah Tannen:
Women, she’s found, emphasize the “rapport dimension” of communication — did a particular conversation bring us closer together or further apart? Men, by contrast, emphasize the “status dimension” — did a conversation raise my status compared to yours?Klein takes a look at the Democratic primaries through this lens:
Talking is a way of changing your status: If you make a great point, or set the terms of the discussion, you win the conversation. Listening, on the other hand, is a way of establishing rapport, of bringing people closer together; showing you’ve heard what’s been said so far may not win you the conversation, but it does win you allies. And winning allies is how Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination.Thoughts? Klein has a lot about how this has worked and not worked in Clinton's career.
Given where both candidates began, there is no doubt that Bernie Sanders proved the more effective talker. His speeches attracted larger audiences, his debate performances led to big gains in the polls, his sound bites went more viral on Facebook.
Yet Clinton proved the more effective listener — and, particularly, the more effective coalition builder. On the eve of the California primary, 208 members of Congress had endorsed Clinton, and only eight had endorsed Sanders. “This was a lot of relationships,” says Verveer. “She’s been in public life for 30 years. Over those 30 years, she has met a lot of those people, stayed in touch with them, treated them decently, campaigned for them. You can’t do this overnight.”
One way of reading the Democratic primary is that it pitted an unusually pure male leadership style against an unusually pure female leadership style. Sanders is a great talker and a poor relationship builder. Clinton is a great relationship builder and a poor talker. In this case — the first time at the presidential level — the female leadership style won.
The other thing that really comes out in Klein's piece is how much Hillary hates the media. Klein asks, why are our politics so toxic, and Hillary essentially says, "the lying, scandal-mongering media." Klein's response is, well, some of that is true, but Hillary's refusal to hold press conferences and so on still hurts her and she really needs to stop fearing the media and starting using it.
I thought this was the most interesting thing I've read about Hillary all year.