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Can Hillary Can Her Cacophonous Cackle?

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Don’t laugh at them, Hillary, bite their heads off!

Why didn’t you take a chomp out of Chris Wallace, as your husband did a while back?

You burst out laughing when Wallace asked you, on Fox News last week, why you’re so “hyperpartisan.” Your aides said later that, coming from Fox News, his question was pretty funny and merited your laughter.

Based on its ridiculous premise, however, Wallace’s question was more absurd than funny. Laughter in response to absurdity is certainly appropriate. As a professional communicator, however, your job is to put your laughter in context in situations such as this. You might have replied to him, for instance: “Your question strikes me as absurd. It is loaded and unfair. You’re trying to put me in a position of having to defend myself against a ridiculous accusation. Try to word your questions more honestly. Maybe you’d care to try again.”

You’ve been laughing a lot lately, often inappropriately. In a story on Sunday, The New York Times called it “the Clinton Cackle.”

The previous Sunday, you cackled again on another talk show, which immediately followed a giggling outburst, when Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” said, “You rolled out your new health care plan, something Republicans immediately said is going to lead to socialized medicine.” Again, there was no explanation for your reaction, which this time seemed rather bizarre.

Friends of yours say you have a great sense of humor, though they believe it is too sarcastic to share with the general public. Go ahead and share it, please! Don’t hide your true self behind a perfectly oiled political machine. We don’t want a slimy president who plays footsie with big corporate donors and unethical fundraisers.

Nor do we want a cackler for president. The right wing has no fear of cacklers. The right wing needs to be intimidated or it won’t go back in its cage. As president, Bill Clinton would have taken less right-wing flak if he’d made himself sufficiently formidable and imposing.

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In exploring the reasons for your cackle in the Times story on Sunday, reporter Patrick Healy suggested that it is unleashed when you feel nitpicked by your inquisitors and then attempt to shame them by chuckling at them or their queries. He also suggested the cackle could be strategic, that the political attacks and criticism coming at you from all sides require that you find “ways to respond without appearing defensive or brittle.”

You must feel more than “nitpicked” by your inquisitors. Don’t you feel the brunt of Republican authoritarianism? Don’t you feel that America is fighting for its democratic life against a subspecies of nuclear Neanderthals? We can’t subdue them without a true leader.

You were a primary target of the GOP’s verbal brutality during your years as First Lady and as an architect in the early 1990s of a government-sponsored health care plan. Now that brutality seems more determined to destroy you and the democratic ideals you represent. If your cackle is an attempt to access inner strength—and provide some lightness of being, perhaps, with which to rise above the brutality—it won’t increase your inner power. It’s a psychological defense. It covers up some weakness in you. We don’t want a Democratic president who only plays defense. You may still in part associate right-wing assaults upon you with past failure and humiliation. If so, you need to see that clearly and work it out.

The fact that you resorted to your nervous giggles last week when Bob Schieffer raised the health-care issue makes sense in this context. Laughter is a refuge for anxiety. Emotionally, you may slip into a defensive posture more easily than you realize. Then you use derisive laughter to regain your footing. Used this way, however, the laughter is overdone and poorly timed.

Each of us has room for more inner development. All of us have a dynamic in our psyche between aggression (emotional self-criticism) and passivity (irrational self-doubt). If we ignore our inner gremlins, they’ll pop out everywhere.

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We want a president capable of uttering truth and confronting folly. When you role-play with your aides in debate preparation, have them snarl right in your face as they adopt the personas of the most despicable GOP villains of all our nightmares. Seriously—don’t laugh! You would sit there observing them, mindful of your inner self while reaching inside for those words—and more of that sense of power, equanimity, integrity, and humor—that will help usher you forward successfully, whether or not you become president.



Peter Michaelson is an author, blogger, and psychotherapist in Plymouth, MI. He believes that better understanding of depth psychology reduces the fear, passivity, and denial of citizens, making us more capable of maintaining and growing our (more...)

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"You must feel more than "nitpicked"... by Christie on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2007 at 1:16:08 PM
In one of the great sidelinings of content, the me... by Jim Freeman on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2007 at 1:22:53 PM
Why not have someone who laughs?  We've h... by Shirley Bianchi on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2007 at 1:31:47 PM
The whole issue of Hillary's "cackle"... by Lauria Hale on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2007 at 2:11:59 PM
I like Hillary's laugh. She uses it when she ... by Dale Hill on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2007 at 2:17:44 PM
What she is cackling at is the problem. The media ... by Kevin Gosztola on Wednesday, Oct 3, 2007 at 4:17:23 PM
The only way to defeat the right wing is by choosi... by Ty on Thursday, Oct 4, 2007 at 3:57:01 PM