Hillary's XX Factor

05/25/2011 12:20 pm ET

The following piece was produced by HuffPost's OffTheBus.

This piece is also published on Witness L.A..

The best line of the night in Thursday's Las Vegas debate--in terms of zinger value, anyway--came when CNN's Campbell Brown asked Hillary Clinton about a recent speech that Hil gave at Wellesley College. Evidently, Hillary told the crowd at her alma mater that Wellesley had "...prepared me compete in the all boys' club of presidential politics."

"What did you mean at Wellesley when you referred to the boys' club?" asked Brown.

It was, frankly, a really stupid question. What the earnest Ms. Brown clearly meant to ask had to do with this month's slew of accusations coming from Hillary's camp alleging that the male presidential contenders had been mean to poor HRC at the at the last Democratic debate....because she was a girl.

But instead Brown unintentionally handed Clinton the perfect opportunity to exploit the gender-specific element of her candidacy, an opportunity she could not have otherwise managed without Brown's soft ball. If Hillary wins, it may easily be this very gender-specific element--let's call the XX factor--that provides the added edge needed to propel her to victory.

Clinton first responded to the question with an artful riff about the historic challenges women have faced, and the "...great movement of progress that includes all of us but has particularly been significant to me as a woman...."

Then she spoke about mothers driving their daughters hundreds of miles to meet the person who might be the first woman president, followed by a heart-tugging story of a grandmother, born back when only men had the right to vote, who told Hil, "I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House." Yeah, it was cheesy, but it worked. I even got kind of teary. (Hey, we have come a long way, baby, even in my lifetime.)

Finally Clinton wound up for the pitch: "I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas, I'm just trying to play the winning card," she said, smiling her most perfect, cat-ate-the-canary smile. "I understand very well that people are not attacking me because I'm a woman..." (pause for effect) "They're attacking me because I'm ahead."


Was it disingenuous? Yes, of course. But nobody cared.

For the past two weeks, Hillary and her proxies had been playing the gender card in any game that would have them. The proxies ranged from Bill-the-huz, to the head of the Feminist Majority, Eleanor Smeal, who, in all seriousness said that when the other Dem candidates' played hardball with Hillary at the October 30, Philadelphia debate, it was reminiscent of the Congressional Republican attacks on ...ANITA HILL!

(Elie, honey, that's exactly the sort of idiotic claptrap that persuades young women not to call themselves feminists.)

But, here's the deal: Hillary plays the girl card because, every time she does, it has a very good chance of resonating with half the American population. Heck---as I said above--it worked with me, and I don't much like the broad. So, let's not kid ourselves, if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination it will not be in spite of the fact that she's a woman, it will be, in a weird way, because of it.

All things being equal, that isn't such a bad thing. As a country, we are more than ready for such a gender breakthrough. I just wish the person with the best shot at smashing that "highest, hardest glass ceiling" she mentioned in Las Vegas, was someone other than poll-driven, hawkish Hillary Clinton.