THE BLOG
06/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary and Jackie

Ask my ten-year-old Little Leaguer, Charlie, who his all-time favorite baseball player is and you won't hear Jeter or Berkman or Big Papi. Nor even Mickey Mantle, whose autographed picture hangs in Charlie's room -- a gift from The Mick to Charlie's dad.

Without hesitation Charlie will say, "Jackie." As in Jackie Robinson. Not only was Jackie one of the greatest to ever play the game, his very presence in the game changed it forever and for the good.

So it is with Hillary. Her presence in the presidential campaign has not only been impressive on the merits, it's been historic for what she has had to overcome just to do her job. The sexist signs: "HEY, HILLARY: IRON MY SHIRT!" "QUIT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT AND MAKE ME A SANDWICH!" The Hillary Clinton nutcracker (get it?), and all the rest.

I expected that. What I did not expect was for the so-called mainstream media to behave little better than the bigots on the streets outside her events.

  • The radio clown Glenn Beck called Hillary a "stereotypical bitch" and yet is treated as if he had something serious to contribute to CNN Headline News and ABC.
  • MSNBC gave a platform to the magician-cum-comic-cum-crank Penn Gillette, who said Hillary did well in March because it was "White Bitch Month."
  • Alex Castellanos, on a night when Hillary was winning a primary by 35 percent, told CNN's audience that Hillary is called "a bitch" because, well, some people deserve to be called by that epithet.
  • MSNBC's Chris Matthews said Hillary owed her entire career to her husband's marital mistakes (and then, manfully, apologized).
  • The Washington Post broke the news flash that Hillary, in fact, has cleavage.

Her figure, her clothes, her hair, her voice - all of it mocked and savaged in a way unimaginable if she were a man. She has not only endured the jeers and the sneers and the smears, she has triumphed over them. She never answered their hate with rage. She just went on winning.

Just like Jackie.

Women have been running for President since 1872, when Victoria Woodhull ran on the Equal Rights Party platform. And yet no woman -- from the estimable Shirley Chisoholm to the remarkable Pat Schroeder to the impressive Elizabeth Dole -- has ever won even a single primary. Until Hillary. She not only won 20 primaries, she earned 17 million votes in the primaries -- more than any woman before her. And more than any man before her as well.

To be sure, she's made her share of mistakes. As a strategist I have long seen her effort as an example of a candidate outperforming her campaign strategy at every critical juncture. Still, Jackie Robinson struck out hundreds of times.

The Democratic Party has decided, wonderfully, bravely, remarkably, to double-down on history this election. And so Hillary's struggle against sexism has played out parallel to Barack Obama's graceful and courageous rise above racism. He, too, has endured taunts and threats and bigotry. He, too, has answered hatred with dignity. He, too, knows how Jackie must have felt.

So when Barack praises Hillary's tenacity, her trailblazing spirit, it is not patronizing, as some Hillary supporters have suggested. It is, I think, an empathetic expression of a powerful truth. Nobody -- not even her husband -- can fully appreciate what Hillary has overcome. Except Barack.

For me this primary season ends where it began: with the firm conviction that there is no need to vote against anyone, but rather to vote for someone. I am so proud of the person I voted for. I do not know if a gal who grew up following the Cubs in the National League and the Yankees in the American League has ever stopped to think of the trailblazing Dodger. But I know this: if you ask Charlie who his favorite politician is, he unhesitatingly replies, "Hillary."

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