- - Monday, September 4, 2017

What happened? To Hillary Clinton’s abiding astonishment, she lost an election that was supposed to be a slam dunk. Poll results, not pollsters’ predictions, proved binding.

Mrs. Clinton’s retelling of her 2016 experience in reading her new book, “What Happened,” in which she calls President Trump a “creep” and relates how he was mean to her on a debate stage, comes across as sour grapes and undignified name-calling. Her self-pitying tone and use of crude language — suggestive more of a spiteful teenager’s outburst than a poised adult’s response — serves to confirm the soundness of the American people’s verdict on Nov. 8.

Can you imagine Jeane Kirkpatrick, Condoleezza Rice or Madeleine Albright taking such a low road as Hillary Clinton takes with “he made my skin crawl”? Successful women do not, in my experience in politics in the White House or in decades of experience in politics in Pennsylvania, indulge in letting their inner feelings, let alone spiteful ones, hang out in public.

We cannot allow this to be the low bar set for the outstanding young women of our nation, whether conservative or feminist, who are striving to succeed in the fields of government, politics or any other endeavor.

Women who succeed or even survive in these highly competitive arenas demonstrate restraint and self-control in their language, both written and spoken, as well as in conforming to the highest standards of decorum and personal courtesy. Not to mention presenting themselves in the most appropriate clothing, which signals restraint and self-control. Women in the public arena must at all times maintain a presence of unassailable dignity that is befitting of the values we represent. This is the ideal to which women must strive even though some male opponents may not meet this standard.

In past days, the mainstream media have been replaying audio excerpts from the book in which Mrs. Clinton describes her feelings during the campaign debate when the format called for both candidates to be present on a small stage. Her reactions, bordering on the histrionic, are unseemly for anyone aspiring to be the leader and the leading diplomat of our country. Diplomats do not wallow in self-pity and personal grievance.

Diplomats are supposed to be models of cool detachment. Their job is to state cogent arguments for positions they advocate so their counterparts at the negotiating table can be informed and make rational judgments based on facts relevant to decision-making.

The publishers of her book seem to have avoided offering excerpts that might highlight differing policy prescriptions. Instead, they are replaying ad hominem attacks, designed to tarnish the president, while avoiding substantive discussion on the merits of public issues. It’s the oldest diversion, and the lowest level of discourse. If facts are not on your side, default to the smear. It is embarrassing that a former candidate for the presidency of our nation would offer post-election commentary in this vein.

She is not presenting the model of a leader who could command the world stage and take on another smart, aggressive debater. A senior diplomat, with a sense of reserve and healthy self-respect, would not lower himself or herself to ventilating personal feelings in the aftermath of an unwanted outcome. Voters can reasonably expect that those who want to be head cook are ready for the heat of the kitchen.

Hillary’s telling characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorables” was another instance of a predisposition to descend to name-calling. It was also a window into her character, as is the latest gratuitous denigration of Mr. Trump in her new book.

Perpetual claims of victimhood are consistent with the radical feminism she has increasingly embraced. Chronic aggrievement isn’t (and wasn’t) a ticket to victory and diminishes the individual proclaiming it — particularly when the “victim” holds positions of great power and has acquired significant wealth. For those who would be exemplars for young women who want to be taken seriously, the pose of the victim has limited instructive value.

It’s hard to decide whether to feel sorry for Mrs. Clinton or to be exasperated. Anyone who has run for office knows the sting of defeat, and anyone who has held a senior position in Washington knows that, with high stakes, the game isn’t played gently.

Perhaps the “breath” she claimed she felt on the back of her neck making her skin crawl was not that of Donald Trump but of the ghosts of her past, Whitewater, Computergate and Travelgate.

Mary Ann Meloy was deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison in the President Ronald Reagan administration.

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