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The Cackle, Hillary's Cleavage and Giuliani's Cellphone: Why Is This the Talk of the Presidential Campaign?



I was listening to a weekend edition of National Public Radio's interesting youth-oriented morning show, Hillarylclintonsmilethe Bryant Park Project -- thank you satellite radio! -- when a panel discussion's talk turned to The Cackle.

If you haven't seen the New York Times story, The Cackle is the term reporter Patrick Healy uses to describe Clinton's hearty laughter during interviews and debates. Healy's piece implies the laugh is a calculated move, avoiding charges of sexism by claiming the term was coined by her friends. And the Project chewed over the issue a bit.

I was sitting in my car wondering: Is this what dialog about the presidential election has come to?

Giulianiceelphone Ditto with stories about Rudy Giuliani taking cell phone calls from his wife during speeches. And the infamous Washington Post story dissecting Hillary's cleavage.

Two years into a presidential campaign, with all the expected front runners leading the pack three months before a real vote is cast, this is to be expected, I guess. Reporters who have been covering this crew intensely for so long are likely running out of new stories to file. So who can blame journalists for turning to cackle and cleavage?Hillary_cspan2cleavage

Also, Hillary's laugh is an interesting strategy, but not for the reasons I've seen pundits outline. For decades, Republicans and right wing pundits have won political conflicts by mastering The Code -- a way of speaking to their supporters in a way that communicates their message without making definitive statements an opponent can use against you.

Hillary_clintoncackle Bush references The Bible and evangelical culture. Bill O'Reilly makes hateful references to rap culture. Lou Dobbs talks about illegal alien criminals. And Hillary has her laugh.

Deployed in response to a question about partisanship from Fox News, the laugh was Hillary's way of saying to supporters Can you believe this? The most partisan TV news network in American is asking me about being too partisan? All communicated without saying a single thing host Chris Wallace could challenge.

Sure, it humanizes Clinton a bit. But the laugh -- I agree with the Huffington Post's Rachel Sklar and others that the term cackle seems a bit pejorative and female-specific -- also allows Hillary to speak volumes without saying a word.

And considering all the minute ways we're dissecting modern candidates these days, that's a serious advantage.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:40pm]


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