On Hillary’s Gaffe

The Medium apology is just that. But it may hold the key to the White House.

Julio Vincent Gambuto
10 min readMar 14, 2016

After a quickly posted apolo-tweet from the Secretary for her egregious re-write of 80s AIDS history, which took polite eulogizing to an entirely new level of utter fiction, she and her team took to this medium, Medium.com, for a longer, fleshed-out, more thoughtful mea culpa. (Read it here.) Part “I’m sorry” and part press release, the post was a stony mix of limp apology and lengthy resume — all underscored by this very strange feeling of Lady Macbeth at the sink.

Gays all over the Internet showed their gratitude for the apology with an immediate stream of “Thanks, gurrrl” and #imwithher. And the tiger who withstood 11 hours of Congressional grilling on Benghazi withstood just about as many hours of gay web wrath, showing once again that she knows the art of effective, low-key atonement — the master of not apologizing, apologizing, and every distinct shade of grey in between.

As a point of fact — a concept integral to the uproar— the two words “I’m sorry” never actually appeared in the post. After all, she had already written them in the tweet. Why repeat herself? That would be so…compassionate. That they didn’t make an encore made the already tepid Medium message cold and left this voter confused. Where was the, “I am so sorry. That is not what I meant”? Or the, “I really, really screwed up”? Or even the simple, “Please forgive me”?

We’re not going to get it. Medium is all we’ll get. We’ll have to settle for lukewarm. Not because she means to be callous. But because this is Hillary Clinton — the survivor, the warrior, the woman who watched her husband disgrace her in front of the entire world, having to bear the humiliation in the “privacy” of the White House as the President of the United States carefully deconstructed the definition of “relations” and defended a blow-job on the world stage. We can suppose his wife learned a lot in that moment. The political animal learned that every word matters but their definitions are subjective and to be parsed wisely. You don’t apologize for things you technically didn’t do. And the woman of the house learned to never be vulnerable again. Whether it was his first transgression or the latest in a line, it was the first one America knew about. Put any woman through that in any color house, and the woman who emerges will look at the world in a wholly different way.

A decade later, the only thing Hillary The Politician wanted was the Oval Office, but she lost the nom to a young political rising star who had nothing short of a wizard-like mastery of emotion, the very thing that Hillary The Woman had turned off for good. The premise of his entire campaign was the arousal of hearts. Turns out, that hopey-changey stuff is a powerful way to appeal to a mass of humans 300-million strong. And the woman who no doubt vowed to never show her heart again paid for it dearly. Hillary The Robot stood no chance against Barack the Great Hope.

Since, the Secretary has experimented with showing emotion, but the hardest job in Washington remains how to make Hillary likable. From the colorful suits (God help us all with that lightning yellow one) to the abuela campaign to the personal appeals from Chelsea talking about how Hillary is “working her heart out,” Clinton HQ is pulling out all the stops to make Americans feel something, anything. Nearly a decade after losing the nomination and two decades after a come-stained dress, there is still no singular HRC Feeling. There is only an oddly designed arrow, which only evokes emotions — and not good ones—from graphic designers and fanboys of political signage. This writer happens to be one of them.

Finding the Hillary Feeling is a fool’s errand. Or maybe not. If we want her to win the presidency, we have to admit what we haven’t wanted to say out loud in polite company: Hillary is a bitch. She’s cold. And dispassionate. She’s calculating and sly. This week’s calamitous case-in-point: the woman can’t even eulogize an otherwise beloved fellow First Lady without igniting a total shit-storm. Why did she even bring up AIDS? No one asked about AIDS. Because she was trying to find something, anything, nice to say — an act that is so unnatural to her that every fiber in her yellow suit revolts. And out comes pure fiction, arrant bullshit. And when she attempts to apologize for that bullshit, what comes next is a perfectly Clintonian cousin of “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

So, yes, I may be offended by her remarks, deeply offended. And I may be even more upset that she’s not apologizing as well or profusely or effusively as I hope my boyfriend or mother would should they slight me. But she’s not my boyfriend nor my mother. She’s a candidate for President of the United States — one whom we need to win in November, who will further or at least maintain the advances the Obama years have brought us, who will likely appoint four Supreme Court judges in her term. The stakes are too high in the months ahead to rake her over the coals much more for her gross insensitivity.

It is precisely this insensitivity that I wish her team would begin to exploit. Stop trying to make her nice. She’s not. And everyone knows it. There aren’t enough SNL appearances nor networks on television that could make her likable, funny, less awkward, folksy, or even close to relatable. Stop telling me that she’s just like my sister, my mother, my Latina grandmother. Unless there is something I don’t know about the women in my life, none of them ever graduated from Yale Law School, served as a kick-ass SOS, is attacked daily and brutally by an ever-aggressive Right, or was so painfully betrayed by her loving husband while the sitting First Lady. And none wants to be the Commander-in-Chief, in charge of nothing short of defeating ISIS. Who wants abuela fighting ISIS? If she’s to go up against Trump, making her smile more, cry more or laugh more will do nothing but hand over the keys to the master bedroom to Melania.

Let her, instead, be a raving bitch.

And let that raving bitch tap into the anger we all feel right now. For what her handlers don’t seem to understand about electoral emotion is that it isn’t that we need to feel emotional about her, we need her to be a vessel for our emotion. Obama didn’t capture our hearts because he was handsome or well-spoken — those were added bonuses. His campaign allowed us to dream and see in our minds the nation we wanted to live in, one where a black man could rise to the greatest office in the land. He was an avatar for our own dreams. If he succeeded, so did we. And, funny enough, especially for the gays, Hope worked. His success was our success. His equality was our equality. And it is why we will be forever grateful for Obama and his presidency.

But eight years later, something else is stirring nationwide. Bernie is reflecting our anger. And through his campaign we can express it. “Feel the Bern” couldn’t be a more perfect directive. But we’re not feeling something for Bernie. No one in Camp Sanders is trying to get me to believe that he’s just like my father or grandfather. He’s more my cranky uncle. No one cares if he’s a nice guy. That he is is a human interest story for People magazine. It doesn’t matter how we feel about him. We’re feeling something, and Bernie is articulating it in his perfectly pissed-off and very authentic Brooklyn Jewish way. And, so, if 2008 was the election of our Hopes, 2016 is the election of our Anger. Bernie’s tapping into it and so is Donald Trump. One is angry at the billionaire class, the latter at Chinese manufacturing. And that anger is manifesting at violent rallies where the angry right and the angry left can battle it out. We did Hope and Change. They don’t pay the bills. Now, we’re just ticked off.

I’m not suggesting that Hillary co-opt the Senator’s message. She can’t. She is not the vessel through which we can express anger about a corrupt campaign finance system, astronomical student loan debt, or income inequality and a broken economic model. She’s a Clinton. Humble roots or not, she makes $500k for a speech to i-bankers. She’s been in Washington for decades now and worn too many a DC hat to play the political outsider. She’s got Super PACs, and book deals, and Ivy league laurels. Mimicking the message itself is a massive mistake. No one is taking to the streets because Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to tax the rich.

But if this is to be the election of our Anger, and if she is to take on Trump and his brash brand of low-blow sparring, she is perfectly positioned to be the very thing we were all reminded this week that she authentically is: a real bitch. So, let her be herself. Let her get just as angry as we are—but at things that she can really truly be angry about. Let her be indignant that backcountry Conservatives stonewall the real work of progressive government, for she has seen it firsthand for decades. Let her be enraged that anyone would dare touch a word of Obamacare, like a mother lion protecting her cubs — “You want to get rid of the pre-existing conditions clause? Over my dead body!” Let her growl and snarl and bark and hiss. And when she’s good and ready, let her be completely irate that women make less than men in the second decade of the 21st century. If she got $500k for the Goldman speeches, how much more does Bill get for his closed-door talks?

Let her talk about that 90s intern and how angry she really was at her cheating husband. Don’t you think the nation has been dying to see that for 20 years? Let her talk about her emails and how pissed she is that she has to waste taxpayer money on a political witch-hunt. Let her talk about the value of smart power over boots-on-the-ground and how it makes her blood boil that Republicans would send our sons and daughters to their deaths in the hell of the Middle East — a region she knows better than anyone west of the Atlantic. Let her talk about anything and everything that shows that she’s a smart, no-nonsense, determined woman who can shred to pieces anyone and anything in her way — including the banks, the NRA, the GOP, and a nuclear Korea.

She can’t. I can hear you say it now. There is no way America is going to elect a bitch. Just as Barry couldn’t be The Angry Black Man, Hillary cannot be The Angry Woman. It’s worse than being, dare I say, The Angry Socialist. She cannot be an overt bitch and win the White House. As a white man, it’s all easy for this writer to say.

But it is not. As a gay man who has been out now for 19 years, I understand the pressure to make your difference non-threatening to the great Society. Many would argue that Obama would never have been elected were he incessantly preaching — the same way that I may not have been so easily “accepted” (which sometimes feels like the best friend of “tolerated”) by my family and peers were I constantly ranting about the eons-old oppression of the homosexual. The “just like you” gay seems a much more palatable flavor of gay than The Angry Gay. After all, Al Sharpton is not the President; a far more docile Obama is. Larry Kramer doesn’t have a 13-season daytime talk show; Ellen does. There is a place somewhere at the table for the angry relative who just won’t shut up, but it’s certainly not at the head carving the turkey. Hillary can be a bitch all she wants to be, but in the privacy of her own home. Don’t make out with your boyfriend in the streets.

That assumes, though, that everyone at the table just wants to have a quiet Thanksgiving dinner. This election is anything but. There’s a massive throw-down happening in the living room, and Aunt Hillary is in the dining room trying her hardest to be nice. The Trump rowd-crowd shows us all just how much things have changed. A black man just spent eight years as the leader of the free world. Lin-Manuel just rapped in the Rose Garden. A very loud Socialist has won 580 delegates for the Democratic nomination and is drawing crowds and dollars larger than Obama. The GOP is having a full-fledged meltdown. The world is flat. Down is up. Bruce is Cait.

All of which is the perfect arena for Hillary The Bitch to emerge. In fact, it may be the safest arena and very fertile soil for an evolved Hillary and a new idea of what it means to be a powerful Woman. Staying obedient only reinforces her Establishment image. Yes, under the old rules, a woman could not be a bitch and win. But by following loyally, we keep in place the very structure that the nation is begging to be overthrown. Perhaps the revolution that Bernie is calling for is, in fact, sitting in Hillary’s lap. If only the Good Wife would be a little less good.

Hillary The Bitch is the HRC I would click to donate $19 to. She’s the HRC I would promo on my Facebook wall. An HRC America can get excited about. Love her or hate her, everyone will feel something. And by electing her to the White House, we’ll all claim the power we see her claim. No one is going to step all over us, because we are all survivors. We are all warriors. We are all the woman in the turquoise jacket who walked across the White House lawn in 1998, utterly mortified, but who dug deep and rose above. High above. We may not always be nice and we may make mistakes — even gross mistakes — but we are brilliant and committed and ambitious and determined, and like Hillary The Phoenix we will all get what we want in our lives just as she got what she wanted: to be President.

The Reagan gaffe was an astounding slip, one made by a woman who is just too intelligent to have spoken a word of what she did on live television, one the gays are sure not likely to forget anytime soon. But the hollow apology was worse, and the gays of the Internet ought to scrub their walls of their devoted gratitude. It was, however, illuminating. For in it lies the real Hillary, Hillary The Bitch, the only Hillary who can win the general election.

And when she wins, I’ll be the first to post, “You did it, gurrrl. Well done!”



Julio Vincent Gambuto

Author + Moviemaker // Happiness in a fucked-up modern world // New book from Avid Reader Press (Simon & Schuster) // Audie Finalist // SXSW // juliovincent.com