Is Carl Bernstein a Sexist?

It's been decades since I read Nora Ephron's Heartburn, her novel based on the crumbling of her marriage to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, so I don't have a ready answer as to whether Bernstein is a sexist. But judging from his new book on Hillary Clinton, I wouldn't be surprised.

Check out these passages from the book:

“The prospect that she could not bear a child, which seemed increasingly likely in the first two years of her marriage--and which she probably feared even earlier—could have been as frightening to her as anything she might conjure….Hillary suffered from a condition called endometriosis, which often makes conception difficult, can cause infertility, and frequently results in extreme pain during and after intercourse.’” (P. 149-50)

“‘She’s not a heavy-duty intellectual. He’s much brighter than she is. She’s bright, but she’s not very bright…” (p. 275).

“Her ankles were thick.” (p. 32)

“‘At first, she didn’t wear stockings….Her hair was friend into an Orphan Annie perm….There wasn’t one…feminine thing about her.’” (p. 130)


“Hillary’s weight was a regular topic of conversation, spurred by her inability to shed the few pounds that would have made her more attractive.” (p.130)

“Many colleagues of the Clintons had concluded that Hillary was not as intrinsically bright as her husband.” (p. 274)

“[S]he was rarely, if ever, deferential. It had never been her style nor would it ever be.” (p. 130).

“‘She had an opinion on everything.…Issues. People. Where Bill was going to speak. I mean everything.’” (p. 165)

“[S]he was no longer wearing her trademark headbands…she had ‘zipped her lip’ and now gazed lovingly and silently at her husband from a wifely vantage point.” (p. 208).

“No first lady had ever addressed a president’s cabinet and staff with such unvarnished political candor.” (p. 268)

“Sometimes Hillary sounded like the national nanny.” (p. 447)

“In both her talking and her written voice there is a kind of grown-up Girl Scout-speak….It Takes a Village is often banal.” (p. 448)

“Some aspects of motherhood did not come easily, including breastfeeding.” (p. 152)

“Hillary had been understandably preoccupied by her pregnancy and then the care of their baby, born two months in to his governorship, when he could have greatly benefited from her help.” (p. 155)

“Six weeks after giving birth, Hillary went to Memphis and left Chelsea.” (p. 153)

“…Hillary in her Coke-bottle glasses of the moment, wearing striped bell-bottom trousers, her hair a mangy tangle.” (p. 59)

“It had been a bravura performance. She had looked pretty in pink.” Pp. 381-82 (emphasis in original)

“Hillary devolved into ‘kind of the classic bitchy wife…not quite putting her hand on her hip and finger-wagging at him, but practically…’” (p. 27)

“The décor” of their house in Hillcrest was a “testament to Hillary’s lack of domesticity.” (p. 162)

“‘Give me a break, when’s the last time she took a casserole to a grieving friend?’” (p. 449)

“Over the next year, Bateson and ... Houston ...struggled to get the first lady onto a new, more ‘positive’ track and off her ‘negative’ woman-warrior path.” (p. 414)

This is a book we're supposed to take seriously? Give me a break.

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    What a jerk. n/t (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by andgarden on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:04:20 AM EST

    But, but, but--they are quotes! (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:21:07 AM EST
    jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by cpinva on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:02:50 AM EST
    shame on you. you've done what you deride others about: extracted, out of context, quotes from this book. you've failed to identify the actual source of the quote, implying that all are from mr. bernstein.

    mr. bernstein may or may not be a sexist pig, i have no clue. nothing you've put on this thread gives me any reason to go one way or the other

    what we have here is form vs substance.

    of course they are quotes (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Wed May 30, 2007 at 10:13:42 AM EST
    the issue is that he chose to include them in his book.

    How do you take "fat ankles" out of context?  Can you imagine a book about a male presidential contender containing these criticisms?


    i'm astonished you have to ask, (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by cpinva on Wed May 30, 2007 at 11:11:22 AM EST
    being a reasonably intelligent person. simply put, since you took the "quote" out of the context in which the statement is made, we haven't a clue what the hell is being talked about, or by whom. ordinarily, fat ankles have little to do with anything presidential (i wouldn't think, anyway.), but that isn't all the book's purportedly about.

    give us the entire paragraph which includes this comment, then we'll have a context in which to put it in.

    i can imagine anything. i can imagine a male presidential candidate being accused, by a woman, of needing a female advisor to help him get in touch with his inner alpha male. or of wearing ugly brown suits. nah, couldn't happen you say.

    and yet, it did, to al gore. maureen dowd, the looney doyenne of the nyt's, made just such idiotic assertions about mr. gore, during the 2000 election. this, after having made all kinds of ludicrous comments about both clintons, during the eight preceding years.

    where the hell have you been for the past 15 years?

    full disclosure: i am, and have long been, a fan of ms. clinton. should she be on the ballot in nov. 2008, i will happily cast mine for her. that isn't the issue here however. the issue is whether mr. bernstein is sexist, by reference to quotes from his as-yet unreleased book.


    Can be out of context (3.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Gabriel Malor on Wed May 30, 2007 at 10:27:32 AM EST
    You've taken all these quotes which may or may not have a sexist character and listed them. You claim that merely including them in the book brings up the question of sexism on Bernstein's part.

    But that is explicitly out of context. It ignores all the quotes that may not have a sexist character or that may even have a decidedly pro-equality character.


    Right. Can you imagine a blog entry (1.00 / 1) (#25)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:53:51 PM EST
    written by a woman, about a male presidential candidate containing criticisms about his lack of hair? Or how he may look in his underwear? Sounds sexist to me.

    Indeed. (1.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Gabriel Malor on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:59:03 PM EST
    But the real question is what happens if I include those quotes from Jeralyn and twenty more just like them in a book. Does my inclusion of her quotes make me sexist or just thorough?

    Give me a break.

    Reference to J's tag line above (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:08:15 PM EST
    in case it wasn't clear...

    squeaky (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:48:13 PM EST
    You rated my two comments above as 5's?!

    You completely misinterpreted my intent.

    Please, in the future, do me a favor and either only rate my comments as 1's or refrain from rating them at all.

    I have my reputation to protect.


    Go Figure (none / 0) (#32)
    by squeaky on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:56:28 PM EST
    I must have misunderstood your comment, was being subversive or.....

    Don't worry too about your reputation here though, it is intact. Nothing I can do about that.


    Damn you! (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:58:59 PM EST
    squeaky (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:48:13 PM EST

    Attacking the wrong Hillary book, (none / 0) (#23)
    by fairleft on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:39:46 PM EST
    you could've focused on the massive attention the mainstream media gave recently to the lies in Ferth et al's travesty. And the non-response to the lying MSM echo chamber in liberal blogs and media.

    The questions about Bernstein's book are not immediate like that media coverage of Ferth's hit job, and could wait till we could look at the book and the quotes in context.


    I did that in a post last week (none / 0) (#24)
    by Jeralyn on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:43:34 PM EST
    I wrote about that book here.

    I realize that, and (none / 0) (#37)
    by fairleft on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:14:04 PM EST
    that's great, but what about criticizing the silence of the 'liberal' media and blogs?

    Maybe it's best to provide an example of what I'd like to see more of, and of the problem: here's what dailyhowler wrote on May 29 (in WHY THE PROSPECT SLEPT! Friday morning, the Post savaged Clinton. And four liberal journals slept:

    Here at THE HOWLER, we also offered a detailed post warning about the Post's front-page report ... And at Hullabaloo, Digby offered this robust complaint about Gerth's well-known past bungling.

    But elsewhere, things were remarkably silent. None of the liberal writers at The New Republic bothered to post any thoughts about the Post's front-page "news report." The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum took a pass, and no one said a word at The Nation--not even at the journal's six blogs. And no one mentioned the Post report at Tapped--except Garance Franke-Ruta, who seemed completely surprised by the thought that writers from the New York Times could pen the kind of silly work she had come across in her own copy of Gerth's new book. As we'll see tomorrow, Franke-Ruta seemed to be working from a time warp as she reviewed the Post's report. But give her credit (as we do): At these four famous "progressive" journals, Franke-Ruta was the only writer who reacted to this story at all. Everyone else remained perfectly silent as the trashing of Clinton was renewed.

    And by Friday night, Clinton was being trashed hard, for the full hour on Hardball and Tucker. This Sunday, she was fileted on the loathsome Chris Matthews Show, in a performance that was deeply dishonest even by this program's club basement standards. But career liberal writers had stared into space as [WaPost reporter Peter] Baker loaded these cable programs' big guns. ... Make no mistake: As long as this pattern of silence prevails, Dems will have a very hard time making their way back to the White House.

    You're an important exception but it's the anti-Hillary, anti-Democrat spinning media reception such lying, misleading books receive that is much more important than the books themselves. And important liberal and progressive publications and blogs are usually a big part of the problem, at least when it comes to anything anti-Hillary.


    quote marks (none / 0) (#6)
    by chemoelectric on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:09:06 AM EST
    Jeralyn used quote marks within quote marks. Their meaning is clear enough.

    chemo (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Wed May 30, 2007 at 09:09:49 AM EST
    you and i must be looking at two entirely different threads. there are no
    quote marks within quote marks
    in her post, they are all single. she is quoting from the book presumably, but it is not at all clear who she's quoting.

    how would mr. bernstein have first-hand knowledge of the interior decor of one of the clinton's houses? how would he know if she ever brought food to a grieving friend? beats me, and everyone else too, since jeralyn makes no effort to differentiate between comments actually attributable directly to mr. bernstein, and quotes from other people, that he's put in his book.

    a poor post at best, wildly misleading at worst.

    again, mr. bernstein may well be a sexist pig, i've not a clue, i don't know the man personally. nothing i've seen about this book so far gives me any direction.

    relying on the assertions of a bitter ex-spouse isn't exactly an objective tack either.


    Quotes in Quotes (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:21:34 PM EST

    "`She's not a heavy-duty intellectual. He's much brighter than she is. She's bright, but she's not very bright..." (p. 275).

    "Her ankles were thick." (p. 32)

    "`At first, she didn't wear stockings....Her hair was friend into an Orphan Annie perm....There wasn't one...feminine thing about her.'" (p. 130)

    Is this such a bad thing? (none / 0) (#33)
    by oculus on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:58:44 PM EST
    friend into an Orphan Annie perm

    None Of It is Bad (none / 0) (#35)
    by squeaky on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:04:29 PM EST
    For Hillary, it just makes CB look like a caveman.

    True. (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:05:58 PM EST
    Its interesting to see the comments here that include the commenter's degree of support for Hillary Clinton's candidacy.  

    and your point would be? (none / 0) (#42)
    by cpinva on Thu May 31, 2007 at 12:12:54 PM EST
    "Her ankles were thick." (p. 32)

    perhaps that lasik didn't catch as well as i thought, but i'd swear those are single quotation marks. that one, among others.


    Hmm (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by chemoelectric on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:06:51 AM EST
    Maybe Carl needs to learn how to gaze quietly from a husbandly vantage point. Probably it would do him a lot of good, and it would shut him up for a while, too.

    Gosh what if she'd actually done what CB imagined! (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Ellie on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:10:50 AM EST
    "'... not quite putting her hand on her hip and finger-wagging at him, but practically...'" (p. 27)

    Hoo boy, what an, er, imaginary outrage!

    In passing and while we're on the subject, I'm waiting to see which of the male Dem candidates are slagged for being "ambitious", as in, criticized just for putting one's hat into the ring.

    (Disclaimer: Not a HRC fan, but even less a fan of the double standard.)

    Note to self: cease putting hand on hip. (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Wed May 30, 2007 at 12:35:20 PM EST
    what bull (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by fiver on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:20:22 AM EST
    I am not the biggest Hillary fan, but she is clearly incredibly intelligent.

    Yup (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by yetimonk on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:56:15 AM EST
    I can't stand hillary but I certainly won't be buying this book.

    Laughable (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by HK on Wed May 30, 2007 at 04:47:36 AM EST
    I love the way he says that when governor, Bill "...could have greatly benefited from her help" and yet also says "Hillary was not as intrinsically bright as her husband".  Because, of course, if you need help with intellectual tasks, the best place to get it is from someone who isn't very clever.

    I'm not a big fan of Hillary, but I'm even less of a fan of Bernstein.  He criticises her for being domestic and for not being domestic; for being too involved in Bill's career and for not being involved enough.  According to him, Hillary is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.  I do not consider myself to be a feminist, but rather one who seeks equality.  It frustrates the Hell out of me that for men the expectations are clearcut, whereas for women the lines are blurred.  Of course, this is also unhelpful for men who want to work or live outside of the commonly accepted expectations.

    No Question About It (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by squeaky on Wed May 30, 2007 at 11:03:56 AM EST
    CB is a sexist pig. There is no way I will read it but my guess is that it is a well funded hit piece.

    Obviously, to CB, woman should be in the kitchen making casseroles for their grieving friends,  and not the Oval Office.

    With or without the context (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by baked potato on Wed May 30, 2007 at 01:15:29 PM EST
    This one is interesting:

    "[S]he was rarely, if ever, deferential. It had never been her style nor would it ever be." (p. 130)."

    Seems to be critical on the face of it, especially with that "nor would it ever be."

    Reminds me of my wife, who (quite rightly) say:

    "I don't do subservience."

    Perhaps in Bernstein's world view, "real" women don't talk like that.

    With context (none / 0) (#38)
    by Gabriel Malor on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:20:58 PM EST
    How do you know that quote isn't praise? Without the context we cannot tell. For example, in the following paragraph, the quote would be praise:

    Councilman McPatriarchipants expected the first term Senator to roll over in the face of New York's powerful businesses. But that didn't happen. Senator Clinton didn't let McPatriarchipants' expectations stop her. She was rarely, if ever, deferential. It had never been her style nor would it ever be.

    The point is, without context, you have no idea if that quote is "critical" or not.


    Hope Nora is asked to review this book. (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue May 29, 2007 at 11:52:01 PM EST
    Maybe at Huffington Post?

    Another Frightened Male (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Dulcinea on Wed May 30, 2007 at 07:24:37 AM EST
    A comedy, no less, since Bernstein is such a paragon of all things good and true!

    Arianna will be picking the book apart for years to come to attack, attack, attack.  Her worker bees post the worst pictures available of Senator Clinton and normally misleading captions that show the Senator in the worst light.  Huffington's Hillary obsession must be residue from her republic daze.



    HuffPo (none / 0) (#40)
    by squeaky on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:39:45 PM EST
    A woman reviewer bashes Hilary too. JakeEasy, a commenter, opines:
    Can someone explain to me why so many women are so rabid about Hillary. If she were a man, she would not be getting attacked for any of what she is getting. They don't attack Biden for a ranging voting record. They don't attack Obama for being inexperienced. They don't attack Edwards for going after the presidency. Every charge they make can be appled to all the male candidates to one degree or another. I can only conclude that despite all the feminist rhetoric, a lot of women in the progressive momement are really white-picket fence and cookie-bakers. We see this in a lot of men, but a deep seated distrust of smart, savvy women seems odd coming from supposedly liberal women. I can't believe the lies they tell themselves. Sheesh, read a real book or history rather than these hardback National Observer things.

    Blood pressure: can't (none / 0) (#11)
    by jpete on Wed May 30, 2007 at 06:57:18 AM EST
    read books like this.  Fortunately, they're not worth reading.

    What a bunch of tripe. (none / 0) (#13)
    by Chincoteague on Wed May 30, 2007 at 08:54:57 AM EST
    I guess Carl got jealous that Woodward was making all that money for his books, and decided this was the road to gold.

    Please spare me. (none / 0) (#15)
    by ltgesq on Wed May 30, 2007 at 09:35:40 AM EST
    Is an accurate  physical discription sexist?  i seem to remember nancy reagan described as having fat ankles and there was no hew and cry over sexism.

    Unlike his former writing partner, woodward, Bernstein is known for actually having sources for the material he writes.   Is it sexist to say that Hillary is calculating? Or emotionless, or lacks the obvious charisma of her husband?  What of the description of her in her undergraduate years?  Is it accurate? Yes.

    The problem you have is that you have announced from ages ago that you were a huge hillary supporter.

    As far as I am concerned, the moment she introduced an antiflag burning amendment, she lost me.

    Forget Bernstein (none / 0) (#16)
    by janinsanfran on Wed May 30, 2007 at 10:04:13 AM EST
    What vicious crap. Though Hillary looks unstopable for the nomination, I have a lot of older women friends who say ... "no, they'll never nominate a woman." Maybe the country IS ready to nominate a woman and then drown her in this drivel ad nauseam.

    It is enough to make me wonder whether a woman can be President until a few more decades of getting the guys used to the fact that we have brains, not just interesting anatomy.  

    BTW, Clinton is my last choice of the Democratic offerings on policy grounds.

    Intrinsically bright? (none / 0) (#19)
    by aj12754 on Wed May 30, 2007 at 11:03:44 AM EST
    What does that even mean?  Another vapid phrase  that is meaningless if you gibe it so much as a 2nd thought.

    Why does anyone pay attention to "the Jewish prince" [Ephon's designation of Bernstein in Heartburn]?

    I knew there was a reason (none / 0) (#39)
    by redfish on Wed May 30, 2007 at 02:21:43 PM EST
    why I've never liked her.

    Is there anyone in (none / 0) (#41)
    by jondee on Wed May 30, 2007 at 04:42:49 PM EST
    American politics whose been more thouroghly demonized in the last 15 years than her nibs?

    Forget her gender, is she really so self absorbed and deluded that she actually believes she has a chance of carrying a swing state; or is it just that elections have become such a win-win affair for the major contributers, that the whole thing has degenerated into a grotesque charade?

    Ouch (none / 0) (#43)
    by Batocchio on Thu May 31, 2007 at 01:59:02 PM EST
    That's a painful collection.  Thanks for suffering through the book to bring us those.