Sally Quinn: Hillary Clinton on Twitter: A loss of faith

2013-06-16T08:00:00Z Sally Quinn: Hillary Clinton on Twitter: A loss of faithSALLY QUINN | The Washington Post
June 16, 2013 8:00 am  • 

There were two surprising things about Hillary Clinton's first tweet.

Clinton broke her Twitter silence this week with this bio: "Wife, mom, lawyer, women and kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD . . . ." A photo by Diana Walker showing a serious-looking Clinton in black and looking at her Blackberry through dark glasses is her avatar.

What's surprising is that the photograph belies her tweet. You would think with that choice of photo she would start her bio with anything but "wife, mom." If she's itemizing her accomplishments and interests, to have U.S. senator and secretary of state at Nos. 7 and 8 pretty much gives the shaft to the whole notion of "leaning in."

For sure, "leaners" would have started with those two and worked down. For those Hillary watchers and tea leaf readers this might give some of them a clue to her priorities. Does "wife, mom" sound like somebody who is running for president?

Would a male opponent start his tweet with "husband, dad"?

This could be a not-so-subtle way of throwing people off the scent. The other stuff — "dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado" — is funny and cute, but it doesn't send the truly serious, almost powerful message that "wife, mom" does.

What she really cares about, of course, is being a "women and kids advocate," which has always been her true passion. That was underscored Thursday when she announced she would join her family's charitable arm, which was renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and champion children's and women's issues.

Even more surprising about her tweet, however, is an omission.

She never mentions her faith. "Christian"? "Person of faith"? "Methodist"? "Believer"? Nothing.

Hillary Clinton is well known for her faith. She went to Sunday school and attended church all of her life, taught Sunday school, was a member of the altar guild and youth groups. When she came to Washington in 1993, she joined a Bible study group. She says she was sent daily scriptures from her group. She was dubbed Saint Hillary at one point for her religious leanings and even made a speech referencing Rabbi Michael Lerner's "The Politics of Meaning." When she became a senator, she joined the Senate Prayer Breakfast. She has always been supportive of federal funding for faith-based initiatives. When asked in an interview after the Monica Lewinsky scandal how she had gotten through it, Clinton referred to her "very serious" grounding in faith and talked about her "extended faith family" who helped her out, as well as "people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer circles, who were prayer warriors for me."

At the State Department, she encouraged her diplomats to reach out to religious leaders in other countries as a way to promote understanding. After the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya — resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens — she gave an impassioned speech condemning violence in the name of religion. "I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults," she said. "They have withstood offense for centuries. Refraining from violence then, is not a sign of weakness in one's faith; it is exactly the opposite, a sign that one's faith is unshakable."

In a 2007 article in Mother Jones, the United Methodist Church's Bishop Richard Wilke said, "If I asked Hillary, 'What does the Lord want you to do?' she would say, 'I think I'm called by the Lord to be in public service at whatever level he wants me.' "

The question is, does the Lord want Hillary to be president? Does she want to be president? Pundits took her tweet to be the launch of a presidential campaign. Yet it's perfectly obvious that America will not vote for someone who is not a self-affirmed believer in God. We have a black president, and we will have a female president, a Hispanic president, a gay president and probably even a Muslim president before we have an atheist president. Those who talk openly about their own faith are more likely to appeal to the American public than those who don't; we have even seen many shamelessly exploit religion for their own political purposes.

So if this tweet is her announcement that she is running, why would she describe herself as "wife, mom" but and not include "person of faith," which, if you look at her background, she surely is?

Chelsea Clinton recently announced that she will head up a new multi-faith organization at New York University called the Of Many Institute to "develop multi-faith dialogue and train multi-faith leaders."

"With all candor," she said, "because my husband is Jewish and I'm Christian, and we're both practicing, it's something that's quite close to home."

She did not mention that it is close to home due to her upbringing or her mother's abiding faith. Could it be that Hillary is letting Chelsea handle the faith angle so that she doesn't seem to be pandering to a religious audience? Your guess is as good as mine.

All I can say is this: If you want to figure out Hillary Clinton, to paraphrase Deep Throat, "follow the faith."

TBD . . .

Sally Quinn anchors The Washington Post's On Faith online discussion and writes a religion column. This column appeared first in The Washington Post.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. battchief
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    battchief - June 22, 2013 7:35 am
    To devote a whole column to criticizing someone's self-description is pretty galling.

    Ms. Clinton, perhaps, realizes that we need to be weaned from the imposition of religious tests on people in public service and that their deeds are more important than any self-assessment of piety. Good for her.
  2. Mai2cents
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    Mai2cents - June 21, 2013 10:23 pm
    Yes, by all means, let's devote a full column to analyzing a form of communication that by its very definition is trivial and meaningless. How earth-shattering that someone who may be running for high office didn't emphasize she's a devoted God-worshipping Christian on Twitter. May as well withdraw from the race before she even enters it.
    If you think that was bad, Sally, rumor has it that Hilary was Skype-ing when she wrote that Tweet and there was no miniature flag lapel on her pantsuit jacket.
    No need to thank me: Consider Tomorrow's scathing column on the house. Once again: Yawn!
  3. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - June 16, 2013 2:59 pm
    I totally agree with KRiley. The whole point of the Revolutionary War was to get rid of rule by hereditary dynasties. Granted, theirs was considerably more inbred than ours are shaping up to be, but we can learn from their mistakes; we don't need to recreate them all over again. I mean really, do we want to see 8 years of Hillary, then another 8 of Jeb, just like all the Marvel comic-book movies introducing individual superheroes leading up to the big all-star event of Chelsea vs. Jenna in 2032?

    As to the sequence of roles in that tweet, it appears that Sally Quinn is unfamiliar with the concept of chronological order.

    Finally, as to roles omitted, I notice that "female" wasn't on the list, either, and I submit that that characteristic of Hillary Clinton has been more significant in her life than her religion — and been with her longer, to boot.

    I don't fault her for omitting "person of faith" at all. When that phone call comes in at 3 AM, the last thing I want is somebody who's going to rely on advice from imaginary spooks as to what to do. I'd be far more reassured if she listed "person of facts and reason", but Quinn is correct in noting that such a claim would be the death knell for a candidacy in the America of 2013, where anti-aatheism is one of our last remaining respectable prejudices.
  4. kriley
    Report Abuse
    kriley - June 16, 2013 11:08 am
    Please.... No more Bushs or Clintons.
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