Hillary Clinton has historically had the effect of polarizing – she is beloved by many and rebuked by others. On Friday questions were raised regarding advice she received 15 years ago to improve her image. The discussion surrounded making herself more “palatable” to a wider audience. Essentially, she needed to find her personal brand.
She was advised regarding her tone, sense of humor, manner, and style, but above all, she was urged to not refer to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, but instead to lead in a way that distinguishes her. The salient words were to be authentic.
Clarifying her image was essential for Mrs. Clinton while she was first lady, during the time of Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996. Hillary’s brand needed to be carefully developed both to improve his chances and also to guide her in finding her own way. During this time, almost 4,000 pages of documents were generated within the President’s Administration.
One of the records that has been released surrounds concerns voiced by Hillary Clinton about the acceptability of universal health care in the U.S. A proposal for individual health care had been floated in 1993 by Republicans lawmakers. Newly released files show that she worked apart from lawmakers rather than collaboratively, and this led to difficulty in getting her own health care bill passed.
On Friday approximately three-quarters of these records began to be released. The total number of documents, housed at The Clinton Library in Arkansas, is expected to be in the tens of thousands. The reason the papers had not previously been released is due to regulations surrounding disclosure following a president leaving office.
Hillary’s image has been supported, apart from being her husband’s wife, by her high profile positions as New York state senator and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama during his first term (2009-2012). Now that her image is “smoother” and her approval ratings have increased, her profile is strengthened by the prospect of her running for president in 2016.
Hillary Clinton’s chief image advisor is Lisa Caputo, who has made suggestions to the former first lady to soften her image, such as appearing on popular television programs and being involved in, for example, the birthday celebration of Eleanor Roosevelt. The goal of these public events would be to show Hillary as being not as extreme and more accessible, including to the media, in order to develop alliances with them.
Mrs. Clinton’s moment of reckoning was just prior to the conclusion of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when she was running for office as NY senator. She was coached by her advisor Mandy Grunwald to show herself as a more relaxed person than she had previously, and to not show discomfort. It was a test of her character to shirk off the pressure from being first lady, and to face the world with a renewed sense of poise.
Hillary Clinton portrays herself in public as a strong, independently minded, individual, confident in her skin and clearly identified with her brand. She is finding a balance between her former image of strength and one where she is liked by the greater American public.
By Fern Remedi-Brown