Hillary Clinton and Dilma Rousseff

This week’s special issue of FT Weekend Magazine contains interviews and profiles of 19 “women of the year“, from Theresa May (Britain’s prime minister) to Simone Biles (“arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time”). Those I found most interesting were two 68-year old politicians for whom 2016 was a year of failure rather than triumph: Hillary Clinton, who failed in an attempt to become the first female president of the United States, and Dilma Rousseff, who lost her job as the first female president of Brazil at the end of a long impeachment trial.

Here are portions of the FT columns written for each woman.

Edward Luce, the FT’s chief US columnist, writes “Historians will look back on 2016 as a textbook case of how not to run a campaign”.

In place of her own vision, [Hillary] Clinton focused on the nightmarish prospects of Trump’s. Almost three-quarters of her television ads warned of Trump’s character flaws — his attacks on minorities, the disabled and, most of all, on women. While Trump was holding mass rallies in the middle of the country, often drowned in cries of “Lock her up”, Clinton was raising money on the east and west coasts. At one event in Manhattan, she described half of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables”. It was not even a gaffe. The epithet appeared in her text.

Hillary Clinton: a fate worse than mere defeat“, Financial Times, 10 December 2016 (metered paywall).

Joe Leahy, the FT’s Brazil bureau chief, interviewed Dilma Rousseff, noting

More a nerdy technocrat than a natural politician, she is never happier than when discussing the intimate details of the federal budget, backed by PowerPoint.

It strikes me that this description would apply equally to Hillary Clinton! The two women have quite a lot in common.

Mr Leahy continues:

Another defining quality is her dogmatism, which showed at an early age. Born in 1947 in the mining town of Belo Horizonte in Brazil’s south-east to a Brazilian teacher and a Bulgarian communist lawyer, she began fighting the country’s former military dictatorship aged just 16. She met lawyer Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, her now ex-husband and father of her only child, before she was imprisoned for three years by the military in 1970. She was tortured, an experience that led her to remind her opponents during the impeachment that she knew how to tough anything out. ….

For women, she had wanted to leave a legacy of a successful presidency, not an impeachment. “In any case, I will leave as a legacy to women my trajectory. I say that we [women] are not people who give up, who bend under adversity.”

Women always face some level of discrimination, even in “the most civilised societies”, she says. Rousseff was frequently charged with being an iron lady, reportedly so “tough” that she made ministers in her cabinet cry when they did not do their homework.

“When you are a woman in authority, they say you are hard, dry and insensitive, while a man in the same position is strong, firm and charming,” she says.

Joe Leahy, “Dilma Rousseff: ‘A woman in authority is called hard, while a man is called strong’”, Financial Times, 10 December 2016 (metered paywall).

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