Hillary Clinton, The Florence Foster Jenkins of American Politics

Rome—Hillary Clinton has won, but can she sing?

The other day, Meryl Streep uproariously imitated Donald Trump during a gala in New York. She did her hair up in a messy Alpha Male bouffant, painted her face orange and mimicked the Republican presidential candidate’s gruff bombast and macho gait.

Hillary and Florence: Off Key?

Unknown yet to Americans is that Streep has also mimicked Hillary Clinton. It is in the new movie “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which has opened in Europe but not yet in the United States.

Streep stars as Jenkins, a socialite who amused tolerant (or cynical?) New Yorkers in the 1930s and 40s with awful renditions of Grand Opera. The movie is funny and light and Streep gets to ham it up. Jenkins died in 1944.

So what does Hillary, the Democratic nominee for president, have in common with Florence, the eccentric off-key soprano, you may ask? To wit:

Both were wealthy, idolized in their adopted hometown, New York City, and intensely determined to succeed.

Each aspired to perform on the big stage of their selected vocations, Clinton as President in the White House, Jenkins as coloratura at Carnegie Hall.

The ambitions of each were indulged and promoted by a philandering husband. (In the Jenkins movie, it is Hugh Grant, a charming choice).

Associates and critics lavished praise on both, seemingly without regard to reality: Hillary as a “progressive” though she changes her position every so often to show she is not beholden to Wall Street or a war monger; and Florence as a “singer” though she displayed little understanding of, well, singing.

Neither could hit high notes, often sounded flat and were mocked for shrieking. Florence could break glass ceilings with her voice.

High C.

Each also had a nemesis. In Jenkins’ case, it was New York Post gossip columnist Earl Wilson, who is made the villain in Streep’s movie because…he told the truth in print.

In Clinton’s case, it is Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator who keeps on running and running and who Hillary backers vilify for…not being beholden to Wall Street and a warmonger? To Clinton supporters demanding that Sanders recognize the candidates superiority, Sanders is a “bitter,” “grumpy,” “angry old man.” Earl Wilson probably got off easy.

Spoiler alert: Jenkins made it to  a sold-out Carnegie Hall. She won resounding applause—and then saw her seeming triumph shattered by an avalanche of bad reviews.

Clinton seems likely to make it to the White House (big donors are paving the way and she is running against the GOP’s off-color comedian from the Gong Show). When the reviews finally come, maybe she will have learned how to really carry a tune–or at least, stop changing it.

Florence Jenkins “sings.”

Clinton’s victory speech.


Florence Foster Jenkins movie trailer.

Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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