Country Hillary

Tell me she wasn't trying to sound like Ann Richards. Please.

She said basically it's bad. And nobody really ever gets away with it.

"It's a pretty universal reaction," she said. "If you live and work among the people in a region and assimilate that accent, that is acceptable. If you come in from the outside and try to fake it, that is quite negative."

Markley didn't mean just in Texas, and she wasn't talking about Hillary. She meant people everywhere.

Hillary Clinton trying to do a Texas accent: It's enough to give you a sleep disorder.
Buddy Hickerson
Hillary Clinton trying to do a Texas accent: It's enough to give you a sleep disorder.

"A native speaker can pick up on a non-native accent within syllables," she said. "And pretty universally people don't like it when others try to fake it."

This thing wouldn't bother me so much if I already didn't like Hillary. But I do. I watch her on TV whenever she's on. I went back on the Internet and found a show I saw a couple weeks ago that Hillary did with Cynthia McFadden, co-anchor of Nightline on ABC. They were in Upstate New York. Most of the show was sit-down one-on-one blah-blah between the two women, but a few shots were sandwiched in between of Hillary out on the campaign trail meeting real people.

"Do you live nearby?" I heard her ask a lady.

Mmm, straight-up Yankee talk so far, if you ask me.

McFadden asked her if she felt she had made a mistake by voting for the war in Iraq.

"I can only look at what I knew at the time," Hillary said. "I don't think you get do-overs in life. I think you have to take responsibility and hopefully learn from it and go forward. I regret very much the way the president misused the authority he was given."

So, even in Yankee talk...was that a yes? Or a no?

I talked to Ray Strother, whose Washington firm, Strother-Duffy-Strother, describes itself as America's "oldest Democratic political media and message firm." I'm so out of it here in Dallas, I'm not even sure what a Democratic political media and message firm is, but I called Strother because he has been quoted on the subject of national politics and regional accents.

Strother was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1940. He's a Democrat, obviously. But he was tough on her. And he hadn't seen the speech. He was just taking my word for it.

"What she was doing was condescending," he said. "I've seen people do that, particularly politicians who go to a black church and pick up the rhythms of the black preacher. Yet the people in the audience are saying, 'What is going on, white guys don't talk like that.'

"For her to come down, come out of Washington, because they see her on television all the time, and affect an Ann Richards-type persona is condescending and can do a great deal more harm than good.

"That's the kind of mistake that shows her political insensitivity. Essentially, when she thinks she's being sensitive she's being insensitive."

Wow. See. The Texas thing trumps even the Democrat thing.

To get outside of Texas, I called Ashley Higgins, an attorney in Helena, Arkansas. Higgins was a sometime Clinton watcher when the Clintons were in Little Rock, and he is a generally wise observer of the world who has helped me cut through to the heart of complex issues in the past. I explained my dilemma: that I am a Hillary-lover and that I was perplexed and worried about her attempt to do a country Texas kind of an accent thing at what was essentially a funeral in Austin.

Higgins listened to me patiently. Then he told me that by focusing on superficialities such as accent I was really missing the important inner truth of the situation:

"There was a real nice guy running against Bill for governor," Higgins said. "I forget what his name was. Tall, kind of stoop-shouldered guy. He was doing a little news conference in the state capitol. And probably he wasn't saying anything particularly nice about Bill, but this guy was so nice he couldn't say anything particularly not nice about Bill.

"Hillary came up and chewed him out at his own damn press conference. And I thought, 'Shit, that girl's a Yankee! Damn!'"

Yeah. Well, I see that point too. But it's not really what I was going for. Higgins doesn't help me cut through to the core every single time. He has a good average, though.

I married a Texan. I don't try to talk like her. I don't even try to understand her all the time. I just remember what I learned in the "papers" incident out at the ballpark. Look like you're glad to be here and say yes.

Or no. That's another good answer. Let me go back and listen to that McFadden thing again. Maybe Higgins is right. Maybe this is more than just the accent.

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