Lessons from the Democratic debate, courtesy of Hillary

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Case Study A on how working women can publicly and skillfully sing their own praises: I submit to you Sen. Hillary Clinton’s performance in last night’s CNN/YouTube debate among Democratic presidential candidates.

Time after time, she managed to pepper her responses with phrases like, “I have done tremendous work on this…” “This is what I have done…” “I led the legislation on…” And, to my ears, anyway, she didn’t sound like the braying blowhards on her right and left.

Case Study B on how women can deflect a rude comment: I submit to you Sen. Clinton’s response to John Edwards, of all people, who insulted her fashion sense. In what Sen. Joe Biden rightfully called a “ridiculous exercise,” each candidate was asked by moderator Anderson Cooper to say what they liked best and least about the person on their left. Edwards turned to Clinton and said, “Well, I don’t know about that coat.”

Clinton was wearing a bright pink quilted jacket. I personally thought it was a smart choice, making her both stand out among her unanimously dark suited opponents and appear attractive and womanly. But did Clinton look pained or hurt? Nope. She laughed. And Edwards stupidly gave Sen. Barack Obama a lay-up by giving him a chance to look gentlemanly while complimenting the garment (and correctly referring to it as a jacket, not a coat). The remark made Edwards look like an ass, and I hope his wife gave him a good smack upside the head afterward.

Check out this clip from the debates, in which the voter asks Obama and Clinton to address charges they are not black enough or feminine enough (respectively, of course). Clinton starts talking from the 1:45 minute mark. Clinton makes a clear and strong case for why she’s proud to be a woman running in the race, even throwing in a bold conclusion: “…and when I’m inaugurated…” Edwards chimes in to respond to remarks made by his wife Elizabeth to Salon this week that he would be a better president for women’s causes than Clinton. Then Clinton caps it with a pithy kicker: “Isn’t it great that we’re up here arguing who would be better for women?”

Inclusive horn-tootin’. I like that.