WASHINGTON Who thought that in stuffy old England in the 1980s a woman could act like a man and thrive, but here in the New World, Hillary Clinton still has to watch her p's and q's in 2013? Margaret Thatcher didn't change a hair, hedge a bet or trim a sail. She never had to be told to lean in because she never leaned back. She was certain, opinionated and strident to the point of, yes, shrillness. Listen to her on gay rights: It's fingernails on a chalkboard.
In the United States, three decades after Thatcher, a woman still has to back into her positions. Watch Hillary come out for same- sex marriage in a well-rehearsed video after it was entirely safe. (Every Democratic senator but three politically vulnerable residents of red states has done so.) After leaving her post as secretary of state, she laid low, got some rest and cleaned out her closets. When she re-emerged, she did so at soft-focus women's events and at her husband's philanthropy, the Clinton Global Initiative.
If there is one thing Clinton has learned through 40 years or so of feminine ambition, it is to be less Thatcher and more Ginger Rogers: Do everything a man does but backward and in high heels, as Ann Richards memorably phrased it. (What's more, do it with a smile so ingratiating that it's practically an apology.)