The buzz Democrats want surrounding Hillary Clinton’s campaign is that her ascension to the White House would represent a shattering of the “glass ceiling” that has held women back from enjoying the fullness of American life. In reality, though, Democrats champion equality the only way they know how: by advocating unfairness–special treatment. And as usual, the unintended consequences do more harm than good.
Actor, Cecily Strong, pleased liberal feminists at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner when she led the room of journalists to swear an oath:
“I solemnly swear… not to talk about Hillary’s appearance… because that is not journalism,” Strong said.
Ashley Alman of The Huffington Post cheered Strong, calling her statement “an important lesson,” and writing:
“The journalists of America have sworn to produce 2016 coverage free of sexism. Thanks, Cecily!”
This would be a welcome departure from “sexist” campaign coverage if journalists (themselves, liberal, by and large) showed a penchant for commenting on female candidates’ appearances and not men’s. The truth of the matter is, journalists wrote extensively about Mitt Romney’s stiffness and Rick Santorum’s sweater vests. Furthermore, liberals stood by quietly when Newsweek ran the Michele Bachmann “Crazy Eyes” cover and the cover photo of Sarah Palin in running shorts. In other words, at least when pertaining to Republicans, journalists have never hesitated reporting on candidates’ appearances–male or female. Why should Clinton be exempt? Besides, Hillary Clinton tends toward pant suits instead of running shorts and sweater vests, so there may be little to fear about journalists commenting on her clothes.
As it happens, though, the aspect of Clinton’s appearance with the most potential to inspire journalistic notice may come in the form of long hard lines and branching tributaries of wrinkles over her face and hands. Indeed, liberal feminists do not want journalists (or anyone) commenting on Clinton’s age even though (if elected) she would be “the second oldest person to take the presidential oath for the first time” at 69 years old. In fact, liberals are poised to pounce on Republicans who would tread into these waters.
James Oliphant, writes a piece in Reuters titled, “Republican rivals imply–but never say–she’s old.” In it, Oliphant quotes Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, who says that she has met with more than 5 Republican presidential candidates “and none of them has indicated they want to go after Clinton on issues involving her age.” Likewise conservative political action committees; American Crossroads, America Rising, and Citizens United; have said that they have no plans to attack Clinton’s age. This represents a contrast with Democrats’ ageist tactics deployed in 1980 against Ronald Reagan, in 1996 against Bob Dole, and in 2008 against John McCain.
But Reagan, Dole and McCain are men–the “stronger sex.” Feminists claim that they seek equal treatment of women, not special treatment. Equality dictates, then, that Hillary Clinton’s age and health should concern us every bit as much as the age and health of other presidential candidates of advanced years. Republicans know that they stand only to hurt themselves by commenting on Clinton’s age and appearance. However, why should the media refrain from doing so–especially since it has routinely commented on these characteristics in the past?
A simple Google search (“John McCain” + “old”) yields numerous examples of the media obsession over McCain’s age. In January 2007, CBS ran a story about McCain titled, “Too Old to Run?” The Wall Street Journal in April 2008 titled a story, “Is McCain Too Old?” Three days later, the Associated Press ran a story about Democrat Representative John Murtha saying that McCain was too old to be president. Pew Research Center in May 2008 reported on results of a poll titled “McCain’s Age Problem” that found more than a quarter of registered voters thought McCain was too old to be president. That number rose to 32% when voters learned his actual age. Two days later, NPR ran a story about McCain’s age followed by one about his health and the dangers of melanoma. On June 15th, 2008, CNN began a story titled “Age an Issue in the 2008 Campaign,” an article leading with the question, “Is Sen. John McCain too old to be president?”
Indeed, refusing to comment on Clinton’s age, as Strong urges, would be a departure from political reporting. Refraining from commenting on Clinton’s age, simply because she is a woman would be more sexist than treating her like any other candidate. Moreover, in Clinton’s particular case, this abstention may prevent her from changing her image from an entitled, Machiavellian, politico to a warm, human being with a sense of humor.
To this point, Ronald Reagan’s quip about his age in a debate with Walter Mondale has become legendary in presidential debate history. John McCain, when endlessly asked about his age, replied:
“I’m older than dirt and have more scars than Frankenstein, but I’ve learned a few things along the way.”
After Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 largely on the issue of empathy, and with the Republican Party casting dynamic and empathetic candidates for the 2016 contest in droves, Hillary Clinton should welcome opportunities to appear a little self-deprecating and to highlight that she’s more than “likeable enough.” If the radical feminists get their way this election cycle, they will have coerced the media from doing its job as it has in the past. In effect, equality to the left means special treatment, even if that treatments hurts those it’s intended to help.