Hillary Clinton Should Embrace Her Wrinkles

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.

iCarly

Joining Dr. Ben Carson’s entrance into the GOP nomination pool, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, announced her presidential campaign. Fiorina leads the pack of Republican hopefuls in her incisive critiques of Democrat frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

We must understand our role in the world – which is to lead – and the nature of our allies and especially, our adversaries. Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something…Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.”

This, her most memorable line so far, provides a glimpse into her vision of American leadership in foreign affairs, but also her feistiness. In this statement, Fiorina asks the most important question Mrs. Clinton must answer: In the many years you have spent in public service, what have you done for this country that you take pride in?

Turning this question around on her, many of her detractors, including some on the right, note that Fiorina has never worked in government. She ran for Senate in California in 2010 and lost–giving Republicans desperate for a presidential win reason for reconsideration. Fiorina, though, answers that her tenure at Hewlett-Packard makes her uniquely qualified, at least among the rest of the GOP field, to be president. This assertion speaks to an issue in presidential politics in which the voters do not know what careers best prepare their employees to be president of the United States. Furthermore, her tenure at Hewlett-Packard is not without its share of detractors.

“Fiorina’s short time at Hewlett-Packard is all we need to know — laying off 30,000 employees, while being rewarded with a multimillion dollar bonus,” Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Holly Shulman said in a statement. “If this is how Fiorina ran her business, just imagine what she would do to the country.”

Of course, most conservatives understand exactly what difficulties face business executives who run for office. “The fact is, business people have to make tough decisions,” Mart Wilson, Fiorina’s 2010 Senate campaign manager said to CNN. “In the end,” says Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager, “the company succeeded and grew [through the Great Recession] because of her tough choices.”

The problem Fiorina faces in defending her record is that for Republicans to win in 2016, a case must be made to independent voters–voters who do not understand and grant the same deference to business leaders as conservatives do. Fiorina’s populist message, painting her failed Senate campaign as a plus that allows her to benefit from her status as a “Washington Outsider,” will be damaged or bolstered by the way she answers criticisms about her tenure as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO.
At this point, though, Fiorina’s participation in the GOP presidential field goes a long way to helping the party showcase its diversity. Showcasing the Party’s bright, successful, fiery women can erode the stereotypes liberals paint of a paternalistic Republican Party insensitive to women’s issues. Fiorina can sting Hillary Clinton in ways that none of the Republican men can without seeming like bullies. Even if Fiorina does not win the nomination, she could still serve as a strong Vice Presidential pick, or as a positive voice for the 2016 campaign.

Carson for Fuhrer

Ach du Liebe, Dr. Carson!


From the moment Ben Carson entered the public eye, bashing Obamacare at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, many conservatives clamored for him to run for president. Even when Carson indicated that he would not run, groups–often nefarious groups–collected money in his name, claiming that they needed the money to urge Carson to run. His soft-spokenness, unapologetic appeal to principle and religious dedication endear him to conservatives tired of the self-promotional bombast of typical politicians. For Republicans looking to change the Party image, the black Carson offers a rebuttal against the stereotype that the GOP regards blacks with hostility. Carson writes about his successful career as a neurosurgeon in “Gifted Hands,” the most popular of his books. Before him, no one had ever successfully separated craniopagus twins. That said, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that Dr. Carson’s newly announced presidential campaign’s greatest weaknesses may be the candidate himself.

In any presidential campaign, the potential nominee must be supremely accomplished, as is Dr. Carson. However, Americans have yet to decide what kind of experience best translates to being a good president. So far, we appear to favor Ivy League lawyers (sorry, Scott Walker), governors (sorry, Rand Paul), and distinguished military service personnel (sorry, John Kerry). Each of those fields, and elements of others, correspond to some responsibility of the Executive office. This means less to Dr. Carson whose success in an admirable profession will hardly disqualify him. The point, though, is that in the absence of knowing what profession best predicts the skill set necessary to be a successful president, Americans faced with fields of accomplished candidates look for more superficial traits–namely those that make a candidate a good campaigner. Dr. Carson, for all of his accomplishments, fails where it matters the most–as a politician.

“I gotta tell you something. I’m not politically correct,” Carson said during his official presidential announcement. “I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what is politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”

Carson’s line, appropriately striking a populist tone, attempts to cover him for some egregious remarks he’s made–remarks that he must renounce. Saying that “Obamacare is really…the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and then doubling down, saying that “it is slavery,” represents a monumentally stupid statement. Todd Akin stupid. (Abortion ranks higher than Obamacare on the spectrum of morally reprehensible policies, I think.) In March, Carson apologized for saying that prison turns straight men gay. This statement brought such a backlash, that Carson refuses to address gay rights issues (a pivotal topic in America right now) for the rest of the presidential campaign.

Then, there is his comparing America to Nazi Germany–implying that the IRS equates to the SS or the Gestapo. One needn’t be Jewish to take offense to a comparison that trivializes the most sinister part of Nazism–the genocide. Still, Carson stands by his comments, and this represents a problem for Republicans who want to win the 2016 election.

Clearly, Democrats have a problem: their wealthiest candidate also has the best name recognition and potentially gives the Party four more years to develop new talent that is sorely lacking. This candidate, though, is Hillary Clinton: the secretive, corrupt, overly-ambitious, unaccomplished Hillary Clinton. Democrats look across the aisle and see formidable Republican candidates assembling to take control of the third branch of our three branch government, and potentially secure further control in the Supreme Court by replacing aging conservative judges and perhaps even Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The left’s best chance to denigrate the Republican Party is to paint the candidates as out of touch extremists, as clowns, as unserious. Just as Akin’s comments hurt the entire Republican field in 2012, forcing candidates outside of Missouri to speak to Akin’s gaffe, Democrats are always on the lookout for another candidate that can help them advance their narrative and direct the electorate to discuss a stupid statement rather than the issues at hand. Alexandra Jaffe, writing about Carson’s Nazi Germany statement for CNN.com, writes: “Carson’s unapologetic, outspoken style has contributed to his meteoric rise within the conservative movement and the Republican Party more broadly…” The subtext of Jaffe’s statement  is that conservatives like Carson’s crazy statements, and his egotistical refusal to walk them back. Between Ted Cruz’ government shutdown and Ben Carson’s “wrong-but-strong” proclamations, Democrats have strong opportunities to smear the party–perhaps even well enough to damage our aspirations.

While I hope that Dr. Carson contributes positively to the 2016 race, I highly doubt that Republicans will make the mistake of nominating him to represent the party in this important election. The accomplished, Dr. Carson may do well as Surgeon General; or as a beloved conservative speaker, campaigner, and writer. Whether or not he wins the nomination, though, I don’t foresee him leading the United States into a Fourth Reich.

America Untethered

“For the first time in my 72 years, I have no idea what’s going on,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Henry Allen, in the Wall Street Journal. “We are all outsiders with no inside to be outside of…What a strange time it is to be alive in America.”

What a strange time indeed.

Since President Barack Obama and the Democrats committed to “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Americans find themselves increasingly perplexed by events–untethered to the immutable, reliable reality of life in an ordered society. Police are the enemy. Marijuana is legal. Marriage is redefined. Iran is a negotiating partner.

What’s happened?

The American Left increasingly exchanges its championship of liberal virtues for support of the avant garde. Ronald Brownstein and Libby Isenstein of National Journal provide a series of charts showing how the Democrat Party has realigned politically while the Republican Party changed much more modestly. These charts, sourced with data gathered in Pew Research Center surveys, show that the percentage of Democrats self identifying as “very liberal” has dramatically increased since 1996. On some issues, too, Democrats have “evolved” more substantially than the general public.

Judging by Obama’s drive to normalize relations with Cuba and to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, there appears no slowing of the Democrats’ trend.

This helps make the 2016 election so crucial.

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, makes this very case.

“The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake…Now…the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread.”

Barnes’ assertion rings true. But how does it connect to Democrats’ unmooring America from once accepted social norms and order? The answer rests in the courts–specifically, the Supreme Court.

“Four justices are 76 or older. Two…are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote.”

Control of the Supreme Court affects lower court rulings and much of America’s character for generations. Liberals understand this and cheer whenever their agenda is codified by courts. The implications of these decisions will outlast us–and likely our offspring as well.

Unfortunately, pundits deem every election “The Most Important Election in the Entire History of Civilization.” Americans, myself included, tire of the superlative and consider it nothing more than talking heads crying wolf. Considering the Democrat Party’s sharp leftward turn, though, there is something to be said about using the 2016 election to take stock of where we are, where we came from, and where we want to go, before these changes are cast in stone by a liberal Supreme Court.

A Republican president elected in 2016 will likely preside over the retirements of justices Ginsburg, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer. With a friendly Congress, these judges could be replaced with strong conservatives. At the end of one term, Justice Thomas will reach 70 years old and Alito will be 69, granting the next president the opportunity to replace six Supreme Court justices.

On the other hand, a Democratic president could do the same, if he/she enters the White House in 2016, leaving us to collectively ponder the rest Allen’s quote:

“I worry that reality itself is fading like the Cheshire cat, leaving behind only a smile that grows ever more alarming.”

A Letter to Ms. Julia Cohen

Dear Ms. Cohen,

I spend a significant portion of my life participating in politics. When I’m not reading about it, I’m listening to it on the radio, otherwise I’m thinking about it. Likewise, I come across many articles on the subject, but rarely do I feel compelled to respond directly to columns. Yours is different. “What about the Moderates?” strikes me as a particularly important piece because you touch upon an issue that every American wrestles with if he/she is politically inclined–where do I fit into the binary party system? I’d like to argue, first, in favor of our two party system, and then, in support of one of those parties. I hope to offer you some clarity on your political journey.

You and I share some commonalities: I started my political journey on the Left and moved rightward when I was young, for example. To give you an idea of how liberal I was, I was torn between voting for Ralph Nader and Al Gore in 2000. I emailed my professors about my dilemma, and talked to my entirely liberal family about what I should do. 2000 was my first election. It meant something to me–about my integrity, my values, and my commitment to my country. I wanted to make the right choice.

Like many liberals, I found the Democrat candidate too far to the right, too beholden to corporate interests, too timid to fight for liberal values and to stop the right-wing hate machine in its tracks. Ralph Nader made his career on these liberal values. He championed the people as a consumer advocate. He always thought outside the two-party box on political issues, even though he spent the majority of his political life ensconced in the Democrat Party. He represented the real liberal choice for 2000, but he didn’t stand a chance.

When I hectored my liberal professors and family members for advice, they told me not to “waste my vote.” They told me that I had to compromise my values for a candidate who can win. They told me that American politics moves incrementally, and that if I wanted to advocate a leftward shift in the Democrat Party, I would have more success doing so from within the party rather than from the outside.

They were right.

But what lesson does this impart to the independents, moderates and radicals who find no home in our political parties, but want to express their patriotism by affecting positive political change?

The lesson is blunt–Get Real.

“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable,” Otto von Bismarck famously states. The United States consists of more than 300 million people with twice as many competing preferences and values–each nuanced and based in strongly-held beliefs of varying degrees of rationality. Boiling these preferences down into like categories, and then creating coalitions–parties–around people who share the same preferences would lead to thousands of parties. To some, a multiparty system would represent a positive development in American politics, a reality akin to that in countries like Italy. In practice, what results is dysfunction: hordes of frustrated people who, for some reason or another, never create enough momentum among the disparate parties to move the country in the right direction. In short, politics becomes futile–unable to realize “the possible,” unable to attain anything.

I support our two party system because it represents a logical stasis point. Our two party system is not divided along issue lines, rather it is divided between two competing philosophies of rights and the proper role of the State. The Left–liberals, Democrats–believe that rights derive from the State, and that the hierarchy of rights can be affirmed by a consensus of philosophy and theory. The Right–conservatives, Republicans–believe that an external Creator bestows rights upon us. These rights cannot be curtailed by a government, lest that government forfeit its legitimacy. Through religion, and tradition, we discover and protect these rights, thereby upholding social order by avoiding the chaos associated with the Left’s capricious definition of rights.

In other words, actual policy positions are subordinate to the overarching philosophy on how to order society. The question independents, moderates, and radicals need to ask isn’t “Which party represents my values,” but rather, “Which party agrees with the way in which my values should be argued and implemented?” Once that question is answered, the best thing to do is to choose a party and work to push it in the direction of your choosing.

That’s what I did. I voted for Al Gore, and lost.

As I wrestled with the philosophy of rights, my political journey took me rightward, into the welcoming arms of the Republican Party where I happily reside today. Our Republican Party is a big tent, Ms. Cohen. You can be “a good Republican” and disagree on some policy points. There’s plenty of room for you and I to debate marriage equality–and I hope we do. Most importantly, I enjoy the opportunity to stand alongside a fellow Wildcat, working together toward a strong foreign policy, lower taxes, a better party, and a better country.

The Free Exchange (15-006)

The Free Exchange is a regular series in which I answer comments to the articles I write at Black and Red. I welcome any and all of my precious readers to share your thoughts about anything I write, tweet or post. I promise to respond.

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Thank you, commenters and readers, for participating at Black and Red.


The Complexities of Identity Politics and The Free Exchange (15-005)

Black and Red Fan writes:

I just finished reading your comments on illegal immigration. I love it. This is the most clear and most organized groups of words on this topic that I have read. It makes total sense to me. Your words reflect Prager’s view who said that illegal immigration is not an immoral act, only a technical violation of the law. I agree with that completely. I actually supported the President George W. Bush/Edward Kennedy comprehensive immigration bill back in 2007. I was sad that it did not pass thanks to the Republican Party. I think what you said here is exactly what the GOP needs to do.

One interesting aspect of this is whether our viewpoint on this would be considered leftist or liberal or moderate conservative. I ask this because I don’t know about your experience, but this is the one issue where I’ve heard fellow conservatives be surprised that I have this “soft” view. Since they know me to advocate staunch and strong conservative viewpoints on just about every issue, they figured that I must have some liberal viewpoint on some issue and they think this is it. Frankly I don’t care. I don’t take a position on an issue because it is conservative. I follow the Bible and think out the issue and the conclusion I arrive at just all happen to be conservative viewpoints. I guess this is the one possible exception. Again it doesn’t matter in terms of the substance of this issue (which I agree with 100% of what you wrote) but just on a political theory nerd intellectual perspective, I wondered where we would fall on this issue. Thanks and I look forward to your comments if any.

J Hunter:

Thank you so much for the comment. I’m glad that you found my comments on immigration clear–when I write Free Exchange articles, I’m a lot less formal and sometimes that informality can cloud my clarity. I’m glad that wasn’t the case here.

My experience with talking about immigration with other Republicans has been mixed. Most of the time, my views on immigration are pretty well received. Some conservatives, though, think I’m way to the left on this issue. My first answer to the question of where we are (liberal or conservative) on immigration is: we’re not on the liberal side. My second answer is: that can’t be determined in the “left or right” paradigm. These answers may appear contradictory, so I’ll take great care to make my case as clear as possible.

To my first answer, our approach to illegal immigration matches the principles of the modern Republican Party–namely respect for the rule of law and a concern for the welfare of others. Liberals take a more Romantic view of immigration–one that cares less about the rule of law and more about “helping” the immigrants. Talk to liberals about border enforcement, and you hear silence. In practice, though, they piggyback off of Republican efforts. What has President Obama done to increase border security? Not much beyond continuing what the Bush Administration successfully implemented. Obama has done more to push legalization efforts like the DREAM Act, and has failed the millions of children who crossed the border months ago. In short, the difference on this issue between left and right is that the left appears unconcerned about enforcing laws going forward or penalizing those who broke the immigration laws in the past and need to attain legal status.

Our position cares for the people: the illegal immigrants, the legal immigrants, the children of illegal immigrants, and natural born citizens who share communities with the newcomers. Our position also cares for the rule of law, mandating that those who broke the immigration law face appropriate punishment, be in good standing with our other criminal laws, and positively contribute to our society by working. So, in these ways, I see us as squarely supporting the tenets of Conservatism: personal responsibility, respect for the rule of law, and welcoming other people to be a part of the American experience.

To my second answer, liberal and conservative (left and right) refer to an answer to The Enlightenment–to The Age of Reason–to Modernism. Premoderns believed that objective truth was knowable and that it came from God. Our rights, therefore came from God. During the Enlightenment, intellectuals like Rousseau and Voltaire challenged that assertion and concluded that truth comes from man and his experiences. Therefore, our rights come from man.

Those who believed Rousseau and Voltaire went East and spawned Nihilism, Communism, Nazism–the brainchildren of Modernism. Those who believed that God grants us rights and Truth went West to England and the New World–America.

This dichotomy describes the difference between liberalism and conservatism in that liberalism believes that rights derive from man: Homosexuals want to marry? Let’s name it a right. Do you want your neighbor to pay for your healthcare and material desires? From government comes your right to these things. Conservatives look to God and tradition to determine our rights’ source: there is no right to kill the unborn because God (the author of Truth and Rights) names every life sacred. There is no right to homosexual marriage because from God comes the institution of marriage between one man and one woman (furthermore, he names homosexuality a sin).

So, in terms of illegal immigration, since this isn’t a question of the source of one’s right to cross the border illegally and live in this country, I don’t see this technically as a left vs. right issue in terms of a “political theory nerd intellectual perspective.”

We could stretch theory and argue that if all men are endowed by God the inalienable right of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then the right thing to do is to allow all people the ability to partake in the American version of liberty and pursuit of happiness, but I think that does little to answer your question as both Democrats and Republicans would argue that they are working to achieve that end with their respective policy positions.

Let me know what you think of this. I hope my answer was useful.

Loretta Lynch is a Hostage. Who are Her Captors? and The Free Exchange (15-005)

Black and Red Fan writes:

Thanks for your comments as usual! I’m glad you and I could at least connect and keep in touch through this means. Now if only we can do so on a more personal level; we will have to work on that.

In terms of the Loretta Lynch subject: I am looking at the despicable lies by themselves since they are separate issues than whether the Republicans should move to confirm her now etc. On that issue, I’m agnostic. We may differ here but my philosophy is that even though we control the Senate, since they won the executive branch they have the right to appoint whoever they would like to such a cabinet position such as the AG. As long as the person is qualified and competent, I think it is the mature thing to just confirm Ms. Lynch. Of course we’re not going to like her views and all that, but the way solve that is to have won the presidential election back in 2012.

My reaction was only to look at their race-baiting tactics alone which it deserves. I don’t think this should be related to whether we should confirm her or not. I feel the same way with Supreme Court nominees. And so I don’t really care what the Republicans are doing or how impotent the GOP’s response is. That’s a separate topic to me. What do you think? I would love to hear whether you separate such subjects or not. Thanks. I’ll be commenting on the other pieces you wrote in a separate comment.

J Hunter:

Speaking just to the Democrats’ accusations of racism in the Loretta Lynch confirmation fight–I agree that the tactic is despicable. This is what happens when they run out of ideas–they resort to race-baiting and fear tactics.

The question to ask, though, is “is it effective?” On that point, I think the answer is clearly, “no.”

Thank God.


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