Is Hillary Clinton “Too Old” To Become President?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on June 30, 2013 – 8:24 pm

Some Republicans have hatched a new plan to defeat possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — by saying she’s too old and “out of touch” for the job.

According to Saturday’s New York Times, some Republican politicians, strategists, and media figures are already trying to weaken the former Secretary of State. Here are some of their noteworthy comments:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): He “ridiculed the 2016 Democratic field as “a rerun of ‘The Golden Girls.’”

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA): “The reality is, when you look at the Democrats, they’ve got old, tired ideas being produced by old, tired candidates.”

Rush Limbaugh (Radio host): “Asked his audience in April whether the American people ‘want to vote for somebody, a woman, and actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?’”

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Now, I may surprise you by saying this, but questioning Hillary Clinton’s age is appropriate, and doing so isn’t necessarily sexist. (Rush Limbaugh’s quote, however, is a good example of going way over the acceptable line.)

Older men have faced identical scrutiny—in fact, Mrs. Clinton’s husband used similar attacks to win the presidency against George H.W. Bush in 1992 and to win re-election against Bob Dole in 1996. John McCain’s age was also a factor in his campaign, as was his health record (like McCain, Mrs. Clinton recently had a rather serious health scare).

If men’s age often becomes a campaign issue, it seems acceptable to make a woman’s age a campaign issue as well.

 

But Is It Smart?

Republicans may be able to credibly defend themselves against charges of sexism for making Mrs. Clinton’s age an issue. Nonetheless, I suspect their strategy will backfire, and probably badly. As any smart man should know, few women respond favorably to negative comments about their looks or age. And even though the attacks may be “valid,” attacks on a woman’s age have a different potency than similar attacks on men; I suspect that even many Republican-leaning independent voters will bristle at them. 

There’s a history here. Women resent men acting condescendingly toward a female candidate.

 

1984

In 1984, for example, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro ripped George H.W. Bush, the incumbent Vice President, for his patronizing tone:

 

2000

During a New York Senate debate, Republican candidate Rick Lazio aggressively approached Ms. Clinton’s lectern. He handed her a paper pledge to refuse any soft money to the campaign—but the move was widely seen as inappropriate and boorish. Mr. Lazio lost the once-close race by double digits.

 

 

2008

After winning the Iowa caucus, Senator Barack Obama was widely expected to win the pivotal New Hampshire primary and cruise to an easy nomination. But after taking a gratuitous swipe at Senator Clinton’s likeability in a debate held just days before the vote, female voters handed Ms. Clinton an unexpected victory, helping to extend her campaign for months.

 

Playing Into Clinton’s Hands

Republicans are playing a dangerous game, and I can’t help thinking that the Clinton people will welcome this attack. As the 2008 example shows, Mrs. Clinton is adept at using public sympathy for her personal political gain.

Plus, she has one convenient fact in her back pocket: She’d be 68-years-old when sworn in for her first term. Conservative hero Ronald Reagan was 69.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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The Keyword Bridge

Written by Brad Phillips on August 26, 2010 – 7:24 am

You’ve been invited to go on Meet the Press, and you’ve labored for days with your communications team to develop the right message.

If you’re Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), your message is about the economy – specifically, his view that the Obama Administration has not successfully navigated the country through the recession.

Mr. McConnell, like any spokesperson with a message, wants to articulate it as often as possible.

And David Gregory, like any good journalist, wants to “make news” by steering the spokesperson off message.

So when Mr. Gregory asked Mr. McConnell for his views on President Obama’s faith, McConnell used the word “faith” as his keyword and employed the “keyword bridge” to steer the conversation back to his message.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me move on to something that seems to be related to this and has gotten a lot of attention this week, and this is the poll about the president’s own faith from the Pew Research Center.  Eighteen percent of those polled believe that the president is a Muslim.  Among Republicans, this is striking, 31 percent believe he’s a Muslim.  Of course, he’s not.  Why do you think these views prevail?

SEN. McCONNELL:  Well, look, I think the faith that most Americans are questioning is the president’s faith in the government to generate jobs. We’ve had an 18-month effort here on the part of this administration to prime the pump, borrow money, spend money hiring new federal government employees, sending money down to states so they don’t have to lay off state employees. People are looking around and saying, “Where’s the job?”

 

By answering the question in such a manner, he was able to remain firmly anchored to his economic message without wading into the topic of the President’s religion.

At this point, you might be wondering if the keyword bridge is a bit too slick – a dodge that doesn’t truly answer the question. In fact, David Gregory began his follow-up by telling Mr. McConnell that his answer was “certainly a side step to this particular question.”

But despite its obvious flaws, the keyword bridge is a nice tool to put in your media arsenal. Employed sparingly by a deft spokesperson with a friendly interviewer, the keyword bridge allows you to remain on message without wading into unnecessary distractions.

Note: Immediately after the answer excerpted above, Mr. McConnell stoked a major controversy when he said he takes the President “at his word” that he’s not a Muslim instead of stating unequivocally that he personally believes the President is a Christian. This article doesn’t deal with that  portion of the interview; rather, it is intended to focus solely on the passage above, which highlights his use of the keyword bridge.

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