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 Ten Worst Video Media Disasters Of 2012

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 13, 2012 – 6:02 am

2012 was an election year, so it’s no surprise that politicians consistently committed the types of gaffes that took their campaigns far off message.

This year, we heard about the “47 percent,” “tacos,” and “chains.” But it wasn’t just politicians in trouble–an executive, a football coach, and three broadcast personalities also made the list.

Without further ado, here are the ten worst video media disasters of 2012!

Honorable Mention: Kathie Lee Gifford: How’s Your Dead Wife?

In May, Today Show host Kathie Lee Gifford committed an embarrassing gaffe when she asked comic Martin Short how his wife was doing. The problem? Mr. Short’s wife, Nancy, died two years ago. It’s not that she made a mistake. It’s that her question, asked in that typically “insider” show business way, suggested a much more intimate friendship with the Shorts than she clearly had.

 

10. Joe Biden: “Republicans Will Put You Back in Chains.”

When speaking in August, Vice President Joe Biden used an unfortunate choice of words that instantly triggered accusations of racism. He told the crowd, in which many African Americans were present:

“Romney wants to let the–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put you all back in chains.”

Biden denied that his comments had any racial context, but all politicians should have learned to avoid such rhetorical traps from Ross Perot’s infamous 1992 “you people” remark.

 

9. One Mayor’s Pledge to Eat Tacos

When four police officers in East Haven, Connecticut were indicted on charges of beating Hispanic residents, a reporter asked the town’s mayor, Joseph Maturo, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”

Mr. Maturo’s shocking response—“I might have tacos when I go home”—led to him being blasted by members of the community, the governor, and the media. The rest of the interview wasn’t much better. This may only rank ninth on the year-end list, but it’s my personal favorite of the year.

 

8. Democratic Consultant: Ann Romney “Never Worked”

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen caused a stir during a CNN interview in April when she said that Ann Romney “has never worked a day in her life.” Many women were offended at Ms. Rosen’s assertion, especially given that Ms. Romney was a stay-at-home mother who raised five boys.

Rosen’s comment, which helped Republicans neutralize the “war on women,” quickly drew condemnation from within her own party. Within days, President & Mrs. Obama, Vice President Biden, White House Spokesman Jay Carney, and Campaign Communications Director David Axelrod all condemned her remark. 

 

7. Football Coach Offers Cash for Injuring Opponent

In a remarkably violent and vulgar audio tape released in April, former New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was caught offering players money to injure members of the opposing team before a 2012 divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. About one player, he said:

“We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head…we want his head sideways.” About another player, he said, “we fuckin’ take out that outside ACL.”

Mr. Williams’ disgusting rant earned him an indefinite suspension from the NFL. May he never spend another moment on a professional, college, high school, or youth football field.

 

6. Clint Eastwood Hijacks Mitt Romney’s Big Night

On the final night of the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney accepted his party’s nomination to become the Republican presidential candidate. He proceeded to deliver a fine speech. Unfortunately, actor Clint Eastwood–who took the stage minutes before him–stole many of the headlines Romney had earned.

Eastwood took the stage accompanied by a bar stool. For 11 painful minutes, Eastwood addressed the bar stool as if it was President Obama. It was off message, bizarre, and embarrassing–and the news media spent precious minutes discussing Eastwood afterward instead of Romney.

 

5. Rush Limbaugh Calls Student a “Slut”

Bombastic right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh isn’t known for mincing words – but his vicious attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was extreme even by his own loose standards. 

Ms. Fluke testified before a Democratic House panel that Georgetown–a Jesuit university–should be required to provide contraceptive care as part of its health insurance plan. Mr. Limbaugh responded by asking if she was a “slut” or “prostitute” who is “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk.”

He didn’t seem to understand that the cost of a woman’s contraceptive care doesn’t correlate directly to the amount of sex she’s having; nor did he factor in the many health reasons women use contraception. But his advertisers understood, and they fled his show in record numbers.

 

4. Susan G. Komen Founder Blows Crisis Response

Susan G. Komen founder Nancy Brinker appeared on MSNBC after her organization cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, allegedly because Planned Parenthood provides abortion services. The resulting crisis was a disaster for Komen that threatened to destroy in a matter of days the favorable reputation it had built over decades. 

Ms. Brinker bombed the interview, during which she claimed that “the responses we’re getting are favorable,” seemingly oblivious to the firestorm around her. She edgily blamed her critics for not “bothering” to read more about their decision and failed to express any reassurance to her supporters who felt betrayed by the decision.

The group’s fundraising took a major hit, with fewer women participating in Komen’s annual races. In Washington, DC, 40,000 women raced in 2011; only 26,000 did in 2012. Similar drops were reported in several other U.S. cities.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

3. The First Debate and the Other Barack Obama Gaffes

From “The private sector is doing fine” to “If you have a business, you didn’t build that,” President Obama offered his opponents plenty of fodder for negative attack ads.

But it was Mr. Obama’s shockingly lackluster performance in the first presidential debate that may have been the biggest surprise, leading to an immediate decline in his poll numbers and a collective freak out by his Democratic supporters, who wondered how badly he really wanted a second term.

During the debate, Mr. Obama responded to Mitt Romney’s attacks without any discernible passion, instead making meandering points full of “uhhhs.” The video below is an edited compilation of some of Mr. Obama’s more than 200 “uhhhs.” It’s emblematic of how hesitant and unfocused he was throughout the debate.

 

2. The “47 Percent” and the Other Mitt Romney Gaffes

Whether saying “I like being able to fire people,” criticizing London about its Olympics preparation during a trip to the U.K., or boasting about his wife’s two Cadillacs, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney couldn’t get out of his own way all year. But it was his comment about the “47 percent” that may have sealed his fate:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it….My job is not to worry about those people.”

The video was a disaster for Mr. Romney’s campaign, taking them far off their desired messages just two months before Election Day.

 

1. Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape”

Missouri’s Republican Senate candidate, Todd Akin, caused an uproar when he used the phrase “legitimate rape” during an August television interview.

But it was what he said immediately afterward that was both scientifically false and terrifyingly ignorant. Speaking about the possibility of a woman getting pregnant after being raped, he said:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin’s comment served as a perfect example for Democrats pushing the theme of a Republican “war on women.” Republicans, aware of the damage Akin’s comment would have on the rest of the party, quickly begged him to quit the race. He refused. And Democratic incumbent Clare McCaskill beat him by a whopping 15 points in a race that favored the Republican challenger in many early polls. 

Although Akin wasn’t alone in these types of comments–Indiana’s Richard Mourdock and Joe Walsh swam in similar waters–his was the most high-profile.

Don’t commit your own media disaster! Learn how to remain on message by reading my new book, The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. Click here to learn more.

Copyright information: All content on this website is ©2012 Phillips Media Relations, LLC. No information on this website may be used without prior permission from the copyright owner.  Journalists and bloggers may use limited excerpts from this post as long as they include an attribution to the “Mr. Media Training Blog” and a link to this page.


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March 2012: The Five Worst Video Media Disasters

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 30, 2012 – 6:12 am

What do sluts, hoodies, and a popular children’s toy have in common?

If you said that they all made it onto March’s month-end media disasters list, you’d be right. (If you came up with any other answer to that question, you’re probably a bit twisted.)

Without any further ado, here are the five worst video media disasters of March, along with two fun bonus disasters. Here we go!

5. Singer Sings “Fuck You” At Presidential Fundraiser

I like singer Cee Lo Green. He’s a talented musician, and he’s a fun coach on NBC’s The Voice. But he exercised lousy judgment when he entertained a crowd at an Obama fundraiser by singing the uncensored version of his hit song “Fuck You.” If that wasn’t enough, he also gave the crowd the middle finger.

For the record, I own that song. I like that song. But context matters, and creating an unnecessary distraction for the President made the fundraiser more about Cee Lo than the President’s re-election bid. And by the way, National Review editor Rich Lowry never heard of Cee Lo? Come on, Rich, you’re just a few years older than me. Get with the program!

 

 

4. President Obama Gets Caught On An Open Mic

At a meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, President Obama got caught on an open microphone:

President Obama: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space.” 

President Medvedev: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you … .”

Obama: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

 

Sure, most people understand that this type of interaction is common in international diplomacy. But by making his comment with microphones present, President Obama not only gave his Republican rivals an opening, but reportedly put Poland on edge. Plus, the President appeared a bit over-confident about his chances for re-election. He should know better than to make such comments in the presence of microphones.  

 

3. Mitt Romney Advisor Compares Him To An “Etch a Sketch”

When asked whether Mitt Romney would shift toward the ideological center during the general election, top advisor Eric Fehrnstrom answered: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Given that Mr. Romney’s professed commitment to conservative values is already viewed with deep suspicion by many conservative voters, few gaffes could hurt him more. His opponents – Republican and Democrat alike – pounced on the mistake. Expect this gaffe to stick with Gov. Romney through the rest of the campaign.

Click here to read the full story, “Why Mitt Romney’s ‘Etch a Sketch’ Moment Matters.”

2. A Gun Didn’t Kill Trayvon Martin – His Jacket Did

Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, was gunned down last month by George Zimmerman, a man of mixed ethnicity (Hispanic and white). Mr. Martin’s death has spawned national outrage and a heated discussion about race, particularly because many signs point to Martin’s innocence – and the shooter’s guilt (Zimmerman has not been jailed).

But Fox News Host Geraldo Rivera cast blame somewhere else – at Martin’s clothing. “The hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was,” Rivera argued. In making that argument, Rivera unfairly shifted the burden of blame away from Martin’s killer – and onto the victim and his parents. 

 

1. Rush Limbaugh’s “Slut” Attack

Bombastic right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh isn’t known for mincing words – but his vicious attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was extreme even by his own loose standards. 

Ms. Fluke testified before a Democratic House panel that Georgetown – a Jesuit university – should be required to provide contraceptive care as part of its health insurance plan. Mr. Limbaugh responded by asking if she was a “slut” or “prostitute” who is “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk.”

He didn’t seem to understand that the cost of a woman’s contraceptive care doesn’t correlate directly to the amount of sex she’s having; nor did he factor in the many health reasons women use contraception. But his advertisers understood, and they fled his show in record numbers.

Although Limbaugh made these comments at the end of last month, the controversy reached its peak in March.

 

Bonus Disaster #1: Colorado Governor Introduces His Lieutenant Governor As a What?!?

This one speaks for itself. Colorado’s Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, has a bit of a Freudian slip when introducing his Lieutenant.

 

Bonus Disaster #2: Herman Cain Releases a New Video

What better way to get attention for your new issues organization than by releasing an ad that murders a rabbit? Or by featuring a girl who should be cast in the sequel to The Shining? Or by casting a man who looks creepily into the camera?

Did you miss the 10 worst media disasters of 2011? Click here to catch up.

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Rush, Rush: Hurry, Hurry Rush, Apologize To Me

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 5, 2012 – 4:12 pm

Last week, right wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh called a 30-year-old woman a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

The woman, Sandra Fluke, is a law student at Georgetown University. She testified before House Democrats last month that Georgetown, a Catholic university, should be required to continue paying for contraception as part of its insurance plan, instead of receiving a “conscience waiver,” which would allow them to not to.

In response last Wednesday, Mr. Limbaugh said:

“What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

The next day, he doubled down on his remarks, saying that Fluke is "having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk," and continuing:

“If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

 

He continued his attack on Friday, saying:

“She’s having sex so frequently that she can’t afford all the birth-control pills that she needs. That’s what she’s saying.”

“Well, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?”

 

Not only were Limbaugh’s comments disgusting, but they revealed a complete lack of understanding about birth control. He seems to believe that birth control pills are “pay for play” – that the price a woman pays for contraception is based solely on the amount of sex she’s having. And he seems completely clueless that millions of monogamous couples, including many married ones, use birth control. It goes without saying that he also doesn’t understand that many women use contraception for medical purposes, such as to help alleviate the severe discomfort caused by painful menstruation.

By the end of last week, numerous advertisers dropped his show. Mr. Limbaugh quickly did something he rarely does: he apologized. Sort of. But his apology continued to misstate the facts:

“In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom.”

 

That “apology” was another smear, reducing concerns about women’s health to something that should remain a private concern between couples in their bedrooms. By this afternoon’s program, he had already lost nine advertisers, so he went a little further:  

"Those two words were inappropriate. They were uncalled for. They distracted from the point I was trying to make, and I again sincerely apologize. I do not think that she is either of those two words. I did not think last week that she is either of those two words."

 

But moments later, he said, “In fighting [liberals] on this issue last week, I became like them.” So Limbaugh has not only failed to issue an apology that didn’t simultaneously serve as a swipe, but also to acknowledge his own dishonesty regarding contraception itself. And the fact that his “sincere” apology came not during his three days of withering comments, but only after advertisers started fleeing, calls into question how genuinely remorseful he feels.

Still, all of that begs a question: How profusely can he apologize if the very concept of apologizing is contrary to his brand? Is he the rare case in which an unequivocal apology could actually hurt him more than a half-hearted apology?

AOL is one of the many advertisers that dropped Limbaugh's program this week

I’ve listened to Mr. Limbaugh on and off for 20 years (usually when I’m on a long drive in a rental car on company business). How many times has he railed against liberal apologists who apologize for our nation’s policies or actions? How many times has he sneered at a politician who backed down and apologized instead of fighting defiantly?

As a result, he stuck himself between a rock and a hard place. On one side, he has angry advertisers who are fleeing his show and demanding a stronger apology. On the other side, he has an audience that expects defiance instead of even a whiff of remorse. And that’s preventing him from going as far with an apology as most crisis counselors – including myself – would advise.

In the end, I suspect Limbaugh will survive this episode, a bit worse for the wear. But hopefully it sends a message to other talk show hosts that this type of misogynistic language comes at a hefty price.

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

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

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