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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 18, 2014

 
Grandma Clinton

by digby

Some of the more startling insults I read about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign weren't sexist, surprisingly. They were ageist. ("Yuck. Her neck looks like a folded quilt." "She's the Joan of Arc of the dry pussy demographic." ) And no those weren't from right wingers.  Which is not to say that the right didn't join in the fun.  Rush Limbaugh was very concerned for her:
[M]en aging makes them look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished. Sadly, it's not that way for women, and they will tell you. (interruption) Well, Snerdley, you're just sitting there thinking I'm on the precipice of the cliff here without a bungee cord. I'm not. I am trying to be... Look, if I'm on the edge of the bungee cord, then I'll take the leap. The bungee cord will save me. I'm just giving an honest assessment here of American culture. Look at all of the evidence. I mean, I've just barely scratched the surface with some of the evidence, and so: Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she's getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.
It's accompanied on his website with a hideous picture of Clinton, naturally.

So now, Chelsea Clinton has announced that she's pregnant and what's the first thing people are doing? They're calling Hillary "Grandma Clinton" and launching into a big discussion of whether she can be a grandmother and a candidate at the same time. Apparently, they're serious about this:

In the Christian Science Monitor, writer Linda Feldmann quickly went all out, musing, “How, if at all, might the news affect whether Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016?… Perhaps it’s sexist even to ask the question – how will a grandchild affect her decision – but until she announces either way, it will be out there…. As anyone who’s had children knows, there’s often nothing like the bond between mother and daughter when the first grandbaby is on the way. If we had to guess, we’d say that Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she’s about to be a grandmother.”

But the Wall Street Journal helpfully surmised that “Mrs. Clinton’s status as a new grandmother could prove helpful, softening the image of a veteran politician who is often seen through a partisan lens.” Politico mused, “The armchair thinking goes, having a grandchild may make the Iowa State Fair a less appealing place to spend the summer of 2015. Why beg donors for money at dozens of events a month when there’s a happy baby to spend time with in New York?” but speculated, “In the vernacular of cable television, becoming a grandmother can only ‘humanize’ Clinton, who has long been critiqued for her aloof demeanor and rigid personal discipline.”

Washington Monthly, meanwhile, declared “Nana for President,” and observed, “Becoming a grandmother offers another particular advantage: it will give her the space to create a new public image. One that is softer. Cuddlier. More relatable. More real. And that’s exactly what Hillary needs.”

I suppose she could ask some of the other presidential candidates who were grandparents at the time for some advice about how to handle this. There have been a boatload of them. But we know that being a "grandmother" as opposed to a "grandfather" is a very different thing, don't we? Rush explained why that is for you in gruesome detail.

Obviously, it's absurd to think that Chelsea being pregnant or Hillary being a grandmother will impact her job as candidate or president. I think everyone will be functioning as they normally do. But the subtext in all this chatter about "Grandma Clinton's" new status and how it will affect her campaign is just a more polite version of those ageist insults from 2008 --- she's an old hag who is too unpleasant to look at to be president. And yes, it's sexist as well. Was there even one story in 2012 about Mitt Romney's vast horde of grandchildren? Actually, there were passing mentions of them. I don't recall anyone wondering if old Mitt might need to spend so much time with his grandkids that he wouldn't have time for the presidency, though.

I realize that Chelsea has been in the public eye for 20 years and so it's of interest that she's pregnant. But there is no need for anything beyond a simple congratulations to Hillary Clinton since it  has no bearing on her ability or desire to run for president. It's ridiculous on its face. But it does give a bunch of commentators a hook with which to characterize her as an old woman past her prime. And that's both ageist and sexist, that special sweet spot in American life reserved for all of us women who manage to get to the other side of 50. Just ask Rush. He explains it very well.


Update: John Amato surveyed the fever swamps and found out that the right thinks this whole thing is a liberal plot. Of course it is.


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