Democrats are not worried about Republicans attacking Hillary Clinton because she's old, because she's also a woman. And that's not because women, on average, die later. If Clinton runs for president in 2016, she'll be the first female nominee of either party, so the age thing won't matter, because "women of all ages will absolutely be inspired by that," former Obama campaign aide Stephanie Cutter tells Politico's Maggie Haberman. "I don’t recommend that be the totality of her message or platform, but there’s no way to hide that fact and it certainly shouldn’t be discounted." But in quote after quote assuring Clinton will be immune from such attacks, Democrats point to the female thing, and not much else.
If being a woman trumps age, does it trump everything else? Women's empowerment was a big part of Clinton's record as Secretary of State. Last year in Reuters magazine [PDF link; page 36], Susan Glasser (then of Foreign Policy, now of Politico) reported that the burning question in the "international affairs set" was, What has Clinton actually done? She focused on practical women's issues (like promoting inexpensive cooking stoves that don't produce toxic fumes). When she left office, The New Yorker's George Packer wrote that "Clinton was denied the chance to be a truly great Secretary of State—another George C. Marshall or Dean Acheson—by both history and the President she served." Foreign policy was made in the White House. The cooking stove-type stuff "sometimes derided as soft, and marginal to real foreign policy, but Clinton—who is, after all, a politician—knew that she would have to be seen listening in order to help regain the world’s respect," Packer writes. And Clinton has made being female the focal point of her post-State Department persona. She's given lots of speeches at woman-themed events, like the Women in the World conference, where she said fighting for women's rights is "unfinished business." She honored female leaders at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, where she talked about ending domestic violence. She has a sassy Twitter bio noting she's a "pantsuit aficionado."
Clinton didn't lose the 2008 Democratic primary just because people were more excited about the potential first black president than the potential first female one. Another factor was her support of the Iraq war and the memories of the last time a Clinton was in the White House. By the time she declared her candidacy in 2007, she said she wanted to bring the war to "the right end." But her track record as Secretary of State shows she is still more likely to favor interventions. Clinton argued for the 2009 Afghanistan surge; she pushed for air strikes in Libya; she wanted to arm Syrian rebels last year. Clinton and Democrats can make a strong case for those ideas, as long as they're willing to talk about more than the fact that she has two X chromosomes.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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