Attacking Hillary Clinton's age - that's the GOP strategy?

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to 350 attendees of the Women in Public Service Project's Institute 2013: Peacebuilding and Development.
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to 350 attendees of the Women in Public Service Project's Institute 2013: Peacebuilding and Development. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 15, 2013

Hillary Clinton, you may have heard, is old. Like Methuselah old.

At least this is what Republican leaders claim.

In 2016, when America will be forced to endure another presidential campaign, she will be 69.

"Don't tell me Democrats are the party of the future," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, "when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the Golden Girls."

He was speaking of Clinton and Vice President Biden, though mostly Clinton, given the "girl" thing.

McConnell is 71, her elder, but apparently not too golden for majority leader.

GOP strategist Karl Rove said of Clinton: "The idea that we're at the end of her generation and that it's time for another to step forward is certainly going to be compelling."

Rove is of her generation that is coming to an end, though he does not seem compelled to step back and let someone younger lean in.

The Republican leadership had no problem with age when Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and John McCain ran for president. And Barack Obama wasn't experienced enough.

Yet, they have a problem with older women, specifically Hillary Clinton, who has a wealth of experience. And now real wealth, earning as much as $200,000 an appearance. Many voters - not all female - think that, after 44 male presidencies and a couple of centuries, it might be time for a female president.

Being female isn't enough to be a credible candidate. Consider Sarah Palin, whose gender may be her principal asset.

At Clinton's Bryn Mawr College visit last week to speak about female leadership, the former first lady didn't look old. She looked great, rested, happy. One might argue, ready. She is scheduled to return to Philadelphia in September to accept the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal. I've had female readers call and ask how they can get tickets. To many voters, she is a rock star.

If the Republicans' strategy is to go after Clinton's age - and not the stronger argument about Clinton fatigue - they will fail.

Because you know who loves older women?

Women. Also plenty of smart men.

We love older women because we can learn from their experience, wisdom, style, and grace. The French, where Catherine Deneuve remains an icon, surely understand.

We love older women as surrogate mothers and aunts, and from the joy that comes from intergenerational friendships. And we love them because, as future older women, we desire the same respect and affection, and hope not to be discarded and ignored simply because of our age.

Politicians are taking a page out of the Hollywood playbook. The movie business, run largely by arrested-boy-moguls, views older women as having roughly the same shelf life as fruit. (Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren appear to have been granted the rare get-out-of-nursing-home exemption.) Boy-moguls cast women they would like to date - and who, if they weren't boy-moguls, would never date them.

I've heard the sports-radio crowd trashing Clinton as over the hill in ways they would never denigrate her husband - especially given his enduring appeal with younger women - or veteran male athletes.

Clinton leads in current presidential polls, even against Gov. Christie. Then again, nobody's voting for president now.

But the "Hillary is old" business is already old. Also stupid. Women vote more than men. Older people vote far more than the young. And the baby boom - her generation that Rove believes we're at the end of - is huge. We're here. We vote. Get used to it.


Contact Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @kheller. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.inquirer.com/blinq.

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