It’s the old feminist one in which women must be treated as equals – except when they’re criticized by males. When men criticize, that amounts to unfair picking on a woman, or “piling on” as the Clinton campaign puts it, or “ganging up” in the metaphor used by others. Naturally, Clinton supporters say she stood up to the attacks. And she did, but her responses were lame and evasive.
That Clinton took a beating in the debate had nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the fact that she’s the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Frontrunners are always attacked by the other candidates in the runup to actual voting in the primaries. If a male candidate were leading, he’d have faced a similar barrage. Just ask Howard Dean, the frontrunner four years ago.
Meanwhile, “Richilieu” (whom Ramesh thinks is Mike Murphy’s nom de cyber) rightly tags all of this as dangerously unpresidential. He also makes a similar point to one I’ve been making around here and he makes it very well. Hillary’s schtick is too reminiscent of the “old politics”:
Hillary’s real problem, both in the debate and across the campaign, is also her big problem; she’s a little too clever by half. Dodgy answers, parsing phrases, using gender to seek special treatment, transparently fake sincerity, multiple accents … it all adds up to a slippery ooze of intellectual dishonesty. That’s not at all uncommon in politics, to be fair, but somehow it’s even a little more off-putting from Ms. Clinton, who seems to wrap up her sophistry under a big bow of smugness.
In an election where the hunger for big political change is ravenous, it is Clinton’s tired and cynical style, not just the chronology of her career, that makes her the candidate of yesterday’s politics, not tomorrow’s. And that is poison. Watch Obama begin to climb.
Update: Howie Kurtz has more on Hillary’s image problem.