Some say Hillary Clinton was too “hawkish” in 2008. Some say she is too warm and fuzzy for 2016. What’s a girl got to do to convince voters she’s ready for the White House?
Hillary Rodham Clinton learned during her first presidential run that, at least until we elect the first female president, there is no getting around the gender issue. She tried to ignore it in 2008, and we all know how that ended. So she’s owning it for the 2016 campaign, but with the world situation, she has to find a way walk a line between a softer, kinder Hillary and the strong, determined commander in chief she tried to convince us she could be eight years ago.
Early on in her campaign, Clinton dialed back the so-called hawkish Hillary, but that’s now no longer an option for any presidential candidate. It is more difficult for Clinton, because she must find a way to thread the needle on these issues because her Republican opponents are on the lookout for any advantage, and that advantage just might be exploiting voters’ feelings on women, power and leadership.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a presidential candidate, has said in his criticism of Clinton’s plan that she doesn’t have the qualifications to be making this kind of commander-in-chief decision. (This ignores that her plan includes a diplomacy aspect missing from the plans of her opponents.)
While I don’t expect Graham to sing Clinton’s praises, he is on the record as having said she was more than qualified to be secretary of state. So one has to wonder — what other resume bullet point could there be that Clinton is missing that makes her unqualified (other than her political affiliation)? Was Graham’s comment a coded message that a woman, no matter her political pedigree, isn’t qualified to sit behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office and direct our military?
In suggesting that a woman who was a senator on the Armed Services Committee and a secretary of state is unqualified to form an agenda on dealing with global terrorism, how can we not ask whether the complaint is related to something other than actual experience?
We know that the question of whether voters are comfortable with seeing a female leader as strong enough on national security is legitimate. A Pew research poll earlier this year suggested that voters view women as better leaders on social issues and men as more suited to be in charge when it comes to the nation’s security. And a recent Vanderbilt University poll showed that people generally view women as poor leaders, but better assistants, and that men are who they envision more in leadership roles.
While a handful of voters in Iowa recently said they thought Clinton could “strike fear into the hearts of America’s adversaries” as much as they thought Donald Trump or possibly Ted Cruz could, that’s hardly a reliable sample to counter what seems like an underlying preference Americans have for a hard-charging Harrison Ford-type calling the global security shots.
Of course, all of Clinton’s opponents know they can’t come right out and directly suggest that estrogen is a disqualifying feature in a possible commander in chief. But it’s not a leap in this political “all bets are off” world to suggest that her rivals are willing to use that to their advantage in their own campaigns.
If it’s fair to slip in inferences that the presence of estrogen — or maybe more accurately, the absence of testosterone — might create national security issues for the nation in this tense time, then it’s only fair to start questioning whether the presence of testosterone in the person who commands our military makes it more likely for America to jump into a “boots on the ground” situation. Maybe that would make it easier for voters to see both the BFF Hillary, as well as the Harrison Ford in “Air Force One” version of a Clinton commander in chief.