One would hardly think it to be by design, but it’s uncanny how much the hoof-in-mouth malady tends to afflict assorted frontline players in the GOP, leaving us to wonder whether sounding off on stuff with sure-fire boomerang potential is a practice to which party chieftains are just ineluctably drawn. We heard the other day, for instance, from the minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, as he took a swipe at Hillary Clinton and the incessant speculation about her running for president in 2016. Democrats couldn’t be the party of the future, he chortled, if they’re thinking of a candidate reminiscent of one of the “Golden Girls.” McConnell, alas, went for this laugh and attack line little thinking, evidently, of the “Sunshine Boys” his party has trotted out as presidential candidates in the recent past.
As stuck in a time warp on issues from A to Z as the GOP has been known to be, we can’t imagine McConnell being so devil-may-care reckless on the age thing to seriously suggest that with respect to Clinton it’s a deal breaker, but becomes a non-factor as applied to those long-in-the-tooth Republican specimens. Even a senator from Kentucky would want to avoid being caught in that chauvinistic trap, wouldn’t he?
If she is the Democratic candidate in 2016, Clinton would have turned 69 just before the election. But let’s review the GOP file. That most deified of Republican/conservative Oval Office stalwarts, Ronald Reagan (the guy who thought Barry Goldwater was manna from heaven for this country in 1964), was just weeks shy of his 70th birthday when he took the oath of office in 1981. John McCain, when he ran in 2008, was 72. Bob Dole, the GOP nominee for Bill Clinton’s second-term run, was 73 when he lost to Clinton in 1996. Given that track record, how does anyone on the GOP side summon the chutzpah to introduce age as a disqualifier for seekers of the presidency, fellow GOP confederates brazenly exempted?
If McConnell’s pot shot at the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is indicative of the best Republicans have in the way of ammunition, Clinton would seem to have not a great deal to worry about. Undeclared though she is as a 2016 candidate, she continues to poll well. Which, given her 2008 experience, is a position, should she be a candidate, she would presumably go into full preventive mode to avoid the strategic miscalculations of that campaign. Her opposition, though, if history is any guide, would be pretty much looking to follow that well-worn script yet again. The “Golden Girls” zinger from McConnell, without regard for the counter-punch possibilities it exposes, is straight out of the party’s playbook.
Dennis Hastert became speaker of the House in 1999 primarily because the man in line to replace a chastened Newt Gingrich for the speaker’s job was Louisiana’s Bob Livingston who, although setting himself up as one of Bill Clinton’s principal attackers over the Monica Lewinsky affair, was himself exposed as involved in peccadilloes of his own, causing his fall from grace. Years before, Reagan, prior to becoming president, was one of the early pied pipers for the “too much government” sound bite, before his administration engaged in spending that ballooned the deficit to unprecedented levels. It would be a huge surprise if the “do or die” battle to which Senate Democrats have committed, as of this writing, to amend the chamber’s rules particularly regarding the much abused filibuster, are indeed changed to reform this bastardization of the legislative process. Ready resort to the filibuster, overwhelmingly among Republicans, to sabotage legislation or bury presidential appointments has become a key contributor to the stasis for which modern-day Washington has shamefully become known. Here again, Republican behavior that would elicit from their folks cries of bloody murder if the shoe is on the other foot.
As for this early McConnell shot across Hillary Clinton’s bow – a shot that clearly doesn’t make it in the good-taste department – the GOP masterminds must determine whether the age-challenged smear looks to be their best ticket to nirvana. The Benghazi dance seems to have been reconfigured time and again without producing the “Aha” moment assorted inquisitors have sought. During her time as first lady, there were God only knows how many attempts to nail her on allegations of wrongdoing that, again, never amounted to anything. After all of that earlier fuss, anti-climatic though it all turned out to be, “Is that all you got?” would seem now a fitting reaction to this descent into age bashing as issue one.
Whenever she makes known her 2016 intentions, one imagines that Clinton would have come to her decision relying foremost on her own instincts and judgment and with due consideration given to the counsel of those in her trust. That she has the innate smarts for the job and has now acquired valuable experience that has only burnished her credentials, is beyond doubt. Typically, we would expect that Clinton would deftly deal with McConnell’s below-the-belt jab, having long displayed an ability to go toe-to-toe with the best of the gladiators in the political ring. The smart betting definitely says it would require a lot more than a “Golden Girls” taunt to throw Clinton off her game.