Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, And Unanswered Questions

Hillary vs. Carly, Presidential Showdown

Hillary vs. Carly, Presidential Showdown

On the Sunday CNN talk show State of the Union, Clinton said matter-of-factly, “Look, we are still living with a double standard. I know it. Every woman I know knows it.”

Two situations transpired over the last week that bear examination. They involve the only women running for President. Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina was knocked off the stage of the Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 6. ABC News, who ran the event, had already eliminated the undercard (where candidates were rapidly dwindling). Using three prerequisites for inclusion (finishing in the top three in the Iowa caucus, the top six nationally, or the top six in Hew Hampshire polls), Fiorina found herself out of the picture — despite Carson and Cruz suggesting to the network that she be included.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) put together a petition to ABC underscoring, “Fiorina received a higher percentage of votes than Governors Chris Christie and John Kasich in Monday’s Iowa Caucus” and “the same number of delegates in Iowa as Governors Kasich and Jeb Bush, and more delegates than Governor Christie.” Fiorina, unwilling to take no for an answer, wrote a letter to the RNC on February 3, stating, “There are only 8 candidates left. It’s time for the RNC to demand that media executives step aside and let voters hear from all of us.”

Regardless of my personal feelings about Fiorina as a candidate, it was wrong to exclude her from Saturday night’s debate. Would they have done that to a male candidate?

Fiorina has never felt uncomfortable about speaking plainly. I have listened to her interviews and talking points, and invariably top quotes include, “We have to take back the country” (either from the government or the media) or, “Climate change is not the most pressing security issue.” (I guess she missed the military report titled, The Accelerating Risks of Climate Change.) Fiorina has relentlessly — and incorrectly — leveled claims against Planned Parenthood with the rejoinder, “I will not be rendered silent.” She has railed against Obamacare, which has given coverage to so many who who were previously uninsured, and she adamantly opposes abortion rights except in the cases of incest, rape, or if the mother’s life is in danger.

Every time I have heard Fiorina, there was a definitive mean-spirited tone emanating from her. Yet, pundits rarely took exception to her delivery.

On February 3, a story erupted when the talking heads on Morning Joe parsed the way Clinton delivers her message at various gatherings. Immediately, the conversation went viral. There was reaction on Twitter, which was then parlayed into several articles reiterating the overlap between sexism and public speaking. Are men called “shrill?” Does anyone suggest that they are “shouting?”

Hillary can be extremely modulated, especially in one-on-one conversations and in Town Halls, where the format is more relaxed. And yes, there were times during the three-way debates that she seemed to get rather loud. I noticed it, the same way that I take stock of how Donald Trump handles himself onstage. Was it a throw back to the Eleanor Clift methodology on The McLaughlin Group, where she felt she had to raise her voice to be heard? (Clift was famous for saying at a high decibel level to her male co-panelists, “Excuse me. Excuse me. I’m still talking.”)

So what does it all mean for women candidates, past, present, and future? (I won’t even include Sarah Palin in this discourse because she has become more of a performance artist, as evidenced in her slam poetry endorsement of Trump). I do wonder why Fiorina was able to get away with delivering her points of view in ways that often struck me as spiteful, condescending, or harsh to the ears. I didn’t attribute it to her gender. Rather, I don’t find her terribly sympathetic.

Is it something about Clinton that creates a knee-jerk reaction in people (Think of the 2007 comment by Tucker Carlson: “She scares me. I cross my legs every time she talks.") Why are responses to her so gendered?

On the Sunday CNN talk show State of the Union, Clinton said matter-of-factly, “Look, we are still living with a double standard. I know it. Every woman I know knows it.”

If Clinton gets the nomination, it’s something we are going to have to get a handle on. People still reference women running for office as “female politicians.” If we don’t get over that, we’re going nowhere.


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