A recent article in The New York Times addressed the consequences of an American presidential race having a female front-runner for the first time in history, creating context for what was a considerable controversy when, in a Democratic debate last week, the other candidates “attacked” Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) for upwards of two hours.
During the Oct. 30 debate (video and accompanying transcript), the other Democratic candidates openly criticized Clinton in what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, called a Republican-style, Swift boat-like campaign, alluding to the smear campaign mounted by Swift boat veterans against 2004 presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Among the accusations were:
- That Clinton is flip-flopping on the issues, changing her position whenever it is convenient
- That she would not give clear, definite answers to questions posed during the debate, particularly on whether or not she supports giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in New York.
This criticism is leading some to cry sexism.
“John Edwards, specifically, as well as the press, would never attack Barack Obama for two hours the way they attacked her,” Geraldine A. Ferraro, a 1984 vice presidential candidate, told the Times. “It’s OK in this country to be sexist,” she said.
“It’s certainly not O.K. to be racist. I think if Barack Obama had been attacked for two hours — well, I don’t think Barack Obama would have been attacked for two hours.”
Clinton’s opponents and others, however, claim that she is using her sex as a shield to criticism in the tough world of politics.
“It’s outrageous to suggest that it’s sexist for the other candidates to ask her tough questions or criticize her,” said Kate Michelman, a women’s leader and an Edwards supporter. “To call it sexist is to play the gender card. Any claim of sexism is just a distraction from the fact that she did not do well in the debate,” she told the Times.
All this, of course, on the heels of another womanly controversy at a campaign event in July, when critics claimed Clinton showed too much skin, and the Washington Post published a story about Clinton’s “cleavage on display.”
My advice? Stick to the issues – like, say, health care.