Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has found herself the focus of media fixation as the press wrings its collective hands over the “what can Republicans do about Hillary” question. I wasn’t aware we were still stuck on this theme, but it’s a common one inside the beltway when politicos get bored. As the storyline goes, criticizing Hillary Clinton – assuming she goes on to run for president – is somehow dangerous ground if a Republican man does it because he might be seen as a sexist, a misogynist or whichever “ist” accusation you might care to hurl his way.
Enter Fiorina. According to this somewhat insulting analysis, she’s the safe candidate to go after Clinton because of her alternate biological plumbing.
As the only Republican woman seriously looking at a run, Fiorina, who was also an important surrogate for the McCain campaign in 2008, has been touted as the only GOP challenger who can go after Clinton on gender issues.
“Ms. Fiorina alone can present herself as a natural foil without the added risk of being labeled a sexist man,” the New York Times wrote on Friday.
The strategy, the National Journal wrote, is “winning her friends, as Fiorina assumes an attack role that many Republican strategists think male GOP candidates need to avoid.”
That immediately caught my attention because I couldn’t imagine what sort of dangerous attacks Fiorina was making on Hillary which no man could dare utter. Was she going after her choice in pants suits? Commenting on Clinton’s haircut? Pondering how should could possibly wear pearls with that top?
“I mean, she talked about Secret Service [agents] guarding the server: The concern is not that the server will be physically stolen,” Fiorina told The Insiders with a laugh on Sunday. “The concern is the server will be hacked.”…
“Hillary Clinton clearly doesn’t understand that leadership requires transparency,” she said.
I’m not sure which is more offensive here… the idea that Fiorina is somehow taking “unfair” advantage of her gender to go after Clinton or the assumption that male candidates should somehow not be able to voice the same criticisms out of fear of being lumped into the “war on women.” The comments Carly made were reasoned and logical, focusing on only some of the many faults which Hillary exhibits. There is no particular white female privilege on display. And just for the record, there have been plenty of men saying the same things.
Haven’t we reached the point yet where anyone of any gender can question the record or policy positions of political rivals without the assumption that they must “hate” all [insert demographic of choice here] because they are a terrible person? And if any male Republicans fall for that trap, then the media has essentially won the battle and we may as well all go home. If you find somebody out there saying that Hillary is unelectable because she needs to be at home making sandwiches for Bill… fine. Burn them in effigy on the National Mall. But as long as we’re talking about the official record of a public servant or their stated policy positions, game on. And it doesn’t matter if you happen to have a Y chromosome or not.