With a stable of potential presidential candidates that includes the likes of Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan in 2016, it's no wonder Republicans are desperate to distract Americans from their regressive, ultra right-wing agenda. But to pick on potential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton because of her age? That goes beyond desperation and plunges head-first into offensiveness, discrimination and just plain stupidity.
That is where Republicans seem to be careening, however, as evidenced by a front-page story in the New York Times that noted many in the GOP want to slap the "has-been" (thinly-veiled code for "old") label on Clinton. Former George W. Bush staffer Pete Seat put it more succintly in a Politico op-ed piece headlined thusly: "Hillary Clinton is too old to be president."
While Seat's piece tries to make a generational argument against Clinton and vice president Joe Biden -- that Baby Boomers' time has passed and it is time for fresh blood to take the
mantle of leadership -- he offers no substance to back up his claims. The best Seat can do is say that if Clinton or Biden are the Democratic nominee, "... Republicans could easily tag either Democrat as a purveyor of deficits and debt, an architect of of decline and defender of the status quo, while the fresh-faced Republican nominee is touted as the leader of a party full of new ideas."
New ideas? In the Republican Party? Like what, exactly? Repealing Obamacare? Deporting immigrant children who were born in this country? Cutting taxes for the largest corporations and wealthiest individuals? Restricting women's reproductive rights? Discriminating against citizens based on sexual preference? Yes sir, those certainly are "fresh-faced" new ideas.
Even the basis of using Clinton's age against her is, in 2013, turning the clock back to the 1950s. Or maybe the 1850s. This nation long ago stopped looking at older Americans as people who needed to be put out to pasture. Aging Americans have never been more active, more healthy, more involved and more valued for their wisdom and experience. More of us are working into are late 60s and 70s not only for financial reasons, but because they want to remain productive and healthy. There is no longer a belief that an aging person's "time has passed" and that they need to retire.
And it's not like Clinton will be old by today's standards (if there is a standard) if she chooses to run and wins the presidency. Clinton will be 69 years old on Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017. She'd be, of course, 73 when her first term ended. If she ran a second time and won, she'd be 77 when she ceded the presidency on Inauguration Day 2021.
So, millions of Baby Boomers who vote, the Republican Party says people in their 70s are too old to do important jobs. Apparently the GOP wants to lose the elderly demographic in future elections, like they lost the women's vote and the minority vote in 2012.
The GOP's bashing of Clinton's age is only slightly hypocritical, too. The modern president (if 30 years ago is "modern") who Republicans hold in highest esteem is none other than our oldest president, Ronald Reagan. The Gipper was just shy of his 70th birthday when he was first elected president in 1984 and was 78 when he left office in 1989. It is a timeline almost the same what Clinton's would be.
So on one hand Republicans want to put Reagan on Mount Rushmore for being what they deem the greatest president of the 20th Century and they continually wax nostalgic how America needs to return to Reagan values (again, more fresh, forward-thinking ideas), yet they're trying to brand Clinton as being washed-up. You'd think somebody in a conservative think-tank somewhere would've said, "Hey, wait a second ...."
Don't forget, either, that the GOP's nominee in 2008 was John McCain. The U.S. Senator was 72 at the time. Would he have been too old, had he won the Oval Office?
Republicans would be smart to challenge Clinton's policies, history, ideals and everything else that is important to the American electorate. But to deride her because of her age? It is a strategy that is stupid, desperate and destined to fail.
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)