Hillary Clinton and the "Gender Card"

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

It's just under a year until the 2008 presidential election, and we figured what better time to juice up our Junkie segment. For the next 52 weeks, you'll get more players, more issues, and of course, more Rudin. Today, we'll also focus on this notion of a gender card. Hillary Clinton's campaign is being criticized for pulling the gender card, and argues that she was ganged up on in the last debate. So today, Libby Copeland came up with a new list of "The Rules" for female candidates, and the men running against them:

Is a woman candidate primarily a woman or a candidate? (Can't separate the two? Right! Advance to the next question.)

Can a guy ask her tough questions without being a jerk? Can she cry without seeming weak? And what happens when a feminist running a post-feminist campaign is described as "one strong woman" but tells voters "I'm your girl"? Are there rules for any of this?

Hillary Clinton is going back on some debate stage with all those men again next week.

Get used to it, people!

We're going to tell you what The Rules are.

We'll talk with Libby today, and take your calls on the gender card issue.

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If +we have canidates that play the "war hero card" and the "I'm a good ol' southern boy card" why can't a women play the gender card? If we expect a women to not use every resource she has then we are underestamating her.

Sent by Melody | 2:08 PM | 11-7-2007

I am simply amazed that you are even having this discussion about whether Mrs. Clinton was unfairly treated. She is entitled to the same treatment any front runner has historically endured. The Presidential election process is, in part, an opportunity for voters to personally witness candidates under a variety of situations. Should voters wait until a candidate is actually president to discover a president who cries and throws a fit when the European Union leaders "gang-up on the president or responds with depression because the Russian President will not return their telephone calls. If the front runner cannot take the heat, get out of the kitchen whether man, woman, something in-between or both.

Sent by Maurice Simmons | 2:20 PM | 11-7-2007

She played the gender card, but the real question is why she opposes have her "real record" on health care during her time as BC's health czar in the 1990's.

Sent by Ron | 2:22 PM | 11-7-2007

What effect, if any, did the most current democratic debate have in the democratic polls? Do it seem now the democratic nominee is less of a run away in Hillary's favor?

Sent by Mike | 2:23 PM | 11-7-2007

Yet another typically stupid NON-ISSUE dominating media "coverage" of the campaign. How about some rational, objective discussion of ALL the candidates' plans for dealing with any of the myriad of problems facing the country? You know, the sort of thing we should expect from NPR?
And how come a "political junkie" doesn't think it's even worth mentioning that a resolution calling for Cheney's impeachment has been referred to the House Judiciary committee (after the GOP killed the Dem "leadership"'s motion to table it)?

Sent by Brian Lupiani | 2:26 PM | 11-7-2007

Whether Hillary Clinton uses the gender card or not, other candidates can only lower themselves - and hurt their own campaigns - by attacking her on the basis of her gender. In that regard, her gender is an asset.

Sent by Nathan | 2:31 PM | 11-7-2007

Shame on Ken Rudin for calling legitimate criticism of HRC's equivocating "attacks." Using that term casts HRC as a victim of others when in fact she has done damage to herself. Labels and the way something is characterized affects perceptions and, unless he clearly states that he is opining, Ken should take care to keep it neutral in his descriptions of events.

Sent by Richard Nusbaum | 2:34 PM | 11-7-2007

It was just a way to raise money from parts of her base. End of story. Lets move on to substantive issues that this country faces. This is more "horse race" coverage.

Sent by Jason Warriner | 2:36 PM | 11-7-2007

Hilary playing the gender card? Let's flip it and consider maybe the "male" candidates are playing the gender card by making sure that the "gender card" is always front and center and not the issues.

Sent by Susan | 2:37 PM | 11-7-2007

As a President, Hillary should put the gender issue aside. No leader, Government, or organization will go "lightly" on her just because she happens to be a Woman. She will be the President of the United States - not just a woman. We don't need a strong Woman in the White House, we need a strong mind. If that mind happens to belong to a woman, it should not be an issue.

Sent by Kasem | 2:38 PM | 11-7-2007

Granted Talk of the Nation is your show, but I am shocked you are devoting your show to covering this. How about discussion of two issues that actually matter?
Number 1 - Impeachment proceedings against VP Cheney
Number 2 - Ron Paul raised $4.3M on Monday - a new record and a strong indication that he is for real.

Sent by Zack Fivenson | 2:39 PM | 11-7-2007

Ron Paul, a man the media will only refer to as "quirky", a "longshot", or "fringe candidate" breaks fundraising records.. and you guys focus your show around a NON-ISSUE?!? The media's front-runner is always under the attack in debates - this has nothing to do with Hillary's gender! History is being made here, with Ron Paul. Why not cover some real news??

Maybe Ron Paul's poll numbers are low because they're not very accurate. Maybe it's because the people who have heard of him really love his message, but the media is failing to do their jobs. I just thought NPR was supposed to be an objective media firm, unlike Fox News, etc.

Sent by David McBride | 2:41 PM | 11-7-2007

This such a dinosaur issue. Currently there are 11 presidents, prime ministers et al of their countries. Oh where is our role model template for all this dinosaur stuff that other civilized,industrialized, smart countries have long since overcame and are thinking and wondering of the U.S. "What is your problem?" They have to be observing us like we are some ignorant hillbillies from some good old boy land.

Sent by cheyanne | 2:42 PM | 11-7-2007

If George Bush could complain about Al Gore standing too close to him in a debate and "intimidating" him, then what's the problem with Hillary mentioning the same thing? At least she didn't go to her mother and have her speak about how she was being mistreated, as George B did...
In addition, maybe I'm old-fashioned but I still believe that males should display a little more decorum and respect when dealing with women.

Sent by John Langmaid | 2:43 PM | 11-7-2007

Yet another empty and vapid topic by NPR's political coverage. rather than cover real issues, you focus on the horse race of politiking. You are pathetic. Why don't you spend your air time discussing the merits and differences between their policies oh health care or the environment? I assume you don't know an damn thing about the issues, that's why. All you do is talk about poll results and campaign spin. It is sickening. You are pathetic. I am an NPR donor, and i am considering stoping my giving because you do shot a bad job covering politics.

Even the onion is more honest than you do:

Sent by Joe M. | 2:44 PM | 11-7-2007

Doesn't anyone remember the first-name candidacy of "Ike"? A few public figures, including males, are identified by first names.

Sent by Dick Middaugh | 2:44 PM | 11-7-2007

I am astounded that folks can assume that gender would not be used against Hilary Clinton. We live in a patriarchal society, evidenced by the fact that the first woman front-runner is making such a big deal. It is impossible to ignore the status quo.

Sent by Dani | 2:53 PM | 11-7-2007

Regarding Hillary Clinton,

YOu would understand why the republicans are against Hillary, or any strong candidate. After all, they certainly have made a mess of things and a good president would make them look even worse, if that's possible.

Sent by Judi Matuscak | 2:55 PM | 11-7-2007

My firm (KDPaine & Partners) has been tracking discussion of the candidates on YouTube that is related to New Hampshire (my home state) since January, and we haven't seen any indication so far that the gender card has been an issue. Most videos about Sen. Clinton tend to be clips from debates or speeches, and focus on the hard issues (climate change, the Iraq War, health care) not the gender issue. Perhaps mainstream media discussion of the "gender card" will actually create the issue for voters, especially younger voters, who might not otherwise have felt strongly about it. Anyone can read more about my efforts to measure social media on my blog http://kdpaine.blogs.com/. You can see the data for yourself at http://www.diydashboard.com, username: YouTube2008, password: vote.

Sent by Katie Paine | 3:11 PM | 11-7-2007

The gender card issue and the attacks on Hillary are just signs of weakness of Obama, Edwards and others. Unless I missed it, they did not offer any insightful opinion on Governor Spencer's proposal which, of course, is a real and difficult issue.

Sent by Lamine | 4:18 PM | 11-7-2007

God wants Hillary Clinton to be President of the USA, and He told her so thirty-five years ago. Ask Bubba, er uh, "Bill", he'll tell you all about it.

Sent by Bubba Nicholson | 4:54 PM | 11-7-2007

If George Busch would have goten a third of the scrutinity that Hillary Clinton have had we will not be in the mess we are right now. She has been questioned since she started to campain for President Clinton, and she will continue to be question. She is a woman and regardless of what anyone saids, we live in a white pratriarchal society and deep down don't believe a woman can run the country...because a woman is not smart enough.

Sent by Maria M Gomez | 8:52 PM | 11-7-2007

I think ALL candidates should play all of the cards they have. (We'll quickly see who isn't playing with a full deck!)

But, more to the point, most candidates are "Just 1 issue only, Please." Because they just don't understand the complex world we've backed ourselves into.

Free trade!(What do you mean my job moved to India?)
Cheap energy! (I going to drive my V10 SuperHummer two blocks to the QT)
Clean energy! (But, I don't want to see those whirling, spinning wind farm blades)

Politicans are "two-faced", and unwilling to commit, because we designed them that way (evolution reigns, even in Kansas, even in politics)

Sent by Harold | 11:50 AM | 11-8-2007

I think the lasting damage from the debate will be John Edwards' charge of "double talk". Unless Hillary Clinton is suddenly afflicted with an outbreak of candor she is incredibly vulnerable to this allegation and it may just stick to her as firmly as "flip flop" became attached to John Kerry. It has legs.

Sent by Lawrence Jones | 11:57 AM | 11-8-2007

As I listened to the program, I have to confess that playing the gender card by Hilary's staff (no doubt with her approval) actually made me question her capability to be president. What will happen in tough negotiations with Putin of Russia? What will happen when the G-8 gets together and takes aim at the US because our economy is one of the largest in the world? Will she try to get world-wide sympathy by saying that they were tough on her because she's female? International politics for a US President is often like being in a pack of wolves - there is constant testing and pushing to see who will be leader of the pack. She may get more testing as a woman to see if being a woman does make her weaker, and if she is not up to the pressure, she shouldn't be running for President. As noted by others, Marggie Thatcher held her own just fine in this environment, and never whined once.

Sent by Valerie | 1:06 PM | 11-8-2007

Hillary Clinton's campaign is all about the gender card. Her campaign slogan, "Help Make History" is a direct reference to the fact that electing a woman president would be historic, and therefore we should vote for her for president because she is a woman and it would "make history". Never mind whether or not she is the best PERSON for the job.

Sent by Marti Kennedy | 2:28 PM | 11-8-2007

This is a candidate who has claimed to be the toughest and the most able to stand up to the Republican attack machine, yet the first time she is seriously challenged she immediately breaks out the victim card.

It's debatable whether or not she played the "gender card," but it's not debatable that she played the victim card. And it's not debatable that she played it more strongly than any other candidate in recent history.

Every frontrunner at this point in the race gets 'piled on.' And usually they have occasion to mention it. But Hillary tried to take it a lot further than just mentioning it.

She tried to make it a campaign theme. It had a name and everything--"The Politics Of Pile On." There were talking points, fundraising emails, and even a youtube video.

The reason so many people feel she was playing the gender card is it's impossible to believe she could have thought she was going to get away with this... except for the fact that she's the only woman standing on that stage. THAT'S why she thought for a second that she could sneak this one past.

There's no problem with her talking about womans issues or about her experiences as a woman in America. Male candidates talk about their experiences, and we all are affected by our gender and by society's different treatment of us depending on our gender. And Hillary Clinton has talked about all those things and no-one has complained until now.

But this is NOT that. This time she played the victim card in order to excuse away a bad debate performance. And the only way she even thought she could get away with that is because she's a woman.

That's not going to work.

Sent by Mystylplx | 6:21 PM | 11-8-2007

Guess what? Hillary Clinton is the only candidate that has these 4 attributes (there are more but I forget): integrity, honor, patriotism, and compassion. I double dog dare you to find another candidate with these attributes. I got $35 in the bank that says you won't be able to find one.

Sent by Vote for Hillary Online | 9:39 PM | 11-8-2007

It should be an issue that she's a woman, because it challenges the American psyche that the figure behind the desk in the Oval Office is a male. We've gender-nutralized the professions of doctors, astronauts, executives, etc. We take for granted that at one time it was an issue for a woman to want to do what her intellect proved her capable of.

Let the issue of the gender of the Presidential candidate flare and burn now, let it extinguish itself, so that one day when another generation of young children are told to dream big dreams like being President of the United States of America, we can truly attest that it is because they all really CAN be President, not just the boys.

Sent by Becca | 6:41 PM | 11-11-2007