Yesterday afternoon, a meme began circulating among far-right trolls on Twitter. Evidently, someone with way too much free time on his hands read my article about Erick Erickson's criticism of Hillary Clinton's age and, consequently, her alleged "stretched back" face, and then searched through my archives to 2008 when I wrote an article for The Huffington Post about Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) age.
Erickson himself picked up on the meme and posted an article in Red State today, though he failed to credit or acknowledge the meme at all and wrote a straight-up response to my Banter post. (Way to take credit for someone else's work, Erickson.)
On surface, and to the delight of nearsighted, kneejerk idiots on Twitter, it appeared as if I was caught red-handed. But anyone who actually listened to Erickson's criticism of Clinton on the Limbaugh show; anyone who actually read my response to Erickson here and anyone who read what I wrote six years ago knows I absolutely wasn't caught in any sort of gotcha! conundrum. Here's some of what Erickson wrote in Red State today:
It should not even be a debate. Yesterday, filling in for Rush Limbaugh, I noted that Hillary Clinton will be old by 2016. She will, in fact, be 69.
No, no. He didn't just say Clinton will be old in 2016, he said she'll be old and she'll look it. Specifically, Erickson said, "I don’t know how far back they can pull her face." In other words, Erickson's entire argument was based on the superficial appearance of old age. Nothing else. Not a word about the physical and mental rigors of the job, just that voters might be turned off by Clinton's face.
Back in 2008, some guy over at the Huffington Post attacked McCain for being a mentally incompetent senior citizen. Yes that was the guy’s argument. He claimed John McCain was too old and senile to be President. [...] Yesterday, that same guy declared me the worst person in the world for pointing out Hillary Clinton will be old.
That guy over at Huffington was me, of course. And, again, no, Erickson didn't just say Clinton will be old in 2016. His comments to a worldwide radio audience were in the context of criticizing the physical appearance of old age -- a fact he failed to address in his Red State post. On the other hand, my article about John McCain in 2008 was about McCain's age in the context of mental capacity for the job. In fact, I pivoted off a remark made by well-known Democratic apparatchik Brit Hume of the liberal cable news outfit Fox News Channel who said that McCain had a "senior moment."
From there (six years ago), I discussed how McCain had said Vladimir Putin was the president of Germany; how McCain couldn't recall the difference between Shi'ite and Sunnis in the context of Bin Laden and Iraq; how he needed a cue card to remind him of the price of milk; and, infamously, how he couldn't remember how many houses he owned.
What was Erickson's criticism of Clinton again? Oh yeah. Her face.
Now perhaps, caught up in the frenzy of the 2008 presidential election, I was a little too flippant. I've written thousands of articles and blog posts since 2004; some posts are better than others, and many of them I admittedly regret. While the snarky tone of what I wrote may have been regrettable in the long run, I don't apologize for the content. Then and now, it's my prerogative as a voter to know whether my president is capable of handling the job and, if there are signs he or she is slipping, we as voters are at liberty to discuss those signs.
Unlike Erickson's criticism of Clinton's apparently old-looking "stretched back" face, my Huffington article was at least about McCain's mental competence to handle the gig, and it contained numerous linked examples to justify those concerns. Not once did I ever criticize McCain's aged appearance. Why? Because it would've been unfair and trivial -- two ethical considerations that didn't prevent Erickson from going there with Clinton, and which haven't prevented other Republicans from going there with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who's the perpetual victim of old-face jokes.
That's not all. In my post about Erickson and Clinton yesterday, I was quite clear: "As long as she’s physically and mentally able to handle the job, who really cares how old she’ll be?" Back in 2008, I was clearly concerned about McCain on this front and cited numerous examples pointing to why.
I continued yesterday by discussing a very real double standard between men and women -- how women are unfairly held to a higher standard than men when it comes to age, appearance and weight. Erickson and his uncredited troll-source probably didn't bother to read this in my post:
Hillary’s appearance will surely become a thing because women in America aren’t allowed to look any older that 28 or any heavier than 110 lbs, and then when they succumb to pressure and have work done, they’re tormented for looking stretched and unnatural. (For what it’s worth, I honestly can’t tell if Hillary had any work done. She looks quite natural.)
I thought that was pretty clear, but in the final analysis it wasn't clear enough for Erickson. Ask a woman of age and she'll tell you that it's often easier for older men to be accepted for how they look than it is for older women. Ask any actress in Hollywood whether it's harder or easier for women to get work after 40. Likewise, I wonder how often older men in politics are criticized for their appearance versus older women. Maybe the troll who assembled that nearsighted meme about me can Google it, what with all of his copious spare time.
It's a sad, misogynistic reality, and Erickson still doesn't get it: a presidential candidate's mental capacity matters, her face does not.
But good job, Erickson. You stood on the shoulders of Twitter trolls (without crediting them), then misled your Red State readers about what you said on the radio regarding the condition of a 66-year-old woman's face. And yet I'm somehow the asshole.