Hillary’s Experience

A few months ago, I was talking to a New Hampshire voter trying to decide between Edwards and Obama. “So you’re not considering Hillary, huh?” I asked. “Yeah,” she replied, “I hate that she claims to have experience. I wouldn’t want a brain surgeon’s wife operating on me.”
Pat Healy’s front-pager in the New York Times today elaborates on this sentiment. Short version: while Hillary did visit a lot of countries, she wasn’t making policy, or even influencing it in a meaningful way. And without this experience, Hillary’s time in public office is far closer to that of Obama or Edwards than Dodd or Biden; indeed, Obama’s been in public office a good four years longer than her. And if that’s the case, her “experience” argument – which is now her closing argument – is pretty much bunk.
But no matter. Kay Steiger says pointing this out is just plain sexist:

after reading the article, there was something left unsaid: Hillary Clinton has great experience for a woman. There are few women as qualified as Hillary Clinton for a candidacy. There’s a smattering of female governors, a mere 16 female senators (two of whom were elected in 2006 midterm elections), and a handful of high-ranking and high-profile secretaries. There just aren’t a lot of “qualified” women to pull candidates from. And, as Hendrik Hertzberg said a while back, most women tend to sail into office on the coattails of their deceased or retired husbands.

And after all, Bill Clinton had nothing to do with Hillary’s election to the senate, or success in this election. Steiger goes on:

I’m not saying that Clinton’s experience as a first lady qualifies her to be a presidential candidate — there are plenty of legitimate reasons to pick on Clinton — but it does beg the question: If women are barely represented in high-level offices, how are they supposed to “qualify” themselves for a presidential run?

Um, perhaps by the same method every other presidential candidate does: by getting elected to the Senate, or the House, or as a Governor. Just because women aren’t represented equally in those positions doesn’t mean that they’re any less necessary for a successful presidency. And Steiger’s suggestion that female candidates be held to lower standards than male ones is extremely distasteful, and quite shocking to hear from a female writer.

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