Benghazi hasn’t quite stuck, scandal-wise, despite endless Congressional hearings. The Guantanamo Taliban-for-Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap happened after she left office, so there’s not really any traction there, either.
So Republicans, desperate to strangle Hillary Clinton’s nascent 2016 presidential ambitions by any and all means necessary, including fake scandals and innuendo, are attacking her cover picture on People magazine – before it hits the newsstands today.
On Wednesday, People released excerpts of the story, along with the cover photo – Clinton’s 16th with that rag since she and then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton rose to prominence in the mid-1990s. The photo shows Clinton standing poolside, smiling, looking rested and ready to hit the trail to promote her upcoming memoir.
The publicity editors at People had barely hit the “send” button on the package, however, when right-wing muckraker Matt Drudge suggested that the photo had been cleverly cropped to avoid showing Clinton’s hands resting on a walker, the kind seniors often use to help them get around.
Before you could say “47 percenters,” the Republican noise machine had kicked into high gear, luring the mainstream media to play along. By the end of the day, conservatives on Twitter were in high dudgeon, in turn compelling the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and even the New York Times to weigh in: was it a walker or wasn’t it?
No, answered People, releasing a full-length edit of the photo. Clinton was grasping the back of a patio chair, probably because a photographer told her to, looking for a less static pose. It’s an old technique, said one veteran White House photographer.
Case closed. For now.
Despite the many pixels wasted on this non-story, we shouldn’t be surprised. Republicans are nothing if not predictable, hypocritical and always scandal-consistent.
Karl Rove telegraphed this line of attack on Clinton a few weeks ago, and we’ll probably see it again by the time the 2016 campaign rolls around in earnest. Questioning Clinton’s age and fitness for office, meanwhile, plays into the general theme of do-as-I-say Republicanism.
Their 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was about 65 when he ran against President Obama and, if he had served two terms, would have celebrated his 73rd birthday in office. If John McCain had defeated Obama in 2008, he would have been around 72 on the first day of his first term; currently, at age 77, he’s the ninth-oldest person in the Senate (five of the remaining nine are Republicans).
And President Ronald Reagan, the ironic patron saint of modern conservatives, holds the record as the oldest man ever to inhabit the Oval Office. The Gipper himself was about 69 years old on his first Inauguration Day, and around 77 when he handed the keys to his successor, George H.W. Bush – who, in his late 60s, was no spring chicken when he took the oath of office in 1989.
So brace yourselves for more is-Hillary-too-old stories in the coming months. After all, when it comes to Republicans, it’s hard to teach old attack dogs new tricks.