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SICK OF SEXISM: When Clinton’s sniffles show weakness

When a woman runs for president, political rules change.

“Dat blowhard hate her. Putting up with this world’s hate da way she does. She shouldn’t be senator; she should be president, mon,” said the Haitian taxi driver on the way to Miami International. He was huge, coal black and kind. His comment was a vague reply to a radio news spot about Rush Limbaugh bashing Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“President?” I asked. “Because she put up with Bill?”

“Because she smarter than him. And she tougher than any of them.” He paused and sighed with sadness. “See, even you won’t let her be president, mon.”

“Me?” I puzzled defensively.

“Da white man,” he said, “don’t understand.”

I paid the fare, left no tip, boarded the plane. Back then, I was pretty sure the cabbie was out of his mind. Of course, “back then” was 16 years ago, toward the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, during the early phases of Hillary Clinton’s successful 2000 campaign for Senate. 

Me? Not letting Hillary be president? I figured I would vote for Hillary—when she earned it. I just wasn’t about to anoint her queen of the free world on the word of a cabbie, or simply because she was First Lady, a skilled attorney and legal scholar, outspoken advocate for children’s rights, women’s rights, health care reform, and able to tolerate a few sticks and stones thrown by a radio talk-show host. 

Of course, when I look at it now, Y2K was only one year in decades of non-stop Hillary bashing by right-wing intellectuals, political leaders and pundits, and especially deplorable college drop-out entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. As I mused and fumed about the lifetime of “Stop Hillary Express” campaigns, my 20-something son dropped in. I mentioned I might write a few words about the sexism involved in the coverage of Mrs. Clinton’s recent bout with pneumonia. He quipped, “Dad, you liberals are all alike. Racism this. Sexism that. Is that all you think about?”

“C’mon!” I said, “Everyone knew Steph Curry was hurt the whole playoffs.”

“Don’t even!” he interrupted. “Not Steph. Use Serena or some other athlete. But remember, sports isn’t the same as politics. Athletes always say they can play unless they get carted off the field.”

“Why?” I asked. “Because they can’t afford to look weak, right?”

He nodded reluctantly.

“So what’s the difference between sports and politics, again?” I asked. “What happens to Hillary if she looks ‘weak’ even for a nanosecond?”

“This is more like ‘West Wing’’s Josiah Bartlett,” he countered. “He had MS and didn’t say anything. Hillary just Clintoned her pneumonia. Didn’t exactly lie, but…”

“The only reason catching a cold during the campaign is an issue is because she’s a woman,” I said. “If she was a dude, it’d be, ‘Dude’s playing through the pain. I’d follow that dude through the gates of hell!’”

My son shook his head. “Hillary’s not likable, not cool. A lot of my friends see her as an old intellectual, a geek with Bill baggage. Why do you think millennials voted for Obama over Hillary in the first place? Obama’s cool. And we’re sick of sexism.”

“But Hillary shot bin Laden!” I mock shouted. “You vote for the ‘cool’ dude that said, ‘I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose votes.’ I’m voting for the woman that pulled the trigger on bin Laden.”

“It would be deplorable to vote for that dude,” he smiled. “If a woman said the things he gets away with, they’d slap the B-word on her—or worse.”

He opened the refrigerator door. The light went on. I smiled. It’s good to see the light go, the younger generation starting to wake up to the subtleties of sexism and racism. If a woman said half of what flies out of the GOP nominee’s mouth, she would have been dismissed as a crazy “B” and disqualified long ago.

My Miami cab driver was right 16 years ago: Hillary Clinton is smarter and tougher than the rest. She has spent 40 years standing in the middle of town square, calmly absorbing “the world’s hate,” sticks and stones and anything that people can throw at her, with steadfastness if not “cool” stylishness. To question her stamina to endure sniffles says far more about the attitudes, insecurities and weak immune system of the person posing the question than it does about the candidate’s fitness for office.

“So,” I smiled. “We agree about Steph Curry’s awesomeness, and we’re both sick of sexism. What are you making Mom for dinner?”

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