WASHINGTON — There are few happier events than becoming a grandmother, and almost none that says quite so loudly “over the hill.”
Ageism mixed with sexism is a toxic brew, but somehow tolerated. It’s a often-used joke, but not a funny one, that women age in dog years, which means that no male candidate will ever be as old as Hillary is now at 462.
The issue of age has come up with male candidates for years (and most are men). In 2008, a Gallup poll found that 23 percent of Americans believed that John McCain’s age — he would be 72 on Inauguration Day 2009 — would make him a less effective president and not the best man for the job. In response, McCain lowered the median age of the ticket to 58 by choosing Sarah Palin, 44, as his running mate.
Ronald Reagan turned his age into a laughing matter (he was almost 70 on Inauguration Day 1981), batting back a question with a quip about not using his opponent’s youth and inexperience against him.
Ageism and sexism are safe, if unfair, lines of attack for the party.
Among its potential candidates are two fresh-faced wacko birds — McCain’s description, not mine — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, 51, the pouty, curly-haired elf, who calls himself part of the Facebook Generation; and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a 42-year-old with the chiseled features of a hawk. Then there’s Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who looks even younger than his 43 years, and the boyish Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, 44. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie looks his age (51), but probably not for long. The camera adds 10 years and 10 pounds to a physique that doesn’t need it. He didn’t have his stomach stapled just for health reasons.
Hillary has weighed in on what being a woman adds to the rigors of campaigning. Hair (gray is distinguished on men; on women, not so much), makeup and averting wardrobe malfunctions require rising at least an hour earlier than a male candidate. Just last week, she remarked that the scrutiny of public life can be “dehumanizing and isolating.” She hasn’t seen anything yet.