How terrifying is it to the political establishment that a woman might actually have a clear shot to becoming the next president?
Enough that the parlor game of the moment in Washington is to start listing the Other Women – that is, the scary females ("scary" being a function of "female" in this case) who might end up challenging Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary. Or a Jell-o fight or mud wrestling match, to go by the absurd speculation in the media.
First, we have Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who for some reason is seen as Clinton’s dangerous threat from the left. Warren is a real rising star, to be sure, and arrived to the Senate with an already-elevated status, given her knowledge of financial regulation and consistent commitment to consumer rights and other liberal causes. She's not showy; she's smart and a solid workhorse –like the senator who pre-preceded her, Edward M. Kennedy. There’s nothing she has said or done to indicate she has her eye on the White House in 2016. Her former national finance chairman has told donors she is raising no cash for a 2016 run, which pretty much ends it there – you can’t run a presidential campaign without money. And Warren herself has told the Boston Globe "no, no, no no" in response to the question.
Ah, but even in politics, when a woman says no, some in the media think she means yes. We have The New Republic speculating about a possible Warren-Clinton showdown. And we have the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, always up for a woman-bashing column, talking about how a Warren presidency would be, in his mind, even worse than an Obama presidency. At least Cohen has the journalistic integrity to note parenthetically that Warren has expressed no interest in the job.
Then we have Caroline Kennedy, whom Post blogger Jennifer Rubin suggests might also be up for a run, noting Kennedy’s deft start to her new job as ambassador to Japan. That – plus the Kennedy name and experience watching family members in politics – seems to be the only justification for such random speculation. And it’s absurd on its face. Kennedy is indeed deeply committed to public service, but she is a somewhat shy person who does not enjoy being the center of attention. It’s one of the reasons she did not run for the Senate in New York. The idea that she could stomach the nonstop attention and scrutiny of a presidential run is nonsense. She is gracious and diplomatic, which makes her a perfect pick for an ambassadorship – not a presidential candidate.
So why the could-be columns? Part of it is the natural tendency in the media to find someone – anyone – to create a conflict or fight where there currently exists none. Clinton is the clear early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, should she decide to run. Vice President Joe Biden might give her a challenge, if he decides to run. But that’s not enough for the Clinton-wary, who want to diminish her potential candidacy by reducing it to some kind of brewing girlfight. Clinton with a clear path to the nomination is infuriating to this group, and a potential challenge from a man only gives credibility to her as a candidate. Ah, but present her future as one where she has to kick Warren or Kennedy with her kitten heels and scratch out their eyes to be the Democratic nominee – now that’s a storyline misogynist America finds appealing. Fortunately, the three women in question aren’t agreeing to those roles.