Sunday, April 19, 2015

When Nonsense Becomes News

When Hillary Clinton announced last week that she would seek the Presidency, it was trumpeted by the major news outlets as “breaking news” even though she had been honing a campaign for months.

Indeed, she had announced her plans to launch her campaign via social media several days earlier.

As one colleague mentioned with just a soupcon of sarcasm, “Wow. Who saw that coming?”

You can blame this overreaction on the media, whose practitioners are so hungry for the red meat of a Presidential campaign that almost any event takes on epic dimensions and nonsense becomes news.


While driving to Iowa with aides and Secret Service agents in tow, Clinton stopped at a Chipotle restaurant for lunch where, it was reported, she was largely unrecognized.

The New York Times breathlessly reported that the order included a Blackberry Izze drink and that Mrs. Clinton carried her own tray. ABC told us that she ordered a chicken burrito bowl (with guacamole).

A Times column informed us that, according to Chipotle’s nutritional calculator, her lunch checked in at 840 calories, 11.5 grams of saturated fat and 1,720 milligrams of sodium. Mrs. Clinton’s order, the Times said, was healthier than the average American’s order, with significantly fewer calories, saturated fat and sodium than most orders have.

The Politico website disclosed that Clinton didn’t leave a tip.

Fox News host Andrea Tantaros suggested that Clinton visited the Mexican restaurant chain in an effort to appeal to Hispanic voters. No tienes ni un pelo de tonta.

Not to be outdone, CNN speculated that one of the biggest obstacles Clinton has to overcome is the perception that she represents the past.

What better way to shed that outdated 1990s stigma, they concluded, than appearing a hip restaurant of today like Chipotle?

And for true political junkies, Business Insider reported that President Barack Obama has also been known to frequent Chipotle, where he once caused a minor flap by leaning over the sneeze guard.

Can the Republicans close the Burrito Gap?  Stay tuned.

Not content to pick through the leftovers of Clinton’s lunch, some pundits are busy weighing in on issues that are remarkable in their insignificance.

Among them is Peggy Drexler who argues in a CNN opinion piece that the press is demeaning Clinton by referring to her solely by her first name.

“Since the news broke last weekend that Hillary Clinton had declared her candidacy, notable among the blitz of news stories are the many that refer to her as the mononymous "Hillary," as if she were a pop star in a pantsuit,” she writes.

Singled out for Drexler’s wrath are the New York Post and the TMZ website, both of which would rank in the bottom 10 of credible journalism entities. The Post is a sleazy Rupert Murdoch tabloid while TMZ is a paparazzi-fueled scandal monger, focusing on the foibles of the show biz set.

I read numerous news stories in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune and this paper, none of which referred to Clinton solely by her first name.

That doesn’t stop Drexler who writes, “Whether she endorses the idea or not, calling Clinton by her first name serves to, at best, reinforce gender and workplace stereotypes -- that women need to be "approachable," not abrasive or aloof, in order to get the job done and be liked while doing it -- and at worst, infantilize and put her in her place.”

Which would be a powerful argument if it was supported by facts. It isn’t.

Then there is Dr. Julie Holland who writes in Time magazine that Clinton is the right person for the job because she is post-menopausal. As if anyone asked.

“The long phase of perimenopause is marked by seismic spikes and troughs of estrogen levels, which can last for more than a decade in many women. But afterward, there is a hormonal ebbing that creates a moment of great possibility.

“As a psychiatrist,” she writes, “I will tell you the most interesting thing about menopause is what happens after. A woman emerging from the transition of perimenopause blossoms. It is a time for redefining and refining what it is she wants to accomplish in her third act. And it happens to be excellent timing for the job Clinton is likely to seek. Biologically speaking, postmenopausal women are ideal candidates for leadership. They are primed to handle stress well, and there is, of course, no more stressful job than the presidency.”

All well and good but gender, age and Clinton’s hormone levels will not be an issue in this election. Any Republican nominee playing the gender card would run the risk of alienating 50 per cent of the country’s population; asking if she still suffers from hot flashes would be as like speculating on the size of Jeb Bush’s prostate.

Talking about age would be hypocritical. Clinton is 67.  Ronald Regan was 69 when elected. Bob Dole was 73 when he ran and John McCain was 72.

So far, Clinton has been the focus of this silliness. When the Republicans hit the road, it could rise to a new level.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

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