President Obama talked at length about Hillary Clinton’s challenges on the campaign trail and her qualifications for becoming the next president in an interview released today from POLITICO.
While speaking with Glenn Thrush from the magazine’s “Off Message” podcast, Obama remarked that Clinton has been unfairly scrutinized throughout her political career, most notably since she first ran for president against Obama in the 2008 election. He specifically says that additional expectations are projected onto her as a woman, and that the media disproportionately calls her out as being “tough” in her public persona in comparison to her male competitors:
I’ll always remember the sheer strength, determination, endurance, stick-to-it-ness, never-give-up attitude that Hillary had during those primaries…she had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels. She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done…She had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did…
Obama also noted that even though Clinton has a stronger background in working at the federal level than any of her male components, he is concerned that her overly prudent approach in decision-making could be a drawback in her performance:
[L]ike any candidate, her strengths can be her weaknesses. Her strengths, which are the fact that she’s extraordinarily experienced – and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out – sometimes could make her more cautious and her campaign more prose than poetry…It means that she can govern and she can start here, [on] day one, more experienced than any non-vice president has ever been who aspires to this office.
The president spoke minimally of the other Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. This is probably because Obama says he is less concerned about the dynamic between Clinton and her Democratic components and is more concerned about the race between Democrats versus the Republicans. This year’s election has seen a crop of unusual and arguably extreme conservatives like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz who have garnered surprisingly large, enthusiastic contingencies during the campaign.
Obama maintains that it is more important to him that a Democrat succeed him as president instead of a female candidate—despite his support and seemingly biased standpoint towards Clinton’s campaign. He says that he is proud of the way that today’s Democratic frontrunners embody the party’s ideals of diversity. However, he is still wary of the competition waged by Republicans in a political climate that he describes as “meaner” and “more polarized” since he first joined office.
[A]ny voter is going to have to pay attention is the degree to which the Republican rhetoric and Republican vision has moved not just to the right but has moved to a place that is unrecognizable…
[M]y hope — not just for me or the Democratic Party but for the Republican Party and for America – is that this is an expression of frustration, anger that folks like Trump and, to some degree, Cruz are exploiting. It’s real within the Republican Party and the Republican base, but that after this venting, Republican voters will settle down and say, “Who do we want actually sitting behind the desk, making decisions that are critical to our future?”