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The age of Hillary: Is it fair to question whether she’s too old to run?

 

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Is ‘House of Cards’ really popular?

Correction of the week: Drug lord edition

The age of Hillary: Is it fair to question whether she’s too old to run? 

Hillary Clinton has been on the national stage a long time, since her husband once touted their two-for-one candidacy and she declared she was not a stay-home-and-bake-cookies kind of wife.

I always assumed that her age would be a subliminal issue if she makes a second attempt to shatter the glass ceiling. But it’s now coming out of the closet, so to speak.

Mike Huckabee, the Fox News host who is weighing a second White House run, used an interview with Bill O’Reilly to float the issue. He isn’t sure Clinton will run, Huckabee said: “She’s going to be at an age where it’s going to be a challenge for her.”

It’s a fact that Clinton would turn 69 shortly before the 2016 election. And voters are entitled to consider any factors they want. But should the media raise the visibility of the age question?

Veteran handicapper Charlie Cook did just that in his National Journal column:

“The choice to run for president is effectively a nine-year commitment: one year to run, another four years if she wins a first term — finishing up that term at age 73 — and then, assuming she runs for reelection and wins, serving four more years to end a second term at 77 years of age. None of this is to say that the age issue could successfully be used against her. After all, Reagan won the presidency at the same age. But how many 67-year-olds make nine-year commitments, and what concerns have to be addressed if they do?”

Hillary would hardly be the first candidate to face such questions. As popular as Ronald Reagan was in 1984, he still had to fend off questions about his age after a meandering performance in the first debate ( leading to his second-debate joke about not exploiting Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience”).

John McCain faced similar questions in 2008, perhaps exacerbated by the wounds he sustained as a POW. The same goes for Bob Dole when he ran against Hillary’s husband in 1996.

In assessing Hillary, it’s practically obligatory to note that she traveled nearly a million miles as secretary of State. And age is inexorably linked to health: she did have an incident where she appeared to pass out and suffered a concussion, which caused a flap when she had to delay testifying on the Hill about Benghazi.

The former first lady dismissed Barbara Walters’ question about age concerns before that injury, in late 2012, saying she is thankful that she is “not only healthy but have incredible stamina and energy.”

Columnist Froma Harrop took issue with Cook’s assessment: “Both men and women face age discrimination, but it’s no secret that for women, ageism mixes easily with sexism. And obsessing over a woman’s year of birth is often a slightly more respectable substitute for the latter.”

I don’t think Cook was being sexist, but there is a point to consider here. There is in our society a much greater focus on women’s looks (especially in some businesses, such as, ah, television news.) Hillary — she of the ever-changing hairstyles — has to worry about wrinkles in a way that male candidates do not.

But perhaps Cook touched a nerve. In a followup column on whether Joe Biden is too old to run. he says: “The vast majority of the more than 4,200 comments that appeared on NationalJournal.com were anti-Clinton and among the most vitriolic that I have encountered in 28 years of column writing.” 

Biden would turn 74 two weeks after the election. But there is little chatter about his age because, in my view, most Democrats expect Hillary to be the nominee. That would change in a heartbeat if she doesn’t run, or in the unlikely event that the vice president challenges her.

If Clinton’s detractors aggressively push the age issue, it could backfire big time. But some of them are clearly trying to send another message: that whatever her chronological age, Hillary and her husband have been around forever and they are old news.

All of which gets defused if she winds up running against Jeb Bush.

Is ‘House of Cards’ really popular?

I raised the question on “Media Buzz” whether the Netflix series really has a big audience—or is simply the obsession of the media and political elite in Washington and New York.

Now the Atlantic reports that perhaps 2 to 3 million people watched the Kevin Spacey series on the opening weekend of its second series. Hard to compare video streaming to Nielsen numbers, “but it seems safe to say the average CBS program has at least twice as many viewers as ‘House of Cards.’…

“Popularity has become both easier to measure and harder to measure at the same time precisely because there are so many metrics. The most essayed-about show might be ‘Girls.’ The most tweeted-about show is, statistically, ‘Pretty Little Liars.’ The most talked-about, right now, is ‘House of Cards.’ But the most popular show (which is barely essayed-about, rarely tweeted-about, and hardly talked-about) is ‘NCIS,’ whose audience is literally as big as those three other shows—combined ... times two.

In a wonderful essay on this, our age of pluralist popularity, Adam Sternbergh wrote, ‘we’ve turned off Top 40 and loaded up Spotify; we’ve clicked away from NBC and fired up Netflix.’ Yes and no. ‘We’—Sternbergh, me, and everyone we know—might have clicked away from broadcast. But even stuck in what appears to be structural audience decline, CBS still pulls down ratings that make Netflix hits seem like quaint Acela-corridor niche series. The sliver of pop culture we've slid under the media microscope bears little relation to what's sampled by the rest of the country.”

What “House of Cards” has achieved is impressive, but the media coverage suggests that everyone is watching and talking about it. 

Correction of the week: Drug lord edition

From a Washington Post story on the capture of a Mexican drug kingpin:

“An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Joaquín Guzmán was found in bed with his secretary. He was found with his wife. This version has been corrected.” 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.