So, what are the political ramifications of Hillary Clinton’s impending grandmotherhood?
No, seriously. Stop snorting.
New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin put it out there Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
In a segment about Clinton's approval ratings, roughly equal today to what they were when she first ran for president in 2007, "Morning Joe" panelists were discussing the role that immigration reform might play in the 2016 campaign when Sorkin abruptly changed the subject:
“Can we talk about the human drama that is Grandma Clinton?” he said, starting at 3:20 in the clip above. “I don’t want to be cynical--I am not suggesting anyone’s having a baby for election purposes, but I think this—no, no--I’m just saying.”
Sorkin evidently does not cover politics much, or he might have been wary of blundering into gender quicksand two weeks after Hillary Clinton made headlines at a women's conference in New York when she reiterated that the double standard facing women candidates is alive and well.
"Morning Joe" panelist and political reporter John Heilemann mocked Sorkin: “I’m not suggesting that, but I will say it on the air.”
Sorkin, in a defensive crouch that only got crouchier as the segment went on, protested: “What I will say on the air is, it’s going to change the dynamic of the campaign.”
“For who?” asked an incredulous Nicolle Wallace, a Bush White House veteran who worked for Sen. John McCain when he ran for president in 2008, and had a memorable, if unpleasant, turn as Sarah Palin’s chief handler.
“The point is,” Sorkin persisted, “an entire country is going to watch a family have a child…. I mean, this is a human drama. People are gonna get behind this, it’s gonna change the way people look at Hillary Clinton.”
Wallace, in disbelief: “Oh my God.”
Heilemann: “It’s not like Hillary Clinton is having another child.”
Sorkin: “I know Hillary Clinton is not having another child. There’s a softening, there’s a compassion thing. You don’t think that over the next two years on the campaign trail, this is gonna be part of the narrative? Come on. That’s interesting.”
(Is it really that interesting when a 66-year-old woman becomes a grandmother? I mean, when Palin was plucked out of the Alaska governor's mansion to become McCain's running mate, she had just had her fifth child--a special needs baby--and was about to become a grandmother for the first time, thanks to her pregnant, unwed teenage daughter. Now that was interesting.)
Wallace, noting that nobody much cared when George W. Bush became a grandfather last year: “Is it different because she’s a woman?”
Sorkin: “No, it’s not about her being a woman.”
Wallace: “Democrats in this country? I’m totally confused.”
Sorkin: “I think it’s different because the country is invested in this family…. I just think you are gonna see babies around the campaign.”
Wallace: “This is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard.”
Wallace: “Because people have children, people have grandchildren all the time, if you are treating this like the voters are going to have some ah-ha moment, it’s ridiculous.”
At that point, panelist Mike Barnicle, who had been looking on in amused horror, appeared to take pity on Sorkin: “So you feel pictures of Hillary Clinton holding her granddaughter or grandson softens her image?”
“Yeah, it just adds this whole element of compassion,” Sorkin said. “I don’t say it’s a bad thing. I just say it is what it is. To pretend that it’s not gonna happen is misguided.”
I'll tell you what's misguided: Thinking undecided voters will give anything more than a passing rip about the effect that becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary Clinton. Anyone concerned about her level of compassion has not been paying attention; she has devoted a huge chunk of her career to advancing the rights of women and children at home and abroad. You can knock her for a lot of things, but not for that.
Anyway, if having grandchildren conferred an image of compassion on a White House candidate, President Mitt Romney, who has occasionally lost track of how many grandchildren he has, would be rolling Easter eggs on the White House lawn right about now.