By my count, Hillary Clinton’s name came up 32 times in last night’s debate for the Republican presidential candidates, and not surprisingly, none of the references were complimentary. At no point, however, did any of the GOP candidates question the former Secretary of State’s maturity or status as an adult.
If only President Obama were afforded the same courtesy. Here, for example, was Chris Christie on the president’s efforts to reduce gun violence:
“This guy is a petulant child. That’s what he is.”
And here was Ted Cruz on trade with China:
“Donald is right that China is running over President Obama like he is a child.”
The rhetoric rankles in part because we’ve heard it before. Rush Limbaugh has referred to Obama as “the little black man-child,” and compared him to “a little boy” that women voters “want to protect.” Sarah Palin sees the president as “an overgrown little boy.”
Obviously, Republicans are going to criticize the president’s every move, but is infantilizing rhetoric really necessary? Is “petulant child” really the best Christie can do?
As we talked about last year, the rhetoric is hard to understand on a factual level. Love the president or hate him, Obama tends to conduct himself with dignity and maturity.
Republicans held the last two Democratic presidents in contempt, too, but I don’t recall efforts to characterize Clinton and Carter as being less than an adult.