In the flood of reporting on the presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton, amid the e-mails, polling data, classified documents and position papers, no one seems to have noticed a medical miracle at the center of the campaign.
The candidate appears to be getting taller.
I’m excited. Americans of short stature, like me, can finally dream of someday reaching those upper shelves, looking good in the latest fashions and regaining the respect of our children long used to looking down on us.
I know this because I am the only journalist peculiar enough to have chronicled since 1988 the most important but least-covered issue in U.S. politics — the effect of height on electoral success. I have written about this every four years or so. This is my eighth article on the subject.
Height has had a huge effect on our politics. If we were an insect species in which adults are smaller than larvae, we shorter people might get more respect. But the data indicate strongly that if human voters have a chance to see candidates standing side by side, they tend to vote for the taller one. This has happened in 69 percent of presidential races of the television era, since 1948.
I used to be the only person writing about this. But lately several publications, perhaps influenced by my work, have begun to seek the same data. You can find their height reports all over the Internet.
They all say that Clinton is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
This is thrilling news.
When the then-senator first ran for president in 2008, she was only 5-foot-5. I got this official height report from the Clinton campaign and published it in my 2008 Style story “Is Voting a Measured Decision?,” in which I expressed disappointment that Clinton had been defeated in the primaries by the 6-foot-1 Barack Obama.
But I’ve had reason to hope that the ancient biases might be weakening. After all, the 2000 Supreme Court decision Bush v. Gore gave the presidency to the shorter man, 5-foot-11 George W. Bush. He went on in 2004 to beat John Kerry, five inches taller — the first person to overcome that much of a height disadvantage since 5-foot-7 William McKinley defeated 6-foot William Jennings Bryan in 1900. And while Obama beat his much shorter 2008 opponent John McCain (5-foot-9), he also triumphed over Mitt Romney, who was a full inch taller.
So the news these days is doubly good for Clinton: Not only is she campaigning in a new era of short acceptance, she is simultaneously closing the height gap with the remarkable new growth spurt reported by . . .
Now, who is that saying she’s 5-foot-7 again?
Well, U.S. News, Politico and Quora.com, and of course the venerable Newseveryday.com, and even my colleagues on The Washington Post political blogs . Most of these outlets, though, cite one or the other as the source of Clinton’s stature, if they cite anyone at all. Silent on the topic, however, is the Clinton 2016 campaign operation, which appears not to have shared her height recently with any reporters; nor did it respond to my queries.
Which means that the reigning authority on the subject of the Democratic front-runner’s height is that ever-present oracle in our lives: Google.
Ask the search engine for yourself — “how tall is Hillary Clinton?” or simply “hillary clinton height” — and Google will neither hesitate nor hedge by sending you to another Web site. Up pops its confident answer: 5’7’’.
The tech giant is understandably reluctant to share the secrets of how it divines such closely held data, though clearly it has special powers to tap into the hive mind of the greater Internet. So, more good news for Clinton: The world obviously perceives that she is 5-foot-7.
Even at her vaunted new height, Clinton has a significant disadvantage standing next to her leading challenger, Bernie Sanders, who his office says is 6 feet tall. Potential challenger Joe Biden is also 6 feet. Martin O’Malley is 6-foot-1. Lincoln Chafee is 5-foot-10. Jim Webb’s staff hasn’t replied to my e-mail asking about his height. Some candidates still fear the hidden power of the tape measure and want to keep this information to themselves.
Donald Trump and Jeb Bush both say they are 6-3, but Trump — let me break this to you gently — may be exaggerating. At the CNN debate, Bush looked taller. Several candidates said they were 5-foot-11: Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie. Ted Cruz and John Kasich look about that tall, but they, too, have kept their heights from me.
Other data to mull: Marco Rubio is 5-10; Carly Fiorina, 5-6 (boosted by heels, it seemed, at the debate); and Rand Paul, 5-8.
But who was this at the CNN early debate? George Pataki, quite simply the tallest man in the race at 6-foot-5, had been relegated to the kids’ table, unable to bring his mighty stature to bear in prime time. It made for an interesting picture, though, Pataki and Rick Santorum (6-foot-2) standing alongside Bobby Jindal (5-foot-10) and Lindsey Graham (5-foot-7).
Nearly all, though, look much taller than Clinton, and here is where I am obliged to say that no matter what the Google algorithms say, she may not actually have grown to 5-7. Such elevation at her age is, my research tells me, quite unusual. Some people who have had the privilege of standing near her recently tell me she seems closer to the 5-foot-5 I reported eight years ago.
I e-mailed Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill to check the 5-foot-7 reports. Has anyone stood the candidate up against a wall with her shoes off, as my wife and I do with our grandchildren, marked the top of her head and gotten out a tape measure? Her campaign this summer released a letter from her physician with the results of a recent physical; while attesting to her good health and fitness, it remained mum on the topic of height.
Hillary Clinton and I are about the same age. People like us usually shrink. I measured myself when I was recording the heights of my children and grandchildren, so I know I was 5-foot-5
Has Clinton defied that trend? I haven’t heard from her campaign yet. As a former senator and secretary of state, she deserves our respect, and she may feel this is a personal matter. But we height-challenged voters want to know — and see whether she has something we can use.