The Washington Post

No, asking questions about a candidate’s age and health isn’t a proxy for sexism. Just ask Bob Dole.

Bringing up a candidate’s age is a proxy for raising questions about health. And vice versa. But is either a proxy for sexism?

The new flap over Karl Rove’s comments about Hillary Clinton’s 2012 head injury is certain to stir that debate. Already, there has been a rumble over whether talking about her age is sexist.

I disagree. Not to raise the issue is sexist, given how many men have faced it, and the fact that Clinton would be the second oldest president ever elected if she won in 2016. 

Dole greets Sen. Edward Kennedy on Capitol Hill in March 2009. As senators, they long sat on opposite sides of the aisle.

I think back to 1996. My then-employer, Time Magazine, was working on a story headlined “Is Dole Too Old For The Job?” and I was sent into the interview with a specific request from my editors. They told me to make sure I found out whether the 72-year-old Senate majority leader dyed his hair. His aides, understandably, were furious. But Dole disarmed the question (and me) without missing a beat.

Dole used a rinse on those preternaturally dark locks, he acknowledged. Then he added: “But I never touch my eyebrows.”

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

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