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Clinton's Attacks On Trump's Temperament Mark A Kind Of Role Reversal


Here's something about Hillary Clinton's campaign. She is seeking to be the first woman president. And in her campaign, she's using a kind of role reversal. She is building a case that Donald Trump is, quote, "temperamentally unfit to be president," which is a case that used to be made against women running for office. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There's an old stereotype about women in politics, one that was articulated by a man named Marc Rudov back in 2008 on the Fox News Channel in an interview with Bill O'Reilly.


BILL O'REILLY: You get a woman in the Oval Office, most powerful person in the world, what's the downside?

MARC RUDOV: You mean, besides the PMS and the moodswings, right?

KEITH: Moments later, he said he was joking. But for women in politics, questions or jokes about temperament are familiar. Take Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee and the first woman on a major party ticket. Here's a clip of Ferraro from a documentary about her run called "Paving The Way."


GERALDINE FERRARO: I'm capable of leveling with of the American public. I'm capable of dealing, again, the hard things I'm willing to do, even if they're politically...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And if you weren't a woman, do you think you'd have been selected?

FERRARO: I don't know if I were not a woman, if I would be judged in the same way in my candidacy, whether or not I'd be asked questions like, you know, are you strong enough to push the button?

KEITH: In September 1987, Democratic Congresswoman Pat Schroeder ended her short run for president with a sun-swept speech to supporters in Denver, Colo.


PAT SCHROEDER: We're going to go on to help this great city, this great state and this great country. The House of Representatives, the people's body.

KEITH: Schroeder got out a tissue. She leaned on her husband who encouraged her to take a moment. She soldiered on.

SCHROEDER: I choked for a few minutes and shed a few tears. And, oh, my goodness, the end of the world happened. I mean, people were like that's it. That's it. We can never have women. They're just so emotional.

KEITH: Schroeder is good humored about it now. But back then, she started a file, keeping track of every time a man in politics or sports cried and it didn't cause an uproar. Now she watches Hillary Clinton campaign against Donald Trump with some delight as Clinton attempts to flip the script on the idea of the unbalanced, hysterical woman.


HILLARY CLINTON: Do you really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander-in-chief?


KEITH: In almost every speech, Clinton delivers some variation on this attack line. This was her at the Democratic convention.


CLINTON: A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

KEITH: And Clinton isn't the only one hammering home this idea. Here are Leon Panetta, Doug Elmets and Michael Bloomberg all speaking at the convention.


LEON PANETTA: In an unstable world, we cannot afford unstable leadership.

KEITH: A spokeswoman for Donald Trump says his temperament is, quote, "phenomenal." Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton casts herself as the candidate with a steady hand. And you won't find anyone happier about this role reversal than Pat Schroeder.

SCHROEDER: Temperamentally unfit doesn't just fit for women. You just watch him and think - can you imagine if Hillary stood up and gave the same kind of speech where she spent 90 percent of the time defending herself against anyone who said anything about her? People would say what is the matter with her?

KEITH: The question is whether the stereotype of the hysterical female candidate is being put to rest in 2016 or whether it's just this particular race and these particular candidates. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.