Every Male Candidate Should Watch This Media Interview

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a possible 2016 presidential candidate, gave an interview to CNBC yesterday that may eliminate his chances of winning the Republican nomination before his campaign even gets under way. 

Much of the media coverage about the interview focused on Paul’s dangerous insistence that vaccines should remain voluntary because of “freedom.” But another part of the interview is the focus of this post. And every male presidential candidate—particularly the Republican nominee who will almost certainly be male and will almost certainly face Hillary Clinton—should watch it to avoid making the same mistake.

During his interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans, Paul “shushed” Ms. Evans, told her to be “quiet” and “calm down a bit,” and interrupted her before she could “get going” again. 

Rand Paul Shush

The questions Ms. Evans asked weren’t unusual—it was Paul who reacted peevishly and created a controversy where none existed. He had the right to refute premises he thought were incorrect, of course, but acted surprised by questions that could have been swatted away with ease.

The interview below is an edited “highlights” clip; you can watch the full exchange, which is worth watching, here.

But there’s another key issue here: Gender. That Mr. Paul is man and Ms. Evans is a woman changes the political calculus for interviews such as this one. Male politicians who are viewed as condescending to women often pay a political price for their dismissiveness, as the four examples below show. 

 

1. Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama (2008)

After winning the Iowa caucus, Senator Barack Obama was widely expected to win the pivotal New Hampshire primary and cruise to an easy nomination. But after taking a gratuitous swipe at Senator Clinton’s likeability in a debate held just days before the vote, female voters handed Ms. Clinton an unexpected victory, helping to extend her campaign for months.

 

2. Hillary Clinton vs. Rick Lazio (2000)

During a New York Senate debate, Republican candidate Rick Lazio approached Ms. Clinton’s lectern aggressively. He handed her a paper pledge to refuse any soft money to the campaign – but the move was widely seen as inappropriate and boorish. Mr. Lazio lost the once-close race by double digits.

 

3. Geraldine Ferraro vs. George H.W. Bush (1984)

During the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Bush took a patronizing tone with Rep. Ferraro when discussing foreign policy. Ms. Ferraro used her razor sharp tongue to let him know she didn’t appreciate it, earning her the applause of the audience and him the enmity of many opinion writers. In the end, it didn’t matter – Mr. Bush was part of a winning ticket that won 49 states.

 

4. Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren (2011)

Then-Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) fell into a predictable gender trap when he slammed Elizabeth Warren’s figure. As background, in 1982, Mr. Brown posed nude for Cosmopolitan Magazine. During a Democratic primary debate, Warren was asked how she paid for college, given that Mr. Brown stripped to pay his tuition.

“I kept my clothes on,” Ms. Warren quipped, to the delight of the audience.

During a radio interview shortly thereafter, Sen. Brown responded:

Hosts: “Have you officially responded to Elizabeth Warren’s comment about how she didn’t take her clothes off?”

Scott Brown, laughing: “Thank God.”

With that broadside, Mr. Brown stepped into a gender minefield that threatened to alienate many women voters. To be sure, Ms. Warren’s swipe was unnecessary and gratuitous—and the question itself was sophomoric. But regardless of whether or not Ms. Warren opened the door to Mr. Brown’s response (she did), the political price was paid almost solely by Mr. Brown.

Like the blog? Read the book! The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview is available in paperback, for Kindle, and iPad.