Donald Trump on Thursday mocked the idea of Hillary Clinton leading the armed forces, suggesting it was laughable that she would ever be a capable commander in chief.
“When I look at these great admirals and these great generals and these great medal of honor recipients behind me ― to think of her being their boss? I don’t think so,” Trump said at a rally in Selma, North Carolina.
Trump’s incredulity that Clinton could be a suitable military leader is rooted in a long history of men doubting that female politicians could cut it on national security.
Former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), who explored a run for president in 1987, has talked about how women have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to being commander in chief because there’s never been a female secretary of defense, and female roles in the military have traditionally been restricted.
“We say president of the United States, commander in chief, leader of the free world. ... There is some notion that women don’t know anything about defense,” Schroeder said last year. “But if you’re a male, you just instantly do ― even though people forget even [former Vice President Dick] Cheney had five draft deferments and never served. But he was considered perfectly adequate for defense secretary.”
Trump also had five deferments.
When Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman on a major party’s ticket in 1984, she faced scrutiny that she was tough enough to be commander in chief.
Journalist Marvin Kalb asked Ferraro on “Meet the Press” whether she could “push the nuclear button” if she had to.
“I can do whatever is necessary in order to protect the security of this country,” Ferraro replied.
Kalb then asked whether she was selected as Democrat Walter Mondale’s running mate because of her gender.
“That’s a double-edged sword, so that — I don’t know. I don’t know, if I were not a woman, if I would be judged in the same way on my candidacy, whether or not I would be asked questions like, ‘Are you strong enough to push the button?’ or that type,” Ferraro replied.
And when Margaret Chase Smith competed in the 1940 GOP congressional primary in Maine, one of her opponents argued that the situation at the time ― war in Europe ― was too important to trust to a woman. He said “a flick of the wrist and a smile won’t do it.”
Clinton has a long list of retired admirals and generals who have endorsed her, and presumably would have no problem with her being their boss.
The Clinton campaign did not return a request for comment.
Sam Stein contributed reporting.