Grandmas Like Hillary, Except For That Benghazi Fiasco

Betsy Rothstein | Reporter

AKRON OHIOShirley Newman, 90, is pretty sure she’d vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But she’s not 100 percent sold. “The only thing I ever felt that was upsetting about her was that Benghazi situation,” she said. “Remember Benghazi? She didn’t act quick enough. I really think she’s highly capable, but that really bothered me. I felt that she needed to act on that quickly. That was horrible.”

Don’t get her wrong. Hillary would likely be her pick. “As for everything else, she’s so highly intelligent,” Newman continued. “And I like her. And I think she has a good rapport with everybody.”

Bring up Bill Clinton and forget about it — Newman is over the moon. “He’s the most charming person you ever want to meet,” she gushed. “I think he did a good job. I wonder what kind of job she’d give him. There’s no doubt she’d give him something. I know she met him at Yale and all that kind of stuff. She gets things done. That’s the one positive thing.”

Most of the northern Ohio women interviewed for this story likely want Hillary in the White House. But that’s the problem. They’re not fired up. They’ve got hesitations. Little ones. Big ones. And the worst part? Even with the cheating and impeachment, it’s still Bill who lights them up while Hillary feels like a lukewarm afterthought. Their attitude seems to be fine, we’ll take her. She’s smart and there’s no one else. Certainly for these women, no Republican in the pot of potential candidates touches her. At times, enthusiasm for Hillary among them spiked. It also waned. They know what they like about her. But explain this: why all the doubt?

At this point, Newman returns to Benghazi. It’s like she’s on repeat. She can’t seem to tear herself away from it: “When you think of the consequences of it…everyone was slaughtered. It was horrible. She just didn’t take care of it.”

Without prompting, she slips into talk of Sarah Palin. “When you think of Sarah Palin [LAUGH, LAUGH LAUGH] stupid, remember? I think she had sheer guts to be where she is. Obviously they’re [Republicans] not clued in to what’s going on. Don’t you remember all the different speeches she made and how stupid she was?”

But Hillary? Yeah, she’ll do. “Hillary, she always seems to be in good spirits.”

Sis Ames, 60, is even less sure of Hillary. “I would say she probably has a fair shot at it, but I think people are disenfranchised with Obama and I don’t know that it won’t go Republican this time.” Would she vote for her? “Yeah, I think so.” But no, it’s not a done deal.

Then there’s 85-year-old Lil Neiman, the precise kind of voter the Clinton camp wants in Hillary’s corner. “I would vote for her in a minute,” she said. “I think she’s got a lot of good common sense. I think she’s wrongly accused of things being blamed on her that are not her fault.”

And besides, says Neiman, who else is there? “I don’t see anyone warming up the bullpen that’s any better, unless some bright charging character stirs up between now and then, which I don’t anticipate.”

What about Bill back in the White House? “I think he could be a good adviser,” she said. “I don’t hold anything in his personal life against him.”

A descriptor that emerged repeatedly about Hillary is her intelligence. “Um, I think she’s very smart,” said Gail Schlossberg, 79. “I think she has a good presence about her. …I like her. I think she’s strong. I think she says what she believes and not what people direct her to say.”

But here, too, there are doubts. “I’m just not quite sure she’s the best leader for our country,” added Schlossberg, who rattles off areas of concern such as foreign policy, Israel and the economy. “I don’t know if she’s able to make things better in terms of the middle class. I think there will be two social classes, the rich and the poor.”

Schlossberg wants to see who the Republicans put up for the job. When asked if Hillary definitely has her vote, she replied, “No.”

The litany of concerns about Hillary continued with her age. As it happens, today Hillary turns 67. So Happy Birthday Hillary! But maybe skip the following section because it may be more of a birthday spanking than a gift.

“I am certainly a Democratic liberal,” assured Laura Lee Garfinkel, 78, sitting outside on a patio on a sunny, hot summer day. “However, I’m concerned about her age and I am put off by her trying to separate herself from Obama. I would love to have a woman be president. I would love a liberal to be president.”

Garfinkle brings up Hillary’s age a second time in a 15-minute time span. “I am concerned that because of her age and some of her separation from Obama, she wouldn’t have a chance.”

She’s also worried about those evil Republicans. “I am afraid of her chances against Rand Paul or some of the other possible Republican candidates,” she said. “I think there is, of course, going to be a typical swing against the Demcorats because they are outgoing and the problems that are happening. Oh God, some of those Republicans scare the devil out of me.”

But even with the doubts and her perceived age problem, Hillary is Garfinkle’s girl: “Undoubtedly. Unwavering. YES. I don’t have a good alternative for her.”

And then, a third reference to her age: “I know Reagan was older,” she said. “Off the cuff, I think maybe she should give herself time with her new grandchild.”

(Ouch! Spending time with her grandchild, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, instead of a presidential bid is a point that’s been raised before.)

Interrupting a Mahjong game to question women about Hillary running for president is no simple task. One must wait — “one bam, two dot, three crack” — until a hand is over. Even then, they want privacy in the kitchen so the others won’t hear.

Barbara Katz, 79, who some suspected might lean Republican, was surprisingly pro-Hillary. “I have a great deal of respect for her,” she said. “The party to me doesn’t matter. I think she could be tough. I think it might be refreshing. It would really be a rarity to have a woman in there.”

Asked about Bill back in the White House, she cracked, “Yeah, as long as he leaves Monica at home.”

More than Katz, it was fellow Mahj player Judy Friedman, 79, who has questions about Hillary as Commander-in-Chief.  “Absolutely, I do have mixed emotions,” she said.

Friedman uses words like “wonderful” and “intelligent” to describe her.

And yet…

“My reservation is I feel the Republicans have been totally uncooperative this year because they are prejudice against blacks and they will be equally prejudice against a woman and they will be uncooperative,” she said.

Friedman would be proud to have a woman in the White House. But adds, “It wouldn’t be the reason I voted for her.”

Debbie Rosen, 80, also at the Mahj game, said Hillary could easily handle the job. She called her a “very smart, bright woman.” She shrugs off any potential problem with Bill back in the White House, saying, “I have no problem with him being back in the White House at all. Cheating — it’s been going on since the beginning of time.”

Moving right along, Cheryl Cunningham, 64, definitely has Hillary’s back. “I like her. I think she is experienced and I think she has a lot to offer,” she said. “Obviously I don’t know her, but she seems like a strong lady. Don’t know if I’d put up with my husband cheating, but good for her.”

Asked if Hillary gets her vote, she says, yes, she’d vote for her over any Republican candidate: “Doesn’t sound like anyone too strong running.”

Laurie Rapport, 80, is also a huge Hillary fan, but, like Cunningham, mostly because of process of elimination–who else is there? “I’m thinking maybe it’s time to have a woman in office to put out all the fires that going on around the world,” she said. “So yes, I think it’s time for Hillary. I can’t tell you why. Because there’s no one else as experienced politically as she is at the moment. Right now I feel that she’s the only one — man or woman — qualified to lead us forward.”

Like many of the other grandmas, she sees strength in Hillary: “Yes, I think she stands up and squares her shoulders and speaks.”

Sally Ekus, 85, worked on Hillary’s presidential campaign in 2008. “Absolutely,” she said, when asked if she’d support her again. “I think she’s very very bright. I think she’s had a lot of experience in foreign policy. She’s a very strong woman. I’m impressed with her. …From what I have read and seen, I just feel…I listen to her and she’s smart. I think she would do very well with foreign policy. That’s the big thing that I feel about her. In fact, I’ll work on her campaign.”

Edna Sokol, 83, is also in the bag for Hillary: “Hooray!” she exclaimed when asked about the prospect of Hillary in the Oval Office. “I think it would be marvelous. I think she could meet all the requirements. I think she would be excellent. I think she has the know how. She’s been in politics for so long that she knows the ins and outs. I think she would be very good for America.”

Asked about Bill, Sokol laughs. “What can I say? Well, not much. I don’t mean it in an unkind way. I think she’s going to run the country and he will be a big help to her.”

More lackluster was Sokol’s twin sister, Edith Weinstein, 83: “I’d give it a try,” she said of Hillary.

Why so lukewarm? “Well, these days, and I say it with a little bit of regret, what you expect is not always what you get,” she said. “I’m thinking of Obama, I’m thinking of Bush, I’m thinking of Clinton. I would like to believe that if Hillary became president, that she’d be able, with the help of that sleepy Congress, to make decisions. It wouldn’t be difficult for me to vote for her.”

But she, too, isn’t entirely hot on her candidacy.

“By nature, I’m a Democrat,” said Weinstein. “On the other hand, I’d like to be able to think I could recognize what is good for the nation. At this point I have no understanding of who would emerge as a Republican. I’ve heard Jeb Bush, but I know nothing about him. Hillary would be my first thought.”

Sitting on her patio and intermittently disciplining her rambunctious dog, Toby, Fran Goldman, 83, offers her two cents on Hillary. Like nearly all the others, she’s not a slam dunk. But close.

“I have my doubts about Hillary, but I think I’d vote for her,” said Goldman. “I think she’s got a lot of things that are going to come up in debates. She’s going to have a terrible time with Benghazi. Naturally, she’s extremely bright. She’s a woman who can handle the men. I loved her in the questioning on Benghazi. I thought she was brilliant.”

Goldman stands apart from the others on one issue: Bill.

“Bill Clinton worries me,” she said. “I think the impression is going to be that he is running the White House. I hope I’m wrong. I think she has done exceptionally well keeping him in the background.”

But can he be faithful?

“Oh I think so,” she said. “More than anything, I think he wants her to be president.”

For Hillary’s sake, let’s hope Goldman can eventually rally the others.

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