October 26, 2009

Obama: "What Me Sexist?"

Hatched by Sachi

I read something in yesterday's New York Times that caused me to shed a tear -- in a laugh-out-loud kind of way: The Times story accuses Barak H. Obama of rampant sexism.

What? How? According to the story, B.O. surrounds himself with a pavillion of "testosterone-brimming personalities" and "fist-bumping young men who call each other 'dude'":

The suspicion flared in recent weeks -- and not for the first time -- after President Obama was criticized by women’s advocates and liberal bloggers for hosting a high-level basketball game with no female players.

Oh, come now (I hear you cry); you don't expect our president to play basket ball with women do you? But the Times builds its case; women, it says, are invisible in other areas as well, while key White House positions are mostly filled with men.

Yes, I know; the same objection occurred to me... what about Hillary? Valerie Jarrett? Antisemite Samantha Power? (All right, she's out; but she was there before.) What about Mickey Maoist Anita Dunn" (Yes, I know, she's leaving too.)

The Times does admit there are a few hens among the roosters; quoth senior advisor Jarrett:

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and six other cabinet-level officials; Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; the health care czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle; and the domestic policy adviser, Melody Barnes. According to figures provided by the administration, there is a 50-50 gender split among White House employees." [Sustained by a carefully administered formula: For every twenty senior policy makers (male), they make sure to hire twenty receptionists and secretaries (female). Fifty-fifty! -- DaH]

And we all know just how seriously the president treats Hillary Rodham Clinton, secretary of the Congo.

But the Times is not mollified. The highest profile positions are filled with men who "exude an unmistakable male vibe," the story says. So who are the "six other [female] cabinet-level officials" that Jarrett references?

  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
  • Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson
  • United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice
  • Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer

First, the secretaries of labor and HHS and the EPA director are all traditional "girly" positions; they have little policy-making role and are mostly trotted out for signing ceremonies or to appear on Sunday talk shows to soften the president's "good old boy" image.

The other four positions are traditionally more important; ordinarily, Secretary of State and Homeland Security, U.N. ambassador, and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors would all be major positions. But with the czars in Obama's eyes -- an Afghanistan czar, a border czar, a Central Region czar, an ecnomic czar, a Guantanamo closure czar, an intelligence czar, a manufacturing czar, a Mideast peace czar, a pay czar, a regulatory czar, a stimulus accountability czar, a Sudan czar, a TARP czar, a terrorism czar, an urban affairs czar, a weapons czar, and a WMD policy czar -- all of them males -- these four cabinet-level women have all been emasculated.

In fact, of all thirty-three known Obamic czars, only three -- 9% -- are women: Lynn Rosenthall, the domestic violence czar; Carol Browner, the energy and environment czar; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, health czar. All three are traditionally female positions. All the czars with actual policy-making power are males. So much for the "50-50 gender split!"

Where I work, the male to female ratio is about 9 to 1. It's hard for many men to understand, but sports-fan male bonding is very real. I suppose I could learn to like basketball and football, just to join the conversation; but I can't spend my free time watching guy sports when I have Dancing with the Stars to watch!

One Democratic media strategist says that while Mr. Obama does place women in important roles, his comfort level with staff members is not always perceived as equal.

“There is a sense that Obama has a certain jocular familiarity with the men that he doesn’t have with the women,” said Tracy Sefl, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign who speaks regularly to some female aides in the administration.

George W. Bush was very different; many of his most trusted policy advisors (not just political aids) were women, such as Karen Hughes; and when he put women into important roles like National Security Advisor or secretary of state, he not only didn't undercut them by handing their portfolios to (male) czars, he enhanced their power; think of Condoleezza Rice. Even Bill Clinton gave a tremendous policy role to Janet Reno, allowing her to initiate many investigations of her boss; randy Bill was less sexist than the post-partisan, post-modern, community organizer who sits in the White House today! (Clinton later spiked the investigations; but he would have done the same even if his Attorney General was a man.)

It's completely natural that men and women socialize separately; I certainly wouldn't want to hang around a bunch of men in a sports bar (or Hooters), even if I were single. But a workplace gathering is not the same as some friends getting together for a backyard barbeque. When was golfing with the boss a personal activity?

Like it or not, that such "socializing" between boss and employees is how connections and camaraderie are forged that result in promotions, juicy assignments, and presidential access:

One junior aide, who like the other women spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about appearing publicly critical, said that the “sports-fan thing at the White House” could become “annoying” and that her relative indifference to athletics could be mildly alienating. And while this is not uncommon in any workplace, sports bonding can afford a point of entree with the boss.

Ben Finkenbinder, a junior press aide and scratch golfer, was recently invited into a foursome with Mr. Obama. (In records kept by Mark Knoller of CBS, the president has played 23 rounds of golf since taking office, none of which have included women, though Mr. Knoller allows that the press office does not always release the names of every player. A White House spokesman, Bill Burton, said Friday that Mr. Obama planned to play this weekend with Ms. [Melody] Barnes.)

Obama is not the first athletic president. Geroge W. Bush was famous for jogging and later mountain biking. But he often invited women to join the entourage.

President Obama and the White House dismiss this charge; but realizing the perception of sexism can hurt him in the future, Obama decided to hold some high-powered events to balance out the pick-up basketball games with "the boys" (Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Robert Gibbs): Baking cookies and holding baby showers:

In the same week as the basketball game, Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, hosted a group of women reporters for an off-the-record meeting with Ms. Jarrett over chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies....

Ms. Dunn said that she recently hosted a baby shower for an administration official and that no men from the office were invited.

Oatmeal cookies and baby showers; some actual feminists might call that patronizing. But how could it be? Being liberal means never having to live by the rules you enforce on others.

How does our Ms. Dunn feel about being relegated to the girly events, where "no men" are invited -- including Barack Obama himself -- while "the boys" get direct access to the president?

She is comfortable with that -- just as she is fine with never playing basketball with the president.

“That is just part of the culture here that I am excluded from,” she said. “And I don’t care.”

Well we don't care much either; she's probably as terrible at shooting hoops as she is at picking favorite philosophers. While Obama's at it, he can exclude from the inner circle Hillary, Napolitano, Jarrett, and all those other female groupies who get the vapors at the sight of the One and hurl their unmentionables onto the stage... so long as he also excludes the weirdest, most radical, and most corrupt of "the boys," like Emanuel, and other males (tax cheat Timothy Geithner comes to mind).

Still it's illuminating to shine a spotlight on a dark corner of liberalism: that typically, at the highest levels of leftist circles, skirts need not apply.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 26, 2009, at the time of 5:56 PM

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