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GOP candidate’s debate: live blog

Alright, do we want to live blog this thing?  What is more fascinating?  The stupid things the candidates say or the audience reaction to the stupid things the candidates say?

GoodHair Perry is supposed to be the frontrunner.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either but then, their side of the aisle exists in a parallel universe.  Let’s listen in, shall we?

Have at it.

Obama and women: Two views

What’s up with the lefty blogosphere women?  They should be all over Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, and yet, whooosh, it’s like a giant empty space where the commentary should be.  Are they uncomfortable?  Embarrassed?  Can’t quite believe it?  If they’re going to continue to prop up guy culture, they ought to ask themselves, what’s in it for them?

There are two new points of view about presidential politics and women in the news today.  One of them gets it, the other is puzzling in its apparent cluelessness.

First up, the Washington Post nails the problem.  Maybe it’s proximity or experience.  I have to say that this kind of behavior is not limited to politics where men are used to being aggressive.  It pops up wherever there is a surplus of guys in a workspace.  Here are the money quotes from White House remains a man’s world, some say (note the qualifier lest the ladies get in trouble for complaining):

To win with your idea, you need to make an argument, in front of the decision-maker. You need to be heard.

Also, you need to be seen.

And that is what matters in this flap over the White House being a “hostile work environment” for women in the first years of the Obama administration, as communications adviser and political pro Anita Dunn describes it in a new book about the president’s term.


But are we still having this conversation? About women struggling for a seat at the table?

Well, yes. “And having to articulate that you need a seat at the table!” says Jennifer Lawless, who directs the Women and Politics Institute at American University. It’s a numbers problem — 83 percent of the members of Congress are men, which puts the United States in 90th place among the world’s legislatures, for all you politics workers obsessed with scorekeeping.

“So you can play a pivotal role,” Lawless says, “but first you have to earn that role and then articulate that role, before you can raise your voice.”

You have to develop work-arounds, say women who have gone through the revolving door of government and academia and the private sector, to learn that there’s a fake meeting and a real meeting, and to make sure that you get to the real meeting, the one they might be having while you are dropping off your kid at school.

Elaine Kamarck recalls having to fight for inclusion as the vice presidential adviser for reinventing government in the Clinton White House, and “after about 10 times where my issues were discussed in the senior staff meeting, without me somehow being considered a necessary person to be present, I complained enough to [White House Chief of Staff Leon] Panetta until he let me in.”

Seating, meetings and e-mail loops are everything. Because power in Washington is proximity to the principal, “There can be an aspect of bullying to male-female relations,” Kamarck says.

Because? “White Houses tend to attract people with really, really strong wills, and they tend to attract men who think their ideas are right,” and the good manager, as Panetta was, she says, keeps them in line. “They get all tough and macho, and they can try to roll you.”

But if they don’t pinch your butt, you haven’t got a case.  In my humble opinion, women can definitely compete in this environment iff they aren’t penalized for adapting to it.  Unfortunately, a woman who tries to assert herself is labeled “abrasive”, “not a team player” or a “bitch”.  Then they have to be “coached” so they know what to say to whom so they don’t come off as too aggressive or too passive.  Somehow, the women are forced to navigate this field of eggshells without irritating men who have to work with them.  It never works.  If a group doesn’t have to accomodate you, it won’t.  If men find that they can exploit the working environment to take advantage of opportunities that women don’t have, they will.  It’s the same thing with corporate regulation.  If you let corporations get away with murder, they’ll murder.

That’s why it is so important that managers hold everyone accountable for their actions, collaboration and productivity.  Hey, it’s up to the managers if they want to get anything out of the women they hire.  If it starts looking like the females in your group aren’t as much in the know as the guys and their productivity isn’t as stellar so they continue to end up in the junior staff level year after year, maybe, you should look into the situation.  If you’re not going to take their expertise seriously and let them fend for themselves in a hostile, unchecked working environment, you might as well just hire all guys.  No, really.  Don’t waste your time with women if you don’t bother to find out if the environment they’re in is presenting obstacles to their productivity.

The second post comes from Rep. Carolyn Maloney in Huffington Post, who seems to have gotten all Emily Litella and is discussing another issue altogether.  I have to say that I’m disappointed in Maloney because she defends Obama’s record on women by citing examples that have nothing to do with the issues addressed in Suskind’s book.  Maloney says that Obama is committed to mothers breastfeeding and mothers’ concern for good nutrition and childhood obesity.  Huh?  Is this the same Carolyn who wrote about the 30% Solution in Rumors of Our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated?  Curbing childhood obesity and getting a break to pump your breasts are pretty easy problems to solve compared to getting your share of recognition and responsibility at work.  And in that area, Obama has clearly shown himself to be decifient who seems to be insensitive to the way guys in his White House have muscled their female colleagues out of the way.  Come on, Carolyn, women are more than mothers.  Maybe it would help if you read the book first to know what the problems were.  Anita Dunn and Christina Romer are not commenting on their inability to meet their parental responsibilities at work.

I realize that a lot of Democrats are invested in Obama and don’t want to admit that he’s been less than a feminist so as not to scare off the womens’ vote in 2012.  But they’d be doing all women in all walks of life a huge favor if they confronted the issue head on and demanded a full investigation of the data.  Without that investigation and exposing the underlying hidden power structure for the country to see in all its ugly detail, we will continue to sweep the problem under the rug and perpetuate the problem in politics and throughout business.

Reading this book has convinced me that Obama is not a feminist.  Just because he appointed Hillary Clinton to State (hardly the first female in that position) and two women to the Supreme Court (we’re still underrepresented there.  After all, we are 51% of the population.  So, one or two more justices should do it.), doesn’t mean he is aware of the inequities of the workplace or is laying down the law there so that men are accountable for their behavior.  If anything, Suskind’s book reinforces the sense that Obama lives very much in a guy’s world and that world mentored and financed him for reasons that seem inexplicable to me.  Unless, that is, he is the physical and mental epitome of guyness that other guys instantly relate to.  And since guys usually have the power and the money, Hillary Clinton never had a chance once Obama came on the scene.  It’s hard to believe that the four years of a weak Obama administration may be attributed to the fact that Hillary was not a guy but, sadly, I think that’s the conclusion I’m coming to.  I thought it might be policy or intelligence or personality or something we just didn’t know about.  But no.  It might just be as simple as her inability to project a certain kind of cool masculinity to the wealthy, aggressive powerbrokers.  Obama’s comfortable with the guy thing and has no intention of rocking the boat, because it is working so well for him.  So, we shouldn’t be surprised that his White House is hostile to women who have to work there.  After all, they’re probably thinking they were hired because of their experience, intelligence and hard work.  And look where that got Hillary.  How could they know that they didn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi?

Suskind’s fawning prose that intends to illustrate how “brilliant” Obama is as a politician and speaker is probably the weakest part of the book.  Those sections go on at length and really needed an editor.  But I am giving him a chance to make his argument.  I keep waiting for the brilliance to illuminate me but, sadly, it just doesn’t. After Suskind quotes some passage of one of Obama’s speeches that I am supposed to find inspirational and stirring, I think, “That’s it?  That’s all there is?  Hang on a minute, let me rewind this thing.  Ok, {{listen, listen}}, no, I just don’t get it.”  Clearly, I am missing that gene (probably on the Y chromosome) that will allow me to appreciate Obama for the amazing orator that he is.  His campaign staff should take that into consideration.  His Obamaessence just doesn’t resonate with some of us. Some of us are unreasonable sticklers for results.

Or maybe we should re-evaluate our impressions of Obama based on the evidence, not on some intangible quality that can only be detected by people who want to be just like him.   Maybe he’s just a guy who got carried into the White House on the shoulders of other guys and is unaware of how he is inflicting guyness on his female staff to their detriment.  Maybe he’s not anything special and people like Suskind should stop trying so hard to convince us that he is.   And this guy is no feminist.