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White House vs Women: Joe Biden does it wrong

Gee, I hope the food was better than the conversation

Oooo, Joe Biden was on The View recently and discussed the allegations that surfaced in Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men about the problems senior staff women were having in the White House.  Ahem.  From what I can tell, Joe is trying to make it sound trivial or he’s in denial:

Vice President Joe Biden today disputed the controversial characterizations of the Obama White House author Ron Suskind made in his new book,”Confidence Men,” as a bastion of sexism that was insulated from a diversity of opinions.

“I don’t know who they’re talking about,” Biden said of former White House aides who reportedly told Suskind that the administration fostered a hostile work environment for women. “Obviously, they didn’t talk to Michelle Obama or Jill Biden. Because if there’s sexism in the White House, the person engaging in it is in trouble.”

The vice president made the comments during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” to talk about his nearly two-decade campaign to end violence against women.

“I’m not suggesting there’s not some instance where a staffer thought they were not treated well,” Biden said. “But look at  the high-ranking staff on my staff, on the president’s staff — 70 percent of the high-ranking people on my staff … they’re all women. I literally, when this came out, I asked them, I asked them had they seen it. And nobody is aware.”

Before we get to the substance of Joe’s remarks, let’s get one thing straight: the women in question have made very serious, not trivial, allegations of discrimination.  Those allegations should be investigated thoroughly.  These days, it is possible to measure the degree to which women and men were treated differently in their roles.  It is possible to mine data that is already retained on email servers and on digital recordings of meetings.  A variety of metrics can be used to determine whether there is a correlation between position, location of office, direct reports and access.  In fact, just about any parameter you care to measure can be dumped into a statistical package and trends, principal components and, probably, the truth, should come spilling out.  We rely on data mining and statistics for a wide variety of legitimate reasons these days and this is a perfect opportunity to get to the bottom of this.

OK, back to what Joe said and why we should ignore it.

1.) Joe says that if there was any of that hostility going on, by golly, Jill Biden and Michelle Obama would know about it.  First, excuse me, but are Jill and Michelle the house mothers for the senior White House staff?  From what I can tell, Michelle Obama is not a working woman.  She has decided to sit this administration out and weed the garden.  It is unclear to me what line of authority she would have with the female staff in the White House, nor is is clear what she could do about it if someone complained to her.  In fact, I can’t think of why anyone would complain to her.  It makes no sense.  Jill Biden, if I recall correctly, is an English professor.  Again, how would Jill be aware of the working environment of the professional women working in the White House?  Secondly, regardless of how Michelle and Jill are treated in their casual interactions with Obama’s male staff, the nature of such interactions are not professional, they are social.  It is unlikely that Rahm Emannuel is going to tell them to shut the f^&* up or talk over them in the reception line or at dinner.  Nah-gah-happen.

The only reason I can see that Joe would bring up Jill and Michelle is that he was appearing on The View, a chatty news show tailor made for women in a more traditional lifestyle.  If they’re watching The View, they’re not working.  (Maybe working women watch the view on the DVR but I personally can’t stand The View.  It’s the worst of the stereotype of women’s programming.  It’s watered down news discussed in a gossipy, coffee clatsch setting.  Something about it makes me think back to my vaguest recollection of Virginia Graham.)  View afficianados stay-at-home moms or senior women like my mother.  So, Joe is out there doing a political stump speech so as not to lose the ladies.  It looks to me like the White House is trying to get ahead of this.  November 2012 is going to be very scary for Obama.

2.) Asking your female staff if there is an issue is NOT going to get you anywhere.  It takes a lot of courage to say you think there might be a problem that needs to be investigated.  No one wants to walk around with a target on their back.  And lately, I have been reading (in more than one place) that the White House environment may be “tough” on women.  Once again, it’s OK if a high pressure environment is “tough”.  Presumably, the women who accepted those jobs knew that it would be when they signed on.  The question is, was “toughness” from women reciprocally appreciated?  My guess is that it is not.  We can find out by looking at the way women and men are described by their peers and supervisors.  Are men “tough” but women “abrasive”?  Are men driven but women “not team players”?  How about we ask Brooksley Born who was routinely described in such unflattering terms by her peers like Arthur Levitt, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin.

So, Joe goes to his female staff and asks them to rat on the guys who already potentially have the means to make their lives inconsequential and they say they don’t know what he’s referring to.  Big surprise there.  What would have happened if Joe had said to his whole staff, men and women alike, “These are serious allegations.  If I didn’t look into them, I might not be getting the best performance from my staff.  I think we should start an investigation and see if there are any trends in the data.  If there are, we can put a plan in place to make sure we address each one of the issues. Who’s on board with that?”

I might actually have respect for the guy.  If I were a woman, I wouldn’t be put on the spot.  If I were a man, I’d be reviewing my past behavior.  I’d expect some resentment down the line when the truth comes out.  “It’s just the way we’ve always done it” or “You can’t stop people from hanging out or working differently with people like them”.  No, you probably can’t stop it.  But you can make sure it isn’t rewarded.  But the only way to make sure it isn’t rewarded is to become aware of it in the first place.

Joe really screwed up.  And the lefty blogosphere is strangely quiet.  I have read nary a word from the Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias types out there.  Lefty blogosphere women are also quiet.  Are they afraid they’ll lose the access they already have?  How about it, Susie Madrak?  You think you’re not getting access because of your “dirty fucking hippy” remark?  More likely, they didn’t like your attitude.  You were too pushy, abrasive, aggressive.  I’ll betcha Josh Marshall could have gotten away with that.

The problem is real.  It’s not in your head.  The details are familiar to those of us who have had to put up with this crap in the corporate world.  Even Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millenium series wrote a subplot where one of his female characters runs into the same damn thing at her new job.  Same maddeningly familiar bad behavior with the email, meetings and phone calls.

It won’t get better unless you say something.  Women have very little real estate in the mainstream media opinion pages as it is and what women are there straddle the generational and gender divide uncomfortably.  Kathleen Parker at WaPo is a case in point.  In her post on the issue, the last few paragraphs couldn’t be less helpful:

Most of the complaints aimed at Obama’s house concerned Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. Both are now gone. And Obama has made efforts to create a more woman-friendly environment.

He knows how to listen to women, which probably explains his popularity with the gentler sex, but he’s still a guy and can’t be faulted for being more comfortable in his down time hanging with his male pals. Women like some girlfriend time, too.

But to the larger point of women feeling less engaged and appreciated at the elevated levels they’ve earned, there is a clear solution, as hinted above. More women. More women. More women. There are plenty to fill an equal number of slots — no more scrounging to find qualified candidates.

And the best part: Women no longer have to try to be like men. They can be women, which is, one humbly submits, even better.

Yes, let’s reinforce gender stereotypes.  Women are the purer, gentler sex.  Instead of encouraging them to get tough without penalty, women will civilize the White House.  And we’ll add more of them even if it doesn’t matter if 90% of them are female and the 10% that is male sets the agenda and has all of the access.  Women like Parker completely miss the point.  Women staffers don’t want more “girlfriend time”.  They want to be movers and shakers on the same professional footing as their male counterparts.  Please, don’t do us any more favors, Kathleen.

But I suspect that Kathleen and Joe Biden come from the same generational conditioning.  While we can ignore Kathleen as being insufficiently familiar with the aspirations and expertise of the White House female staff, Joe Biden should really know better.  If he doesn’t, then he shouldn’t hire any more women.  No, seriously.  Why frustrate them and allow their efforts to meet with obstructions?  You’re only costing the tax payers money.  Just hire only guys and then shit will get done.  They might not be the best solutions to the issues they are dealing with but at least there won’t be ideas that will sit on the shelf because they couldn’t get an audience.  Let’s just see the White House in all of its sexist glory.

And if the White House is arguing that the problem is solved now that Summers and Rahm are gone, they must really think we’re stupid.  I don’t believe it for a second.  The President himself set the tone.  He’s the one who had the exclusive basketball games and golf outings.  He’s the one who mocked Christina Romer in a meeting.  He knows what he’s doing and if he doesn’t, someone should tell him before 2012.  Why any woman would vote for him after the past three years of economic disaster and poor treatment of his female staff defies logic.

Poor Republicans and Obama women.  Perfectly stupid together.

27 Responses

  1. Remember during the campaign when it was revealed that Obama paid his female aides less than his male aides?

    Are those “70%” that Joe brags about the upper 70% or the lower? How far down the totem pole is his first female aide?

  2. Biden is the last person they should have sent out…Mr. Mad Man foot in mouth himself? It shows the ingrain contempt, it shows the problem continues…Biden on the View? It’s more of the same in the baby shows and dinners trinkets they pass out and then expect one to get back in line .

    In this situation we see what it would be like if there was no tea party. Obama Inc would be exposed far more than it is….He and the left blogosphere needs the tea party….and very badly . The left blogosphere would have to close shop all together since they refuse to stop fluffing Obama pillow..that’s their job and why they are funded after all

    I’m thinking Obama Inc is so blind, they did not expect this problem with this book. It was suppose to show how the brilliant Obama has grown and over came a problem! damn it ! ….not show the problem hasn’t moved an inch ! What ?

    It’s hilarious to see these folks make their wishes known and when it naturally doesn’t change anything, then see the utter incomprehension of how can that be?

    • Oh man! You’re right, obama probably told everyone it was ok to be interviewed, not realizing people might tell the truth.

  3. What I love about that photo is that the third woman (counting the woman’s face in the foreground) in on the right appears to be sneaking a look at her watch. I imagine she’s thinking “I have work to do, how the hell long is this photo-op gonna take.” Now that’s priceless!

  4. Do you think Obama may dump Biden as VP and beg Hillary to join him on the ticket, to save his re-election bid?

    • Nope. I doubt Obama would do something to suggest he made the wrong decision on Biden.

      And without a doubt, Hillary wouldn’t accept the offer.

    • What do you think Hillary would say to such a proposition, knowing that such an offer is symbolic and that she would be deep sixed as VP, only to be trotted out on ceremonial occasions?
      I know what I would do if I were her.

    • Know what I think? I think he was going to offer her the VP slot but she beat him to the punch and asked for State. Biden would have been the obvious choice at State. But she could ask for and get whatever she wanted and she didn’t want to be buried in a obscure job, tied to obama’s domestic catastrophes.
      Oh, sure, she’ll say VP was never offered to her and technically, that may be true. I think she made it clear before the question came up that she wouldnt accept it anyway.

      • Since they were not going to let her fix things here, Hill moved on to the world. She would never want to be Obie’s VP, that’s for suckers …and what? Always have to sell his stinking cave ins and his holding the coat of the job creators as they reem out America? The death care bill alone would have been impossible for her to associate herself with…On top of this, as VP . Hillary would still be expected to drag lame ass Dem back stabbers to victory on the campaign trail …like she did for nearly 20 years

        Hillary has moved on .But I sort of wonder if she’s gaining weight lately to keep Obie from asking her again lol! …because if he asks her and she says no ,we will hear the ras*ct charge again.

        Having her as VP would be something he needs, on the campaign trail…and of course he would enjoy even greater control over Hill. I also wonder if this new book is part of the pressure on Hillary to be his VP candidate( there! the women problem is solved! ) and all the months of media talk about how great she would have been is not for nothing. I’m trusting she’ll say no…She would not primary even a supposedly Dem sitting POTUS in whose administration she served. But more, if Hillary did that , she would leave herself wide open to the pressure to accept the 2012 VP spot . So perhaps that what’s behind Hillary’s insisting she’s not running……she’s refusing to run as VP

  5. Wouldn’t you know, I’m at the garage getting my exhaust system fixed and what is on the TV?
    The View.

    • I don’t get the allure of this show either. For that matter I’m not a big fan of the talk show format. Pretending women who make thousands of dollars talking on my TV are just like me ain’t my thing.

      • I’m afraid we are disconnected mentally and socially from a whole subset of women. Whenever I watch The View, usually involuntarily, I scratch my head and think there must be something wrong with me because I so don’t identify with these women or their target audience. I do wonder what Whoopi Goldberg is doing up there. She always struck me as one of those creative gifted types. The rest of them are so out of her league. How does she do it each day??

        • I have also been wondering what someone like Bill Clinton, as a guest, was doing there, while I have no doubt that when Obama, or Joe Biden visits, it’s for calculated reasons. “How do we/ our chances of reelection profit from this?”

          I really, really dislike the way they “trot out” women when the need for pandering to that “segment” of the population arises. And only then.

        • I had to watch The View at least once a week for years when I visited my Mom …..she was a panelists radio program in the late 40’s called, “Leave it to the Girls” ….and enjoyed seeing The View today ..not much has changed in that regard it seems. The View is mostly unwatchable, particularly the first segment when they take on the news of the day and hammer the simpleton talking points they were given .It was a relief to go to the later half hour when they push the movie of the moment. Whoopi is indeed the best part . I think she’s there cause every one has bills and there has to be perks to having a daily TV show

          Thankfully I won’t be made to watch the beam in from the Obot nation self parody , called The Chew…the later in the day program . They are there to tell us the latest “trends” LOLOLOL.” Trends” in an age of high unemployment? …one’s gotta have a job to follow the BS manufactured trends

  6. Obama is on TV giving a speech on al-awlaki? Wtf? Why is this worth interrupting The View? Isn’t that what the real news is for?

    • He wants to claim credit for being the first POTUS to order the killing of an American citizen without due process of law.

      • Yeah, I just realized that this is a lot less kosher than the bin laden assassination. Jeez, why can’t they just go get him and drag his sorry ass back to the US where he can be tried in a court of law? What exactly is the problem?

        • What? and have to spend time and money in a court? Prepare a case? present a case? …. leave it up to we the people? nah…that’s only for the small time domestic ones…the over seas terrorists have too many connections with Halliburton, you know, our government, to allow for that and it’s as I say ,seen as a terrible waste of good loot

        • The “World Socialist Web Site” has a piece on the assassination Obama boasts of assassinating American citizen in Yemen.
          The last paragraph reads:

          Having crossed this line, the precedent has been set for the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA using military violence and assassination not only as instruments of US imperialist policy abroad, but as the means of dealing with those deemed “enemies of the state” at home.

          What surprises – and worries – me is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of critique or even discussion of this practise in the International, i.e. Western, media. As disheartening as the non-existing critique re the use of drones.

  7. I expanded the photo on my iPad and studied the facial expressions. Reminds me of a similar situation with an unqualified manager and his unhappy serfs. His sweeties don’t respect him in the least.

  8. He’s the one who hired the freakin’ speechwriter who thought it was hilarious and all in good fun to treat his opponent as a bimbo that he could ply with alcohol and feel up.

    This WH is fooling themselves if they believe they come out as more credible then this book.

    • That’s the weird thing. I know and you know that what is alleged in this book is all too believable. But most women think they are losing their mind or that it’s something they’ve done when it starts happening to them. Isn’t that the way it goes? Women blame themselves even when they’re just doing their jobs? What I see happen is that some guy or guys don’t want to hear or do what she says. Then they start pulling this shit. Go around her, shut her down, call her a bitch. Well, you can’t say bitch anymore. So, they say, she’s abrasive, hard to get along with, not a team player. The thing about what Romer and Dunn allege is not that they’re not tough enough. It’s that they’re plenty tough and it still happened to them. I believe them. You don’t get all those very angry women around a table for nuthin. But the book makes it sound like he patted them on the head and said he would look into it and nothing actually got substantially better.
      As for Favreau, one of the reasons I refuse to listen to Obama’s speeches is because I don’t want to hear Favreau’s words coming out of his mouth. I’d rather read the damn things and be just as uninspired.
      God, he can’t leave the Oval Office quick enough for me. He is everything I detest about the clueless male corporate asshole MBA. I can’t believe the Obamaphiles talked themselves into him and dragged the rest of the country along. What a f%&*ing catastrophe.

  9. yeah, Joe. If the wives are content with the clean, articulate black man’s job, who’s to say different? It’s not like women ever had the chance to actually have a woman president or something. Because we all know since Anita Hill how unreliable women are after all.

    • Oh my sweetie, could we please not go there with the articulate black man stuff? Really, I do love you to death. Do it for me?
      What I’m trying to do is show that women are not imagining their workplace experiences. They really do happen and the patterns of behavior are strikingly similar regardless of workplace. That’s the message. Anything else kinda takes the focus away. Wouldn’t you agree?

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