October 14, 2004

You've come a long way, baby.

In the third 1992 debate, CNN correspondent Susan Rook asked a pointed question about the role of women in government: "when we look at the circle of the key people closest to you, your inner circle of advisers, we see white men only. Why? And when will that change?" Ross Perot's answer was this:
Well, I come from the computer business, and everybody knows the women are more talented than the men. So we have a long history of having a lot of talented women. One of our first officers was a woman, the chief financial officer. She was a director. And it was so far back, it was considered so odd, and even though we were a tiny, little company at the time, it made all the national magazines.

But in terms of being influenced by women and being a minority, there they are right out there, my wife and my 4 beautiful daughters, and I just have 1 son, so he and I are surrounded by women, giving -- telling us what to do all the time. …

If I remember correctly, Perot was considered ridiculously out of touch for thinking the women in his family had any relevance to the question asked.

Twelve years later, moderator Bob Shieffer ended a debate with this question:
We've come, gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me as I came to this debate tonight that the three of us share something. All three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We're all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud.

I'd like to ask each of you, what is the most important thing you've learned from these strong women?
What was embarrassingly clueless to bring up twelve years ago has become the substance of an entire question, the finale question of the night!

And where was the question about the role of women in government? We heard many questions about health care and education, which for some idiotic reason are considered to be questions relating to women. And of course, there's always Roe v. Wade to bandy about. But where was the Susan Rook question? Is it just that Bush really does have close women advisors, so why bring up a question that's hard on Kerry? Is it that women have actually made so much progress it's not an issue anymore? Or has feminism just drifted out of the mainstream, so that appealing to women voters is now mostly about promising to help them carry out their traditional role as caretakers of the young and the ailing?

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