January 13, 2007

"I thought it was O.K. to be single. I thought it was O.K. to not have children..."

"And I thought you could still make good decisions on behalf of the country if you were single and didn’t have children," says Condoleezza Rice in an interview with the NYT.
During the hearing itself, Ms. Rice did not appear to take issue with Senator Boxer’s comments. During the interview, she addressed them only in response to a question. But the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, suggested earlier on Friday that Senator Boxer’s comments were antifeminist.

“I don’t know if she was intentionally tacky,” Mr. Snow said in an interview on Fox News. “It’s a great leap backward for feminism.”...

Senator Boxer’s comments and the claims and counterclaims about what she meant have captivated the blogs and received extensive coverage on Fox News and other cable channels. One blog, called Swampland, labeled it “Womb Wars.”

Conservative blogs and commentators were quick to seize on the issue. “One Great Leap (Backwards) for Womankind,” read one blog, Bikini Politics. “They will be known by their Fruits,” read another, Macsmind, which billed itself as “Conservative News, Commentary and Common Sense.” Rush Limbaugh also got into the act. “Here you have a rich white chick with a huge, big mouth, trying to lynch this, an African-American woman, right before Martin Luther King Day, hitting below the ovaries here,” Mr. Limbaugh said on his radio show.
As I said yesterday, I don't think it's good feminism to require greater sensitivity toward women than toward men when it comes to political arguments like the one Boxer made. The "Who pays the price?" argument is either a good one or a bad one, and calling attention to childlessness shouldn't be any worse for women than for men.

But let me make three new points:

1. Boxer served up a juicy nugget, and it should have been predictable that blogger types -- and Rush -- would gobble it up. I'm sure she regrets saying it and that this incident will tend to reduce these kinds of statements in the future. It's stupid to give your enemies this kind of raw material. Politicians need to become more savvy about what's bloggable. And the already-savvy Snow did a great job of flagging the bloggability.

2. Women in power should stand on the same level as men and not demand special outrage for insults, but we know that people will say some things about a woman precisely because they think it will hurt her more or because it will stir up prejudices about women. I don't think it's clear that in this case Boxer had that sort of nasty intent, but we can see in some of the reaction to Boxer's statement -- including that quote from Rice, above -- that people continue to think there is something tragic and unnatural about a woman who has not formed a family around herself.

3. Heightening sensitivity to implicit insults in statements made about women can serve the interests of the Democrats. They are the ones with an important female presidential candidate. Now that Republicans have had this little huff over Rice, Democrats will have more power to claim offenses to feminism whenever anyone says anything mean about Hillary Clinton.


Sissy Willis said...

Hillary's a woman? I keep forgetting.

David said...

In Boxer's defense, her statement was taken completely out of context. She was simply indicating that it's easy for politicians to talk about escalation, when they don't have any family members actually exposed to IEDs while riding in inaqequately armored Hummers.

It's the sort of argument that people make all the time: with an "all-volunteer" army, there's now a big difference between who makes the decision and who pays the price.

Laura Reynolds said...

As I (and others) said in comments on an earler post, whatever you attribute to Ms. Boxer has to start, and perhaps end, with her demonstrated lack of intelligence.

But for the early and ugly attacks on Hillary and Chelsea, I think any criticism (certainly from senators) should be policy and conduct based. By my observation, as one who generally dislikes her, she has been a fine mother.

PatCA said...

I think this was all of a piece. The Dems are now stressing motherhood and grandmother-hood as necessary for governance. Look at Pelosi's constant mention of her grandchildren and children, the "for the children" theme of her investiture. IOW wars are waged by callous Rethughlican MEN who "pay no price" and Hillary will rescue us in '08.

Like you say, Ann, talking about women is okay as long as you say they are superior.

dick said...

Where have you been! That was one of Hillary's big ploys in 2000. Her opponent tried to get her to answer the questions and she pouted and said he was treating her mean because she was a woman. Nothing new in that. Wait until it gets started and you will see her pull all the tricks out of the bag trying to make people feel sorry for poor put-upon Hillary.

As to Boxer, whyever would you not think that she meant it exactly as it sounded. Sure wouldn't be the first time she pulled this kind of stuff. Just a totally low class comment and demeaning of Boxer more than of Condi.

ShadyCharacter said...

I think you might be a little off on this one Ann. For the past 30 years the left has been using little slips of the tongue like this and blowing them into enormous PR headaches for republican politicians. "You said niggardly you racist SOB!" which was then reliably trumpted by the CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS/NPR/NYT etc... After first offering a weak defense the republican politician would invariable back down and appologize and agree to be more sensitive in the future. Then CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS/NPR/NYT would trumpet this admission as evidence that republicans and conservatives are in fact racists (sexists/ageists/christianists). Of course these same outlets would bury any story with a democrat making sexist comments (or even using "niggardly" minus the "dly" on a nationally broadcast interview).

We have a new dynamic now, which is Rush Limbaugh's great contribution to political discourse in this country. He (and now most conservative pundits outside of the squish token conservatives on CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS/NPR/NYT - chosen by those outlets for being reliably squishy) turned the ridiculous politics of character assasination on their leftist progenitors. Hillary dissing cookie baking is an attack on women who choose to work in the home. Attacks on Clarence Thomas are evidence of crypo-racism. Regardless of whether these charges have any more merit coming from the right as opposed to the left (I think they have a little more merit, but not much) they effectvely derailed the MSM storyline that leftists are as pure as driven snow. The MSM/democratic party ignored this dynamic for a while, to the detriment of leftists generally. First Rush got through to his 20 million listeners in the 90s, now talk radio, FoxNews and the conservative blogosphere can generate this faux outrage more broadly - perhaps even more broadly than the CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS/NPR/NYT nexis can broadcast the leftist faux outrage (which through overuse is now seen more as a joke than anything - Augusta Golf Club anyone?). We're in a situation now where conservatives AND LEFTISTS are seen as racist/sexist etc...

Of course the leftists decry this as an devolution of our political discourse. Now instead of throwing mud with impugnity, they're getting a little mud thrown back.

Joe said...

I don't understand Boxer's point. Should national security issues be determined only by parents? Mothers? Mothers of soldiers? What the hell is she talking about?

Anonymous said...

The "who pays the price" query is really about slurring your pro-war opponents. It's like the "chicken hawk" attack, which is really dumb, because we'd be more war-prone with military rather than civilian leaders making decisions to authorize war. Besides, whether members of Congress or the administration have kids deployed cannot be considered a measure of policymaking fitness.

Burkean Reflections

Fritz said...

We don't know Rice's situation, nor are we at liberty to know, but I do know my favorite boss's. Men of that era treated women very differently, strong women like Rice and my boss didn't necessarily have the options enjoyed by women today. I said earlier that I considered Boxer's ploy as "soccer mom" moral authority strategy. Using such a tactic required her to raise Rice's personal life, that is inappropriate. Boxer should apologize. Feminism should demand it.

Anonymous said...

Boxer was making a ridiculous argument to begin with, since the point she was attempting to make rests on the assumption that only parents with children serving in war have the absolute moral authority to make decisions on the war.

And therefore, whether unconsciously or consciously, she was calling into question Condi's lack of fitness for the role by pointing out that she didn't have children in the army - thus highlighting her childless state.

I'm sure she didn't think through the implications of what she was saying or thinking - which would be amusing in its own right except for the power she holds - but at bedrock, judging by what she said, she does appear to believe that Condi is not fully equipped to make these decisions. Apparently she does not understand the concept of empathy or that grief may arise in other ways except through the loss of a child.

But I wouldn't let her off the hook so rapidly for the anti-feminism which this exposes. In the past, we've seen many examples of feminism's elasticity on matters of ideology.

Maxine Weiss said...

1. If anything, these types of statements will become more frequent, as these women try to upstage each other and love the attention.


2. An unmarried woman, is worse than a barren one. A barren woman can always say it's due to disease or inability. But, how do you explain being unmarried?

3. One of the worst things about moderating comments is that Althouse goes to bed too early. If someone makes a late comment, it won't get posted till the next morning.

Peace, Maxine

DaveM said...

One of the arguments of women in politics was that the natural deference of men to women (and women to other women) would raise the level of civility. Not a bad idea. Sen Boxer had the Secretary of State to question and chose to have a personal comment on her ability to empathize with some others.

Boxer should be criticized for failing her responsibilities as Senator.

Anonymous said...

This is classic misdirection. Condi is the out-front face for a failed and unsupported policy, and what's the discussion about? Whether she's been unfairly dissed. What do you think of our (or, rather, George and Condi's)Iraq policy, Ann?

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how Rice's statement that you quoted demonstrates that she somehow accepts the idea that "there is something tragic and unnatural about a woman who has not formed a family around herself." On the contrary, it seems to me that it means the opposite.

Having followed Barbara Boxer's career closely for over 20 years, I have little doubt that the comment was intentional.

vbspurs said...

By my observation, as one who generally dislikes her, she has been a fine mother.

Yes, Hillary is very close to Chelsea by all accounts.

Interestingly, speaking of redoubtable woman, Margaret Thatcher was a good (if of course, oft-absent) mother. She was an indulgent, physically affectionate mother to her twins, which ultimately might have caused Mark Thatcher life problems...

But you know, this entire Boxer argument which is echoed by the left, is so stupid it completely envelopes with stupidity its greater argument of "you don't suffer, therefore you don't care, and that's why you do what you do".

On the one hand, people like Condi Rice could have, if not children, relatives who could potentially be involved in the war. Is it known?

On the other hand, this chickenhawk argument is just a precursor to bringing back the draft, favoured by such notables as Charlie Rangel.

Of course they want to bring back the draft!

They want another counter-culture atmosphere surrounding another Vietnam.

Right now they have dissastifcation from the general public.

The late 60s-70s were a very different kettle of fish culturally, precisely because of the draft.


Anonymous said...

What hypocrisy! Just look what the right has done:

Our Democratic Governor (Janet Napolitano of Arizona) is single, childless and successful. But some in the GOP here attempted to claim that must mean she was gay. Of course it didn't work (frankly no one knows-- or cares-- whether that is true or not) and Napolitano beat her GOP opponent last year by more than a 2-1 margin (and this is a red state).

As far as the basic argument being that those who are making the decision to send other people's kids to war don't have any of their own kids in harm's way is well taken. And it came up in a different way earlier this year when George Bush kept trying to push Jim Webb about how his son was doing. I suspect that if one of Bush's daughters was also in the war zone, Webb might not have been so frosty about it.

Ann Althouse said...

Fritz said... "Ann, We don't know Rice's situation, nor are we at liberty to know, but I do know my favorite boss's. Men of that era treated women very differently, strong women like Rice and my boss didn't necessarily have the options enjoyed by women today...."

Well, thanks for the info about the bygone era, but how old do you think I am, Fritz? Younger or older than Rice?

Anonymous said...

Although Barbara Boxer was addressing a woman, her comments apply to single men as well. So, I think Ann's second point is a little beside the point.

Apparently, Sen. Boxer does not feel any single person should ever be President and Commander-in-Chief. And they can forget about being Secretary of Defense, too.

There is talk about whether the country is "ready" for an African-American or woman President. Is it ready for a single President, or are we too busy injecting family values this and children that into policy matters where they do not belong.

Anonymous said...

I've followed Boxer's career for about 16 years and I don't think she's clever enough to craft a comment which criticizes the war and gets in a personal dig at Rice. Her 86-87 level IQ congenitally spares her that ability.

That aside, the issue isn't feminism or women in politics at all, or at least shouldn't be. The issue is why a senator would waste the chance to ask ask policy oriented questions about the most important issue facing us in two decades. Her questions, regardless of who had made them, can't possibly shed light on the issues or lead to debate on the policies.

In the San Francisco Chronicle this AM she is quoted as saying she "...spoke truth to power. And I'm not going to apologize for making an extremely clear point." Pathetic and other-worldly. The junior senator from California has the mental capacity of a defiant teenager.

vbspurs said...

But some in the GOP here attempted to claim that must mean she was gay

Being a gay woman, Eli, is less effective an insult as being a barren spinster.

Some gay women are very masculine, and even though that needn't mean a strong, fearless personality, it can project the same qualities of take-charge leadership (vide Janet Reno).

But a barren spinster...and one who is comely at that...well, Boxer has raised the spectre of the unwanted woman.

I don't care about Senator Boxer, and ultimately, as so many have pointed out, it's a childish brouhaha.

But note, it's coming from the Left, about a topic which the Left has made their bread-and-butter -- woman as woman, not as appendage.


DookOfURL said...

Ann sez" "Now...Democrats will have more power to claim offenses to feminism whenever anyone says anything mean about Hillary Clinton."

Hilarious! The fact that Hillary is a woman is the least of her problems.

But this just reinforces my view that if Obama runs, Democrats and other race baiters will throw their shoulders out throwing down the race card every time his opponent is "mean" to him.

The Democrats do know how to play identity politics, and they do it very well. Let's hope the GOP discovers an antidote to this idiocy soon.

vbspurs said...

Is it ready for a single President

Precedents are important for this subject, and James Buchanan (and Grover Cleveland until he married) are two such.

Those were bachelors. We won't even count the men who were widowered Presidents.

Actually, the real question is whether an atheist will ever be elected president?

Not in my lifetime.


Fritz said...

From your pictures you look so young, you couldn't possibly be older than Condi! I didn't mean to portray that you didn't contribute to the empowerment of women. I have before complimented on your contribution for my wife, daughter, country.

It may be a bygone era, but those that had to endure it are still alive with the scars. I'm 10 years your junior, Rice is your contemporary.

My mother is 20 years your senior and still resents the way she was treated by men in the work place. She has quite the hang-up, that all men are, is just an apendage. I guess that is why God gave her 3 sons.

OhioAnne said...

Maxine Weiss:

2. An unmarried woman, is worse than a barren one. A barren woman can always say it's due to disease or inability. But, how do you explain being unmarried?

Well, for one - in this country - being gay.


I don't understand this need for divisiveness on the part of some women. This exchange reminds me 'war' between some stay-at-home Moms and some working-outside the home Moms.

Instead of valuing each others choices and supporting one another, they argue about who's doing the job better.

Suggesting that Rice can't do the job because she's childless, begs the question why she was allowed to work at Stanford. Did Boxer express outrage at that as well - a childless women working in education?

Unknown said...

You have a point about Hillary. I have heard conservatives in numerous occasions comment about Clinton, in relation to the fact that she only had one child. Things along the line of "Well obviously they just had one kid to show the marriage was not a fraud - but if it was a real marriage - OF COURSE they would have had more children".

Maxine Weiss said...

It makes sense.

If you can't make a marriage work, you can't run a country.

A successful marriage implies people skills, getting-along skills, negotiation, corraboration/collaboration.

Someone who doesn't have experience at that shouldn't be President.

Peace, Maxine

DookOfURL said...

Now I'm thinking about what the response would have been if, back in the day, some female GOP Senator would have suggested in open hearings to Janet Reno that the reason Reno sent the feds into Waco to burn to death all those poor, helpless children was because she had no children of her own and therefore could not understand the anguish of those children's mothers.

I do believe there would have been slightly more outrage than we are witnessing now about Boxer's equally tacky remark.

But hypocrisy is an interesting thing, innit?

The partisan moderate said...

The more offensive comments came from Congressman Abercrombie:


Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii called Miss Rice "the most overrated, underperforming individual in executive authority that I have ever seen."
"She constantly gets a pass," he told the Honolulu Star Bulletin this week, days before the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day. "Who knows if the whole question of race and gender come into it, but ... I can't account for it, except to say she isn't up to the mark."

Do you think if a Republican said the same thing, the media wouldn't be all over him/her? Talking about passes, it seems like Congressman Abercrombie is so far getting one.

JimNtexas said...

One thing Boxer has done is revive the issue of why Hillary sent Chelsea to a rich private school, yet Hillary opposes school choice.

According to the left, you can't support the war unless you have military age children, and these children in fact join the military ( and, should they join, I'm sure they would be slandered for not being in the infantry ).

Ok fine. But by the same logic Hillary can't oppose school choice because when she had a chance to send her kid to a public high school (as President Bush did), she choose instead to put Chelsea in private school.

Hillary didn't suffer from monopoly goverment schools, so by the transative logic of the moonbats she has no right whatsoever to oppose school vouchers for other people.

zz said...

Boxer limited herself to "children and grandchildren," while mentioning that Condi lacks "immediate family." She did not just say, "Neither one of us has family overseas," or something of that nature - she went out of her way to point out that Condi doesn't have a husband, either.

I've never understood the idea that only politicians who treat their children like chattel by forcing them into the military are qualified to make foreign policy decisions.

bearbee said...

sissy willis said ...
Hillary's a woman? I keep forgetting.

You and the Department of Agriculture

paul a'barge said...

OK, Althouse ...
this incident will tend to reduce these kinds of statements in the future

This is just wrong. Consider the source. This Boxer troglodyte is incapable of learning from her mistakes. Her shamelessness is diagnostic of her lack of moral bearing. Give her 7 days, and she'll be back with another spout of lunacy.

Women should not demand special outrage for insults.

Fine. That's all well and good, but a lack of common decency and fairness is just as unacceptable from bridge-trolls like Boxer as they would be from, say Wolcott. Not acceptable means Boxer gets called on it and she doesn't get a pass just because she's a woman. Her getting called on this was deserved.

Democrats will have more power to claim offenses

Travel in the way-back time machine and show me a time when DHIMMIcRATs did not act as thought they had unlimited right to vamp and riff as victims.

Please. We're talking about the traitor party here.

Justin said...

I know how much you love baseless character assassinations, Ann (you're so good at being on both ends of them!)

But please do me a favor, and read the few sentences preceding Boxer's "attack" on Condi? I guess she's attacking herself, as well. What a self-hating b****.

Anonymous said...

Pretty kewl how some of Ann's blogrollers get free rein to come in here and make sexist ad hominem attacks (against Senator Clinton) all while claiming that Democrats are the sexists and you "moderates" are the party of polite and reasonable discourse.

Pretty ugly comments and cheap shots Sissy Willis and Bearbee, congrats, you are fine fine examples of a conservatard.

AlphaLiberal said...

Reasonable observations.

My take is that Condi Rice is not the victim here, though it's conveient for her to play it to distract attention. People are'nt talking about the bipartisan drubbing she took before the committee, just how persecuted she is.

MadisonMan said...

My opinion is that the right side of the blogosphere (or aisle) talks about this with manufactured umbrage because talking about where Iraq is going -- you know, the context of the whole comment -- is a losing proposition for them. Now, why the left side of the blogosphere (or aisle) keeps serving up these juicy nuggets to talk about -- that's a mystery.

On another topic -- I'm glad the airline has found my luggage.

Unknown said...

The public school argument for Chelsea is completely bogus. The Clintons got tons of flack for sending her to private school. If it's wrong to attack Rice for having no children, then it's wrong to attack the Clintons for sending Chelsea to private school. Yet conservatives did exactly that.

This is all politics. I'm not falling for this crap, just because some conservative bloggers want to make an "issue" of it. As if conservatives have the best interests of women in mind. Give me a break.

Revenant said...

Now that Republicans have had this little huff over Rice, Democrats will have more power to claim offenses to feminism whenever anyone says anything mean about Hillary Clinton

That, in turn, would give Republicans an excuse to dust off Clinton's old "cookies and tea" remarks from back in the 90s. Boxer implied motherhood is superior to a career; Clinton has in the past implied the exact opposite. Either way some women get insulted. Better to let that sleeping dog lie, I suspect.

paul a'barge said...

read the few sentences preceding Boxer's "attack" on Condi? I guess she's attacking herself, as well

This is a very, very cogent point, and a spot-on indication that Boxer was not just stumbling into an ignorant statement, but as cleverly as a logician, setting up her insult to Rice.

Reread Boxer's full statement several times and you'll see what I mean. This woman had every intention of saying what she said. She was being rhetorically precise, and I would not be surprised if she were reading the entire insult from a piece of paper.

Shame on you, California.

bearbee said...

Pretty ugly comments and cheap shots Sissy Willis and Bearbee, congrats, you are fine fine examples of a conservatard.

Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa

Mea Maxima Culpa

Friends ?

Anonymous said...

Madison Man & Downtownlad:

Here's what I find tiresome, the inability of some commentators to deal with the substance (or otherwise) of an argument, rather than knee-jerk assumptions that the 'other side' is always arguing in bad faith.

FWIW, MAdison Man, I think I've made it perfectly clear that I'm creeped out by politicians of any stripe who treat their families like Prada handbags, and rhetoric that assumes having a viable reproductive system magically confers moral authority and intellectual seriousness on their assertions.

And as for Downtownlad, I don't think it's 'bogus' to point out hypocrisy. And that includes politicians who extol the virtues of public schools - and attack those who send their children to private schools or Ivy League colleges as filthy 'elitists' - while sending their own to some of the most expensive and selective private schools and colleges in America.

MadisonMan said...

craig ranapia -- My comment was specific to this incident, not a general one. You should not assume that I think only one side of the blogosphere/aisle does this in general. Republicans also serve up juicy nuggets for Democrats to talk up -- remember Trent Lott? George Allen? Rush Limbaugh?

And if you think I find parenthood a special state, then your sarcasm meter needs to be tuned.

paul a'barge said...

Regrading the reprobate Boxer, have you seen this

I told you so.

Anonymous said...

Madison Man:

'Specific to this incident', my point is that it helps to assume people are arguing in good faith unless proved otherwise. Just a thought... because I think when you have an incredibly serious matter of public policy on the table, and the undivided attention of the Secretary of State, I think we all deserve a slightly higher standard than the showboating Mommier-than-thou b.s. we've seen from Boxer.

But to be fair, I wasn't exactly very impressed by Chuck Hegel's performance either. Seriously, dude, you don't come across as 'tough' when you're so busy interjecting the Secretary of State can hardly complete a sentence. You look and sound like a pompous, ill-bred a-hole, who is more interested in getting face time on CNN than eliciting useful information.

Anonymous said...

If this had been the first time any policy critic had made the same point to or about an administration official then you and the right-wingers you channel for (but, of course, like Mickey Kaus, are too covertly liberal to actually agree with) might be on to something.

Instead, going back as far as 2002 critics of all stripes have picked on this issue: George Walker Bush has only daughters. Richard Cheney has only daughters. In a generally tiresome movie Michael Moore scored points by asking politicians who supported Bush whether any of their own children were going to enlist. And, of course, the term "fighting keyboardist" The point has evidently been effective enough to prompt opinion columns and blog posts supporting Fighting Keyboardists was coined to mock able-bodied, service-age right wingers who press for war but are unwilling to take up arms themselves.

In other words Sen. Boxer is not the first person to point out that Dr. Rice has no immediate family at all. (Nor are they all war detractors -- the left blogosphere is buzzing about Laura Bush's even more express remarks about Rice's lack of family a few months ago.)

And if Rice is not the first person in the administration to be called on this, and if Boxer is not the first to call Rice on it, then it says a great deal more about you and your Red sympathizers that you have chosen this incident to suddenly discover feminism than it does about Boxer for mentioning it.

tcd said...

You're an idiot. First, you need to actually read Ann's two posts on this issue before commenting and secondly, you need to comprehend what you've read. Otherwise your comment makes absolutely no sense as a counterpoint to Ann's two posts. Unless, you're just a mindless spambot?

Anonymous said...

TCD. I accept only semi-culpability. (I missed the previous post on the subject.)

Since Sen. Boxer said nothing to or about Rice and other prosecutors of the war over the last five years, and since those currently pretending to be outraged didn't blink when Mrs. Bush's asserted that Rice's lack of family would disincline her to seek the Presidency, then at best the three new items Ann raises in this post miss the point.