Susan Rice disappears once again: We’re going to give Ruth Marcus credit.
Today, she writes a column on a topic which became an instant standard: Obama doesn’t have enough women in his second-term cabinet!
Let’s give Marcus credit. Even as she calls Obama’s selections “a shame,” she mentions a famous name in just her fifth paragraph:
MARCUS (1/10/13): To be clear: I’ve got nothing against white guys. Some of my best husbands are white guys. White guys get to be secretary of state, too, and John Kerry will be the first in 16 years. But to look at the most important jobs in the government, in 2013, and see such lack of diversity is just so drearily disappointing.Presumably, we all know why Rice isn’t in that tableau, although Marcus doesn’t explain.
Especially because it could easily have been so different. Imagine the tableau of Obama flanked by secretary of state nominee Susan Rice and defense secretary nominee Michèle Flournoy. That would have been the ultimate you’ve-come-a-long-way moment.
At least Marcus mentioned her name. Yesterday, the New York Times achieved a strange feat. It presented a 1200-word front-page report about Obama’s lack of female nominees without mentioning Rice at all.
Here it is—Annie Lowrey’s front-page report in which Rice’s name does not appear. Could Pravda airbrush recent embarrassments any better? Twelve hundred words about this peculiar lack of women without mentioning Rice at all!
Rice to the side, we thought the Lowrey piece had a slightly strange bean-counter aspect. In just its third paragraph, the Times was weirdly tut-tutting:
LOWREY (1/9/13): From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.The Obama administration “has done no better than the Clinton administration,” Lowrey all-knowingly says, seeming to think Mother Times knows best about what that percentage should be.
In fact, 43 percent is rather close to 50 percent, which is often said to be half. Are we sure that an administration should be “doing better” than that?
How much better should Obama be doing? Lowrey seems to know, but she refuses to tell.
We ask that question for a reason. Lowrey ends her tut-tutting report with an unfortunate blast from the real world:
LOWREY: An analysis of a separate pool of federal personnel data found that the number of high-level female political appointees outside the White House was about the same under Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama, though it fell under Mr. Bush. Women held about 35 percent of those positions, like assistant secretary, in 2011 and 1999. Women held about 25 percent in 2007. The Clinton administration named significantly more women to political appointments than prior administrations, about 44 percent over all.Lowrey lets us exult at the “record number of women” in the new Congress, even though the numbers she cites are very low. According to the analysts, those twenty women in the Senate represent only twenty percent of the total!
Though the percentage of women in the last two Democratic administrations has held roughly steady, there are a record number of women in Congress this year: 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House.
The Congress is only one feeder system for the Cabinet, but it has been an important one for Obama. Does the low representation of women in such bodies affect the availability of high-ranking women for Cabinet picks? Or are presidents simply supposed to check off the boxes, no matter who they end up with?
With regard to the overall complaint, might we review recent history?
Everybody sat around and let Susan Rice get slimed. Now we brightly turn around and complain about the lack of women in Obama’s Cabinet! Needless to say, Margaret Carlson clowned the hardest in this wise-cracking, sarcastic new column.
What did Margaret Carlson say while Susan Rice was getting slimed? According to the Bloomberg archive, not a single word!
Hilarious wags of the world, unite: Marcus and Carlson are willing to share, at least when it comes to a headline:
Carlson, 1/8/13: Obama to Romney: Send Me Your Binders Full of WomenBased on a careful analysis of the dates, we’re going to say that Carlson got there first.
Marcus, 1/10/13: Obama needs some binders of women
We’re also going to say that she played an unfortunate card in her opening paragraph, if that first paragraph makes any sense at all:
CARLSON (1/8/13): President Barack Obama suffers from Groucho Marx syndrome: He favors those in the club he doesn’t belong to. Otherwise how to explain why he is fighting for Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense but didn't for Susan Rice to be secretary of state?Apparently, the club he belongs to is the black club. What else can that clever quip mean?
Carlson has been this way for a while. She used to do this on the air.