The Administration 's New Fronts in the War on Women
This week, the administration that rode to a second term decrying a fictitious war on women by the opposition, opened real fronts on the war on women, perpetuating feminism's worst inconsistencies through its contradictory programs and in the words and deeds of the avatar of these inconsistencies, Hillary Clinton, the "Athena" of low information women voters. Only CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson by her persistence and competence keeps me from burying my head in shame.
As the Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper noticed, there was a serious disconnect this week in the administration's approach to women.
On the one hand, the president's close aide, Valerie Jarrett tweeted:
"If there's one thing we should all agree on, it's protecting women from violence. Congress needs to pass the Violence Against Women Act."
At almost the same moment, as Jarrett was tweeting her plea for legislative embodiment of the notion of women's need for special protections, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced -- without any consultation with Congress -- that he was removing the ban on women in combat positions.
The disconnect between the two positions seems irreconcilable except for James Taranto's sage analysis:
One way of defining feminism is as the pursuit of the mutually irreconcilable goals of sexual equality and sensitive treatment of women. You'd think that contradiction would be a weakness, but it's actually strength: Every advance for equality creates a demand for more measures to promote sensitivity, and vice versa. Feminism's failures perpetuate feminism, at the expense of other goals such as defending the country.
I don't think this dichotomy does women any favor. It certainly does no favors for men nor does it meet the demands of our society. It seems utterly impossible for men to cross this minefield whole. On the one hand they are being urged to treat women with special sensitivity because of their more delicate natures and physical limitations. On the other hand, the administration wants men to share foxholes on the front lines with them.
Taranto quotes a reader, a Marine Corps veteran with extensive experience on the front lines who among other things observes:
What kind of a man is it who can send women off to kill and maim? What kind of society does that?
What kind of men sharing a fire-team foxhole with a woman and two other men don't treat the woman more gently?
What kind of society bemoaning that men don't seem to respect women can't see that part of the respect they demand is predicated on the specialness of the other?
Perhaps it is possible in a firefight to distinguish between how one treats women and men, but I doubt that I could do it. And if I am trained to treat men and women the same throughout my career, can this have no significant effect on how I treat women otherwise?
The disparate goals of a feminism that simultaneously and inconsistently demands special consideration and complete equality at the expense of the national -- and, therefore women's interests -- was also manifest in the outrageous performance of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week.
Uniformly praised by Senators and Congressmen of her own Democratic Party for her performance in this task -- encomia that ignored the fact that the president early had stripped her of significant authority and handed it over to those closer to him like Susan Rice and that, in any event, foreign policy under her watch has been a disaster -- Hillary played the feminist card to trump serious inquiry into the Benghazi catastrophe, weeping, wailing, pounding the desk, obfuscating, and outright lying.
I listened to much of it on C-Span and was incredulous to read mainstream media reports like this one in the Washington Post.
For Hillary, the testimony was a triumphant capstone on her term as the chief U.S. diplomat. If Hillary had not dealt with the Benghazi affair before she left office, she could have been viewed as a failure and a weakling. Instead, she came blazing onto Capitol Hill in true Hillary style, concluding the Libya drama on her terms and exiting the Washington stage to regroup for her next adventure -- a new book, global speeches or a presidential run.
Hillary's loyal base -- and it is ever growing among millennial women -- likes the "Athena" Hillary, the wise warrior who slays Republicans (especially men) with iciness and harshness. They want her to be Madame President in four years. They long for her to be tough, emotionally, intelligent and even funny. In her swan song, she gave them that Hillary to remember
Online, it was easier to find reports of her testimony which more closely resembled my own views of it.
The most commented-on part of her testimony came when she was pressed by Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to explain why she and the administration had lied and pretended the murders of our ambassador and other U.S. personnel at Benghazi were related to a silly video when they knew from the first that it was not. To her eternal discredit she replied, 'What difference at this point does it make?"
She thus ended her time with this administration much as she began her national career -- denying accountability for her misdeeds and those of the Democratic president with whom she had served.
But that was only part of the shame of this performance.
As Reason's Nick Gillespie observed, by her deceitful, histrionic performance she evaded any serious discussion of major administration failures that will remain unaccounted for. He dissected three major evasive statements by Clinton.
1. "I take responsiblity."
From a Fox News report of the Senate hearing:
During the opening of the hearing, Clinton said she has "no higher priority" than the security of her department's staff, and that she is committed to making the department "safer, stronger and more secure."
"As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right," Clinton said, later choking up when describing how she greeted the families of the victims when the caskets were returned.
Taking responsibility is the classic dodge in Washington, where pols assume the mantle of leadership and then promptly do nothing to address the situation for which they are in hot water. What does it mean to take responsibility for the absolute breakdown of security at a consulate where your ambassador gets murdered (along with three others[snip]
2. "1.43 million cables come to my office." [snip]
She added that "1.43 million cables come to my office. They're all addressed to me."
Come on, already. The question is plainly not whether Clinton is reading every goddamned communication addressed to her but whether she's got the right people in charge of assessing risk and making sure resources are apportioned accordingly. Tragically, the answer was no, especially given the fact that State had cut security in Benghazi despite attacks prior to the deadly 9/11 one! [snip]
3. "What difference at this point does it make?"
[snip] Contra Clinton, it makes a great deal of difference because understanding how this all happened is the first step to making sure it doesn't happen over and over and over again.
Elliott Abrams, formerly an Assistant Secretary of State, confirmed Gillespie's observations about Clinton's claim that she couldn't read all the cables that came to the Department. In fact, he says her comment is proof of her failed executive role:
There had been three and half years to set up a system, to let the career officers of the Secretariat and the Operations Center know what she wants, and to have her personal staff figure it out too.
That is to say, if she did not see the Benghazi cables in a timely fashion, if she did not see Chris Stephens's cables describing the deterioration of security, and if she did not see his requests for more security, this was a huge management failure on her part. It is a poor excuse to say, "Gee, the Department gets lots of cables" -- and perhaps even worse then to hide behind an Accountability Review Board that pins responsibility on assistant secretaries and no higher.
Having worked as an assistant secretary of state and a deputy national-security adviser, I can report that even in those posts one is entirely swamped by cable traffic and needs a system to cope with it -- to be sure that the really important ones get through. From all the available evidence, Hillary Clinton failed to establish such a system for herself, and that management failure is a far more important fact about her tenure than being the third woman to hold the post or having flown more miles than Condoleezza Rice.
Mark Steyn could barely conceal his contempt for Hillary's performance:
"As I have said many times, I take responsibility," she said. In Washington, the bold declarative oft-stated acceptance of responsibility is the classic substitute for responsibility: rhetorically "taking responsibility," preferably "many times," absolves one from the need to take actual responsibility even once. [snip]
But Secretary Clinton has just testified that, in the government of the most powerful nation on Earth, there is no reliable means by which a serving ambassador can report to the Cabinet minister responsible for foreign policy. And nobody cares: What difference does it make?
Nor was the late Christopher Stevens any old ambassador but, rather, Secretary Clinton's close personal friend "Chris." It was all "Chris" this, "Chris" that, when Secretary Clinton and President Obama delivered their maudlin eulogies over the flag-draped coffin of their "friend." Gosh, you'd think if they were on such intimate terms, "Chris" might have had Hillary's email address, but apparently not. He was just one of 1.43 million close personal friends cabling the State Department every hour of the day.
Four Americans are dead, but not a single person involved in the attack and the murders has been held to account. Hey, what difference does it make? Lip-syncing the national anthem beats singing it. Peddling a fictitious narrative over the coffin of your "friend" is more real than being an incompetent boss to your most vulnerable employees. And mouthing warmed-over clichés about vowing to "bring to justice" those responsible is way easier than actually bringing anyone to justice.
In all of this there is one woman who does represent the best of American women and of her profession, CBS's Sharyl Attkisson who is being stonewalled by the administration and hasn't reported on the Benghazi story since November 23. She's been using every avenue available to her to pursue the Benghazi story and has taken to Twitter to voice the inquiries her media colleagues and Congressional investigators should be asking:
"@SharylAttkisson The Obama Admin has indicated it will not be answering Benghazi questions we've been asking since Oct. I will list some of them."
She followed up two minutes later with a question that took up two tweets:
"@SharylAttkisson What time was Ambassador's Stevens' body recovered, what are the known details surrounding his disappearance and death..."
". ..including where he/his body was taken/found/transported and by whom?"
And from that moment forward, she just kept hammering:
"Who made the decision not to convene the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) the night of the Benghazi attacks?"
"We understand that convening the CSG a protocol under Presidential directive ("NSPD-46"). Is that true? If not, please explain..."
"... if so, why was the protocol not followed?"
"Is the Administration revising the applicable Presidential directive? If so, please explain."
"Who is the highest-ranking official who was aware of pre-911 security requests from US personnel in Libya?"
After Attkisson's preliminary questions, she drove on, asking about the White House cover-up and its narrative blaming the incident on a demonstration against an anti-Islamic YouTube video:
"Who is/are the official(s) responsible for removing reference to al-Qaeda from the original CIA notes?"
"Was the President aware of Gen. Petraeus' potential problems prior to Thurs., Nov. 8, 2012?"
"What is your response to the President stating that on Sept. 12, he called 911 a terrorist attack, in light of his CBS interview..."
"...on that date in which he answered that it was too early to know whether it was a terrorist attack?"[snip]
"Forgot to mention that Sen. Graham has asked 4 transcripts of FBI interviews w/Benghazi survivors but at last word that hadn't been provided".
UPDATE: Right on cue, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy illustrates the incoherent demands of Democratic women for combat role equality AND special treatment. On Friday, McCarthy told Piers Morgan that while she supports women in combat, they shouldn't be required to use those nasty and evil assault rifles -- or, presumably, the even nastier machine guns, grenade launchers, mortars, and heavy artillery pieces.
She also mades it clear that she is clueless about what arms are rifles:
"CAROLYN MCCARTHY: I will tell you, if you talk to professionals, hunters and certainly sportsmen, they'll tell you [an AR-15 is] not the gun to use. A rifle is more accurate."