TCS Daily

What of "All The President's Women"

By Henry I. Miller - October 6, 2005 12:00 AM

STANFORD, Calif. -- I just witnessed a fascinating juxtaposition. On Tuesday, I attended a lecture, "All the President's Women," by veteran MSNBC reporter Norah O'Donnnell at Stanford University. The next day, a piece by columnist Maureen Dowd with the very same title appeared in the New York Times.

They couldn't have been more dissimilar.

O'Donnell's presentation was charming, insightful and literate. She described the nuanced professional relationships that President Bush has with women. How some, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, have become genuine "family," even vacationing with the Bushes. How others, such as Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, comprise a sort of "professional family" on whom the President knows he can depend for loyalty and hard work.

She also described the unique role of Laura Bush, who, among her other duties, in the most dire circumstances prepares the President for bad news. (According to O'Donnell, who has covered the White House extensively, the inner circle dreads bringing bad tidings to the Oval Office, viewing it as "walking into the propeller.")

O'Donnell also noted that the loyalty flows both ways, with the President apparently grooming Secretary of State Rice for a future presidential candidacy.

Dowd's column, by contrast, was a tacky, inaccurate hatchet job. Worse still, it was unentertaining. In an excruciatingly patronizing way, she described Dr. Rice, Ms. Hughes and Ms. Miers as "office wives," who are "not qualified to get . . . supremely powerful jobs."

Dowd criticizes Dr. Rice's performance as both National Security Adviser during the first Bush term, calling her more of "an enabler than an honest broker," and as Secretary of State.

Oh, please. Dr. Rice is one of the best qualified and most talented persons to serve as secretary of state in modern times. And where was foreign policy critic Dowd during the travesties of the Clinton administration, when the nation had to endure the buffoonery of Secretary of State Madeline Albright; the relentless disingenuousness of Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth, who worked tirelessly to circumvent Congress's explicit refusal to ratify radical, wrong-headed treaties signed by the Clinton administration; and the chronic ineptitude of National Security Adviser Sandy Berger (who gained fame only after leaving office, convicted of stealing classified documents by shoving them into his trousers)?

Dowd's column is remarkable not only for its snideness but for its mean-spirited anti-feminist tone. In fact, all of the women she slams rose to their positions through merit and accomplishments - not through mindless affirmative action, the apparent method of selection of some columnists at the New York Times.

Henry I. Miller is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Barron's selected his most recent book, "The Frankenfood Myth," as one of the 25 Best Books of 2004.


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