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Ms. Wright Goes to Washington

By Sheryl Wright

Despite their pledge during the 2010 mid-term election campaign to focus on jobs,Republicans have used their majority in the House to push abortion to the front of the Congressional agenda. On January 7, 2011, Congressman Mike Pence introduced H.R. 217(the Pence Amendment).


Bachmann Spiking the Tea

By Karima E. Rustin

One of the many things I look forward to on a Saturday morning  is reading The New York Times. And who do I see prominently figuring at the beginning of the column but Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)...damn, not Bachmann again!


The Politics of Union Envy 

By Sheryl Wright

Neither of my parents went to college, but both were union members—my father in the private sector and my mother in the public. In addition to their salaries, which allowed them to provide a comfortable life for our family, the benefits won by their respective unions


Roundtable: Delegitimizing Obama–The Intersection of Gender, Power & Politics  

Sheryl: Almost 800 days in office and it seems every day is seen as an opportunity for renewed criticism of the President. The latest kerfuffle is around the claim that President Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the action in Libya


« The Politics of Union Envy | Main | Stupidity »

Roundtable: Delegitimizing Obama–The Intersection of Gender, Power & Politics  

Sheryl: Almost 800 days in office and it seems every day is seen as an opportunity for renewed criticism of the President. The latest kerfuffle is around the claim that President Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the action in Libya was at the behest of three female members of his staff. Two somewhat divergent strands of thought have emerged from the noise: Obama is not man enough to make the tough decisions without a push from women on his staff, and three wild-eyed war-mongering women are riding roughshod within the administration. Either way you slice it, the result is a picture of Obama as a weak and incompetent president.

Lydia: I'm dumbfounded by the whole discussion. It turns me into a stuffy old man, actually. I keep thinking, this is total poppycock! Codswollop! I guess my inner old man is British today. This is so out of the blue but not unexpected, I suppose. We're closing in on 2012 so it's all hands on deck to make President Obama as unappealing as possible.

Nichole: I take your point Lydia that the focus is developing critiques of Obama in preparation for the 2012 presidential field--note Newt Gingrich's own flip-flop on Libya--now we have former Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney arguing that Obama is, as she characterizes it, attacking an exemplar of direct democracy and government responsibility. At what point do we get politics out of politics?  At what point do we break ranks with people who are obviously being disingenuous in their critiques of those who are situated differently in their politics?  I may not be clear on what the issue is, but it seems that if a country's leader is using the full force of the military to bomb and shoot citizens who are peacefully protesting, then something needs to be done.  Some collective action to protect unarmed citizens needs to be taken.  I mean, seriously--children were being killed trying to escape Gadhafi's forces.

Lydia: I think a more appropriate question pundits and critics should have been asking, which Ted Koppel has, is why Libya and not Sudan, Congo or Ivory Coast where millions of innocents have been killed? What determines where we put in our armed two-cents, as it were? Is our involvement in other countries' civil wars ultimately proven to be aid or a detriment to the very people we were seeking to help? I don't know that there is a right answer to any of these questions. It seems to prove, more than anything, the truism, you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't.  

Nichole: Lydia, I agree with you; McKinney raised that argument in her polemic as did Louis Farakhan over the weekend at a conference on Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. Although both McKinney and Farakahn seem completely out of it in terms of what Gadhafi represents at this moment in time.  Wack-a-doodle is very appropriate in their context.  One of the other points that caught our attention though regarding this construction of Obama as hounded by the harpies, is the very troubling gender dynamics at play.  How do we talk seriously about human rights and political engagement without creating these misogynist and sexist straw men?

Lydia: I fear that as long as women are under-represented in politics and positions of power, it will continue, unabashedly.

Sheryl: I am behind in the discussion and I have quite a bit to say. Please bear with me…

Both of you are right to say that this is in preparation for 2012. I would add the thing about this instance is that the right-wing is now choosing to come at Obama using misogynistic stereotypes as their weapon. “Obama as more woman than females on his staff” is a new tack in their never-ending attempt to delegitimize him. During the campaign and to this day, right-wingers have used “Obama as the undercover scary Muslim” to question his legitimacy. They really have been up to this since before Obama was even elected. Now that he is president and they want to prevent him from being re-elected, it has been an almost nonstop endeavor. They really can’t help themselves. They know that turning him into the other has some potential political benefit.

Aside from the clearly misogynistic and sexist nature of the meme that is being presented, one of the other  absurdities is that this question is being debated in the national media. Jeanne Cummings’ analysis of the media coverage hits the nail on the head:

“…What bothers me about the reporting on this particular story is that, really, what you had was the secretary of state going up against the secretary of defense, and the U.N ambassador going up against Homeland Security. Basically, these are women, yes, but these are women with titles that matter…And it‘s in that capacity that they were making their cases.”

On to why Libya and not Sudan, Congo or Ivory Coast: I heard someone asking the same question on the radio today. I think to try to answer that question highlights the conflict between our security interests (oil, Al Qaeda, stability in the Middle East, etc.) and the importance of respect for the human rights of all people. As has been the case with a number of other Obama administration actions, I am ambivalent about the decision to involve the U.S. in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya; however, I agree that Obama would have been criticized no matter what he decided to do.

As for the comments from Cynthia McKinney and Louis Farrakhan, I have heard others make similar comments. When does it become absurd for someone to make such statements in support of Gadhafi? Some really, really awful things have been done all over the world in the name of the American people, but does that justify the actions of a Gadhafi? I think McKinney and Farrakhan greatly diminish any credibility they may have on any other issue when they continue to try to prop up someone who is clearly doing wrong. 

Now the politics of it all: it is interesting that Republican opponents of President Obama and his administration find it necessary to attack not only his policy decisions but also to attack him personally; I wonder if they realize the negative political implications for the large number of voters who do not identify with or as a wealthy, white, Christian male.

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