Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revolt of the White House Women

New book highlights how women in the Obama White House were marginalized, ignored and felt sexist tension from the Obama "Boys Club!"

So, get this...The Obama Administration gave full cooperation to Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Suskind to do one of those behind the scenes books that clearly the Administration felt would be a useful piece of political propaganda. The book, "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President," [Amazon] did turn out to be a useful piece of propaganda, but only for those on the right who had always viewed the Obama team with suspicion.

Photobucket
Romer: "I felt like a piec of meat."
First there were the more sensational charges like the quote from Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers. Ms. Romer is quoted as saying she "felt like a piece of meat." Anyone who has seen a photos of Ms. Romer (left) might have trouble believing that. Next was the quote by the Mao loving  former White House communications director Anita Dunn
who reportedly said that the Obama White House was a "genuinely hostile workplace to women." Dunn tried to deny saying this, but a recording of the quote was played for a reporter for the Washington Post.

Both women have distanced themselves from those comments but what hasn't gone away is the notion that the Obama White House is NOT a place where women feel respected and included. In fact, more and more stories are coming out to support the book's basic conclusions regarding the role of women in this White House. The headlines tell the story: "In early Obama White House, female staffers felt frozen out" in the Washington Post. "White House Women Revolt" in the Daily Beast and "The White House Boys’ Club: President Obama Has a Woman Problem" at Time Magazine.

That last article, written by Amy Sullivan, describes how she has chronicled the sorry role women have played in the Obama White House by reading the body language of photographs of Obama when meeting with his female staff and the easy camaraderie of him with his male colleagues. One photo in particular makes her case:

White House Women NOT Happy Campers!
Amy Sullivan: "Look at the senior women meeting with Obama in this White House photo at a dinner they called to discuss their invisibility. Look at their faces and body language. They are pissed off."
The first time I noticed something was awry, I was flipping through the White House Flickr album from Obama’s first 100 days in office. About halfway through, I realized something was missing. Shot after shot showed Oval Office meetings filled with men in dark suits. But apart from occasional appearances by Hillary Clinton and Valerie Jarrett–and one photo of an Oval Office meeting that included Jarrett and several other female advisers–women were mostly absent from the workplace shots.

I knew the problem wasn’t a lack of women on staff at the White House. A 2009 analysis of White House salary data did find that while women outnumbered men in the lowest salary brackets, there were only 58 women in the 142 highest senior staff positions at the Obama White House. But those 58 were still a huge leap over the 32 highly-paid women in George W. Bush’s White House in 2007. Even so, it didn’t matter how many senior women were on staff if they weren’t in the room with the boss when it mattered. There, a comparison with Bush’s White House is also instructive. Valerie Jarrett is obviously a key member of Obama’s inner circle, but her role is largely a personal one, to protect Obama’s brand. For the most part, she does not fill the same position of political or policy guru that Karen Hughes and Condi Rice respectively did in Bush’s brain trust.
Has hell frozen over or did a member of the mainstream media actually give former President Bush a compliment for the role he gave women in his inner circle?

The problem in the Obama White House appears to be deep seated in Obama's own personality. Amy Sullivan continues:
Even when women are in the room with Obama, they are sometimes seen but not heard. At a 2010 symposium on women in finance, Christina Romer, then the chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, talked about the difficulty she had getting the floor in policy discussions. Suskind relates the story of how Obama reacted angrily to one suggestion by Romer, and yet calmly heard out the same point from Larry Summers a few days later. Other senior women have complained that their arguments seemed to disappear into the ether at meetings, unacknowledged by Obama. Ellen Moran, Obama’s first communications director, was the first member of his team to leave the White House, resigning just 92 days into the term.

These complaints will ring familiar to most professional women. And we know that the difference between temporary annoyances and an intolerable situation is a boss who acknowledges the issue and moves quickly to address it. Yet it seems to have taken several years for Obama to pay even minimal attention to the problem.
No Surprise

Those who expected Obama to be a different kind of president and who bought the hope and change bunk are bound to be disappointed for a whole host of reasons. Obama's dismissal of women is just the latest. Hispanics thought Obama was going to pave the way for immigration amnesty. African Americans like Peggy Joseph thought Obama was going to put gas in her car and help pay off her mortgage. Liberal women thinking Obama would treat them with the respect they feel they deserve have only themselves to blame for drinking the Kool Aid in the first place!

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