Saturday, January 13, 2007

Got Vertigo?

Carpetbagger Report has a couple of interesting posts up regarding an exchange between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Senator Barbara Boxer during the hearings on Iraq last Thursday.

The spin has set the conservatives off in a tizzy. Carpetbagger cites from the apparent source of this (fake) controversy, the New York Post...

NYP: Boxer was wholly in character for her party – New York's own two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, were predictably opportunistic — but the Golden State lawmaker earned special attention for the tasteless jibes she aimed at Rice.

Rice appeared before the Senate in defense of President Bush's tactical change in Iraq, and quickly encountered Boxer.

"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price," Boxer said. "My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young." Then, to Rice: "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."

Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking. […] The junior senator from California apparently believes that an accomplished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman.

Following the NY Post's lead, conservative bloggers have been in a frenzy, accusing Boxer of everything from callousness, to anti-feminism, to homophobia.

I'm afraid these critics have lost their collective minds.

In the context of the hearing, Boxer was talking about the costs of the war being shouldered by a small portion of American society, and that those sacrifices generally aren't felt by senators or cabinet secretaries. It was a point about personal sacrifice — and how thousands of families are paying the ultimate personal price for this misguided war.

The NY Post accused Boxer of arguing that Rice isn't "qualified" to be Secretary of State because she has no children. That's insane; Boxer said nothing of the sort. The senator merely noted that neither she nor Rice stand to lose any close relatives in this conflict. That doesn't have anything to do with either of their qualifications or their personal lives.

Carpetbagger has a second installment up today about Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) allegedly insulting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

And now, the spin cycles...


In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Ms. Rice suggested that Ms. Boxer had set back feminism by suggesting during the hearing that the childless Ms. Rice had paid no price in the Iraq war.
NYT: "I thought it was O.K. to be single," Ms. Rice said. "I thought it was O.K. to not have children, and I thought you could still make good decisions on behalf of the country if you were single and didn’t have children." …

[T]he White House spokesman, Tony Snow, suggested earlier on Friday that Senator Boxer's comments were antifeminist. "I don't know if she was intentionally tacky," Mr. Snow said in an interview on Fox News. "It's a great leap backward for feminism.”

At the time of the hearing on Thursday, when the exchange actually happened, no one even raised an eyebrow. Rice wasn't offended, Senate Republicans raised no objections, and there were no gasps of outrage from the audience. It was a largely meaningless half-minute confrontation.

And then Rupert Murdoch's New York Post had an idea, which was embraced by conservative blogs and talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, a champion of single African-American women, was all over the story). The White House looked at all of this and apparently concluded, "Wait, we can turn this nonsense into a controversy? And attack Boxer instead of defend our indefensible policy? Great idea!"

Once again, consider exactly what Boxer said:
"Now, the issue is who pays the price. Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact."
Carpetbagger continues:

Rice began to respond about her personal losses, saying, "I can never do anything to replace any of those lost men and women in uniform, or the diplomats, some of whom…"

Boxer cut her off. "Madam Secretary, please, I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions."

This wasn't about Rice's personal life. Rice knows it, Tony Snow knows it, anyone who actually bothers to read and/or listen to what was said knows it.

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