Sunday, January 23, 2005

 

A Male Legislator Handicap?

In an otherwise excellent column which lauds Senator Boxer and is quite critical of Condi Rice and the Bush administration, David Nyhan makes one troublesome comment:

While her fellow Democrats held her coat, she [Boxer] let fly with scorching challenges to Bush's policies and Rice's rationalizations. Male politicians are severely handicapped when it comes to challenging women in public, whether in a political debate or during a highly charged congressional hearing. Everyone remembers what happened to some of the men who grilled Anita Hill during the bloody and unedifying Clarence Thomas hearings.

I'm troubled by that "severely handicapped" comment because:
1. I don't believe it's true; and
2. It provides a handy excuse for male legislators who do a poor job questioning high level administration officials who happen to be female.

As for the Anita Hill hearing, some of Hill's male questioners looked bad, not because they were grilling a woman in a tough manner, but because they were in many instances obnoxious and off base.

Asking tough, probing questions of a high level female like Rice (who's done an abysmal job and is looking for a promotion) is hardly analogous to what went on during the Anita Hill hearing.

Male legislators should be up to the task of grilling Rice. And if they fail at it, they shouldn't be able to use the "men look bad when they're mean to women" excuse.

UPDATE: I am very sorry to say that this was David Nyhan's final column. He died on January 23, apparently of a heart attack, shortly after shoveling snow. He was a great columnist, and his death is a huge loss. Rest in peace, Mr. Nyhan.

Comments:
This "handicap" claim is a fig leaf for cowardice. If a male senator feels he is unfairly accused of showing disrespect to a female hearing witness, the solution is to talk more, not less, and seek to be better understood.
 
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