Monday, January 07, 2008


I actually don't think this was written with malign intent (it's by a Massachusetts playwright and the woman he sometimes collaborates with, not by any of the right's usual hatchet-people) -- but, given how desperate Republicans are to find a way to recalibrate their '08 campaign now that Hillary Clinton seems far from inevitable, I think Rupert Murdoch's New York Post decided to publish it today with malign intent:


... it's not only Obama's policies and strategies that appeal to women. He is like a woman: slim, good looking, with long elegant fingers, appealingly dressed -- all terms more typically ascribed to female candidates.

Those shots of Barack and Michelle sitting with Oprah on stools had the feel of a smart, all-women talk panel: Obama fit right in for reasons beyond race.

Hillary has long been accused of androgyny -- trying to sound like a man, flexing her rhetorical muscle -- but on Thursday night it was Obama who won the androgyny sweepstakes.

...Women are gravitating to Obama out of ... the desire to invite him to our book club, join him for coffee or have him coach our child's soccer team. He embodies many of the positive characteristics we tend to regard as feminine: sensitive and empathetic, seeking to find common ground and minimize conflict, not taking power for granted. We've yet to catch Obama beating up an opponent.

... Bill Clinton, who was famously dubbed America's first black president, provides a useful typecasting precedent. By the end of this year we might indeed have our first woman president -- but not necessarily Hillary.

The writers of this piece, as I've said, don't seem to be right-wing apparatchiks. Yes, Lucy Berrington used to work at Murdoch's Times of London, where she did write a piece about British women converting to Islam, but that article was sufficiently non-alarmist that it's been reprinted at this pro-Islam site; more recently, I find a soft Boston Globe story with her byline, about the similarities between house-hunting and boyfriend-hunting. Her collaborator, Jeff Onore, is a Massachusetts-based playwright, poet, and "sinister/humorous" singer/songwriter. It's conceivable that these two read Michelle Malkin every day with their morning coffee, but I doubt it.

But the piece is highly useful to Murdoch. The Post wasn't about to hold it until after New Hampshire because, I think, he'd still like Hillary to be the nominee (easier to beat, more conducive to selling newspapers and drawing right-wing eyeballs to his media properties). Also, right-wingers are desperate for lines of attack in the case of Obama -- I think they sense they can't attack him directly (at least in above-the-radar media outlets) as a black man.

Calling him a woman is perfect -- it's the exact opposite of the usual racist attack on black men's sexuality, and yet it has perfect plug-and-play compatibility with the usual attack on Democrats. And the specific argument -- that his charisma shows he's weak and testosterone-deficient -- is Rovian in the way it turns Obama's greatest strength into a weakness.

Maureen Dowd, I suspect, just sent Berrington and Onore a gift basket, because reading their article made it possible for her to knock out her next column in ten minutes.

1 comment:

Lucy Berrington said...

I wish Dowd *had* sent us a gift basket. Thanks for being the only blogger who realized this wasn't written as a hatchet job on Obama. Still, your criticism is well taken.