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Friday, November 7, 2008

Looking Forward

posted by on November 7 at 13:54 PM

I’m excited about Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. On one of my key issues, women’s rights—it’s hard to consider this a “pet issue” when how the country treats its female citizens affects all its citizens—he’s been stellar. He supports funding for embryonic stem cell research, opposed the so-called “partial birth abortion ban,” cosponsored legislation (along with Biden and Obama) expanding women’s access to basic reproductive health care, and received a 100% rating from NARAL. (He’s also been great on environmental issues, earning a 94 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters). Plus, he’s a fucking badass—exactly the kind of asshole Obama should appoint for this key position. (And I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Josh Lyman.)

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some other reported short-listers for key positions in the Obama administration: Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar, reportedly under consideration for Secretary of State, and Larry Summers, reportedly on the short list to head the Treasury Department.

Let’s start with Hagel. Over his career in the US Senate, he’s received a zero-percent rating from NARAL, reflecting the fact that he has consistently voted against abortion rights, birth control, and embryonic stem-cell research, as well as supporting failed abstinence-only education programs. (As long I’m talking about “interest groups” like women, I should note that Hagel opposes gay marriage, too.)

Lugar, too, received a 0 percent rating from NARAL for his rabidly anti-choice record. Along with Biden, he supported Bush’s proposal to deny African agencies US AIDS funding if they so much as refer clients to family planning and birth control services. On issues that matter to women, these guys are both Republican throwbacks, not the change we need.

A brief note about Summers. In addition to his famous statement that women are underrepresented in math and science professions because the ladies just aren’t good at math and science, Summers has expressed the opinion that “Africa is underpolluted” (a statement he made in advocating for dumping toxic waste in developing countries); has said that children choose to work in sweatshops in Asia; and does not believe in the wage gap between men and women.

According to Women’s Voices Women Vote, women overwhelmingly supported Obama—particularly unmarried women like me, who went for Obama by a 70 to 29 percent margin. (Married women supported Obama 50 to 47 percent; unmarried women with kids supported Obama 74 to 25 percent.) The strong pro-Obama turnout among women demonstrates two things: 1) The hysteria that Hillary Clinton was going to “destroy the Democratic Party” as silly women voted with their vaginas, not their brains, was dead wrong (as Melissa McEwan notes here); and 2) The new administration needs to pay attention to us. Surely there are candidates for these important positions that take women’s rights—our right to birth control, our right to medically accurate sex education, our right to equal pay for equal work, and our right to choose—more seriously than these three.

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I think the thing that upsets the Red Bushies is that they know he'll be effective as a Chief of Staff, and it implies discipline and backbone will join competence as the hallmarks of the new Administration.

Plus, we'll root them out of their embedded positions ....

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 7, 2008 2:08 PM

Secretary of State Duties:

Serves as the President’s principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy;
Conducts negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs;
Grants and issues passports to American citizens and exequaturs to foreign consuls in the United States;
Advises the President on the appointment of U.S. ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other diplomatic representatives;
Advises the President regarding the acceptance, recall, and dismissal of the representatives of foreign governments;
Personally participates in or directs U.S. representatives to international conferences, organizations, and agencies;
Negotiates, interprets, and terminates treaties and agreements;
Ensures the protection of the U.S. Government to American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries;
Supervises the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad;
Provides information to American citizens regarding the political, economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian conditions in foreign countries;
Informs the Congress and American citizens on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations;
Promotes beneficial economic intercourse between the United States and other countries;
Administers the Department of State;
Supervises the Foreign Service of the United States.
The decider of abortion rights, birth control, and embryonic stem-cell research;

Posted by todd | November 7, 2008 2:10 PM

Are "abortion rights, birth control, and embryonic stem-cell research, as well as supporting failed abstinence-only education programs, [...] gay marriage" primary concerns in foreign policy? (Which is what the Secretary of State is responsible for.)

As a liberal, I wouldn't want someone with those beliefs setting domestic policy. But I don't see the relevance of them to managing American interactions with the world at large. The real question is, Is Hagel actually qualified for the job?

Posted by A | November 7, 2008 2:12 PM

Not that I don't support women's rights, but who gives a crap what NARAL thinks of the Secretary of State?

Posted by jesse | November 7, 2008 2:12 PM

How much of their jobs will involve deciding policy on these issues? I don't care if the person who cuts my hair doesn't agree with me on abortion.

Filling his cabinet with a bunch of liberal partisans is exactly what Obama said he wanted to avoid, and I totally agree with him.

Posted by another Andy | November 7, 2008 2:13 PM
Posted by Giffy | November 7, 2008 2:20 PM

Dammit ECB, this is cutting through my post-election self-congratulatory afterglow! Focus on: Drag queens! National anthems!

Posted by tomasyalba | November 7, 2008 2:21 PM

NPR last night was talking about how the Democrats are a big tent party, able to embrace Harry Reid (Senate majority leader, pro-life) and Nancy Pelosi (House majority leader, pro-choice). That is where our success lies.

I am thrilled that we have been entrusted with leadership of our nation during this time of crisis. Please please PLEASE do not make this into a litmus test about a narrow range of issues. Does anyone know or care what Colin Powell and Condi Rice's stand on choice and women's rights are? As an Obama administration, the overall goals and means will be inherently pro-choice and pro-woman (or he'll have Michelle and Malia and Sasha to answer to).

If Obama appoints Hagel or Lugar, they will no longer represent the interests of their conservative constituencies (they have, after all, been representatives and their votes may or may not reflect their personal beliefs). They will represent and lead a pro-choice administration. I really hope and trust that Obama will choose the best, most qualified people for these positions. He's a smart, rational guy-- not an idealogue. Let's not put pressure on President Obama to hew to our personal agendas. Instead, let's get behind him and work on the agenda we've elected him to adddress.

Posted by Suze | November 7, 2008 2:32 PM

If filling these posts with competent Republicans will help Obama govern and progress on foreign policy in the long-term, I don't care what his Sec of State thinks of abortion or gay marriage. That position has no influence on either of those policies -- Rahm's does, so relax.

Posted by Judith | November 7, 2008 2:34 PM


Erica, how come when you were attacking Obama's voting record on abortion you ignored NARAL's 100% rating? I'd call it cherry picking to only tout NARAL's ratings when they happen to agree with you.

Posted by elenchos | November 7, 2008 2:34 PM

I'm a hardcore, straight-ticket Democrat myself, but what do Hagel and Lugar's views (which I stridently disagree with) on abortion and same-sex marriage have to do with the Secretary of State's job description?

And what do Summers' (admittedly offensive) positions and statements on women in math and science, pollution in Africa, Asian sweatshops, and equal pay have to to do with the job description of the Secretary of the Treasury?

And Women's Voices Women Vote? The group that earned a place on the 2008 Election Shit List for thousands of racially targeted and deceptive robocalls into several states during the primaries misinforming vulnerable newly-registered and sporadic voters of their registration status, registration deadline, and other misinformation?


Posted by Chris in West Seattle | November 7, 2008 2:40 PM

I have to agree with the notion NARAL's rating of both Lugar and Hagel shouldn't matter for Secretary of State because their duties don't include anything to do with domestic policy, but I would like to hear ECB's reasoning as to why it should matter in regards to foreign policy matters because, honestly, we might be missing something.

Also, please, let's not turn the liberal firing squad in on Obama before he takes office. I agree with those that think he should appoint moderate Republicans and Conservatives to positions within reason.

Posted by grznt | November 7, 2008 2:42 PM

I love these choices. Why don't we get these supposedly rabid anti-woman senators out of the senate and into positions where they will have absolutely zero say on these matters. Calling out these guys on womens' issues is like deriding an appointment to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms because they don't support removing the Columbia River dams.

Try taking off your feminism goggles for a day. The world of good government and policy-making has many different colors, and I'm afraid you're only seeing one of them.

Posted by c'mon Erica | November 7, 2008 2:50 PM

Summers would be an absolutely terrible choice for the Treasury. Totally insane arrogance combined with suicidal commitment to "let them eat cake" hostility to regulating the market to reduce social inequality or build poor and working class consumer power.

Obama should NOT appoint Republicans to be Secretary of State. It reinforces the idea that Democrats are not specialists in this area and have no alternative to develop. It also makes it highly unlikely, if not impossible, to develop any kind of fair trade policies. Scary.

Posted by Trevor | November 7, 2008 2:50 PM

@13: The secretary of state has no role in developing international family planning programs? The treasury department has no role to play in addressing pay equity issues, or the needs of poor, many of whom are single mothers?

Posted by Trevor | November 7, 2008 2:55 PM

@ 3, 4 and 5, and I think 2:

The Secretary of State's view on reproductive rights and access to contraception are of great importance if poverty reduction and human rights are to play a major role in U.S. foreign policy. Below is a press release from the UNFPA:

Among the report’s 10 key recommendations is that developing countries should adopt MDG-based poverty reduction strategies, and that “specific interventions to address gender inequality should be an intrinsic part of all MDG-based investment packages.” They should address systemic challenges, such as protection of reproductive health and rights, including family planning and sexual health [...]. Poor nations’ efforts to escape poverty, the report adds, are helped by voluntary family planning, “which promotes greater investments in the health, nutrition, and education of each child”.

Posted by Chance | November 7, 2008 2:55 PM

I think it's a bold, smart move to appoint conservatives -- where they can be found -- in any area, so long as they're NOT conservative in the area they're tasked with (foreign policy, abortion rights, environment, transportation, etc). It helps keep the conservative hordes at bay, when they're kept back by their own kind, while simultaneously advancing the progressive agenda. And it'll help wedge the Republicans further apart by exploiting ideological differences within their party.

Posted by David | November 7, 2008 3:00 PM

Single-issue voters suck. I'm pretty sure I don't care what NARAL thinks of my barista, and I'm equally unconcerned with what NARAL thinks of the Secretary of State. Grow up.

Posted by F | November 7, 2008 3:03 PM

is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them.

How is this any better than the bell curve guys? (OK other than the obvious fact that it's way more minor.)

He wants to be proved wrong? So if he's proven wrong would we look at the time when Harvard had a president who WRONGLY believed that women were intrinsically worse at science and engineering as a good tmie?

Posted by daniel | November 7, 2008 3:11 PM


I have a feeling that if Hagel won't go along with the administration's policies on those issues, he won't be in that position for very long, or won't be picked in the first place.

Posted by keshmeshi | November 7, 2008 3:40 PM

@3 - yes.

Just think of how we don't support family planning measures that give out condoms at cost to potential HIV infectees - and to those who have it.

Yes, it DOES matter.

On a personal level, I wouldn't trust Lugar near anything, but Hagel is another matter.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 7, 2008 3:50 PM

Foisting a litmus test regarding cultural wedge issues on every cabinet position is the very last thing an Obama administration wants to do if it seeks to govern in a bi-partisan style as Obama promised. In addition, it risks alienating the moderate voters that got him into office by helping deliver PA and OH. I dearly hope he does not do this.

Posted by Chris in LQA | November 7, 2008 3:54 PM

"...the ladies just aren’t good at math and science..."

Erica's usual inaccurate and simplistic paraphrasing of someone else's view. Summers raised the possibility (based on research presented by others) that there may be innate differences between men and women at play. Certainly not something that has been disproven, yet radicals like Erica absolutely crucify him for even bringing it up.

People like Erica like to give lip service to being open-minded, inclusive, etc., but really just want to shout down anyone who might voice another point of view. Not much different from Hannity and O'Reilly, just from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Posted by rjh | November 7, 2008 3:57 PM

dont throw the gop no bones. keep picking folks like rahm emanuel; pick a liberal for secretary of state. you won for fecks sake. they lost. what the hell could lugar and hegel bring to the table? lugar was suppose to be in charge of seeing soviet nuclear weapons destroyed. he didnt do too well with that. republicans would never give you such high seats.

and anyway, they were bushies! plenty of qualified, progressive, liberals out there.

the last thing i wanna see is colin powell's lying ass in an obama administration.

Posted by SeMe | November 7, 2008 3:57 PM

@24: You can't call Hagel a "Bushie." Check out the interesting piece The New Yorker recently did on him:

Let's get the best people in place, without basing choices on some phony litmus tests that meet our own agendas, or on grudges we hold against the previous administration.

Posted by rjh | November 7, 2008 4:04 PM

Riiiight. Litmus tests on domestic policy issues ECB cares about for anyone who might do foreign policy... some days I think she's just baiting us with the inanity.

Posted by brad | November 7, 2008 4:09 PM

I'm sorry ECB, as long as PETA signs off on my SECDEF, I don't much care what NARAL has to say.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 7, 2008 4:16 PM

PETA likes Chuck Hagel? Cool!

Posted by elenchos | November 7, 2008 4:26 PM

Obama is not going to steer the country to the far left so stop holding your breath lefties. (I'm a liberal, not a leftie, btw).

Yes, he does have a mandate, but judging by the popular vote this is still a 50/50 country politically. He has to throw the Republicans a couple bones so he can get stuff done for all of us. Putting a moderate Republican (which is what Hagel and Luger are) as a Secretary of State or Treasury is not like overturning Roe v. Wade. (And they still answer to Obama anyway).

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Posted by Virginia Harris | November 7, 2008 4:38 PM

That New Yorker article is in depth and actually highlights some EXCELLENT reasons why Hagel is qualified as secretary of state.

He doesn't have to be right everything, just a valid choice for the job.

**I'm a super liberal female voter too**

Posted by kdk | November 7, 2008 4:53 PM

why would anybody think there are "far left" liberals in the US senate?

watching fox too long. theyre liberals, theyre not marxists. theyre for the free market, universal health care, checks and balances, envioremental freedoms and negotiating with foreign goverments. thats not "far left" or maybe the bush administration has you all programed to think thats far left. people act like theyre black panthers or something.

some of you sound like sean hannity with this "far left" crap and willingness to go back to the right. stay in the center and the center left. lugar is center right. who needs that crap again.

Posted by SeMe | November 7, 2008 5:02 PM

I think you're missing the point Erica. Real, lasting change will come to the USA when EVERYONE moves forward together. EVERYONE includes those fucktards that got the 0% rating from NARAL. This may slow change down, but when it comes it will come to stay.

Posted by Mrs. Jarvie | November 7, 2008 5:06 PM

Hagel is excellent on foreign policy and really smart. This is an opportunity to take a smart man who doesn't agree with 100% of the principles of the Democrats and put him in a position to use those that do. Rejecting him because he doesn't fall in 100% lockstep with everything, especially those things he would have no power over, is fucking idiotic.

Posted by F | November 7, 2008 5:29 PM

i think is idiotic to assume that there are not plenty of qualified liberal democrats who can serve in that capicity before u go throwing bones with such high power positions.

secretaries of state should reflect the policies of a new and fresh administration, hagel might be a good diplomat but so what. these are the kind of moves that take you back to the center right.

Posted by SeMe | November 7, 2008 5:36 PM

No, Secretaries of State should reflect the diplomatic foreign policies of a new administration, just like the Justice Department should reflect the law and order policies of a new administration. Mandating ideological purity in all leadership positions is exactly what got us into this mess and is a surefire way to ensure a one-term presidency.

Posted by F | November 7, 2008 5:45 PM

F, not to get into argument, but is not asking for purity to expect a center and center left cabinet. change is change my man. old man mccain would have probably picked people like lugar for his cabinet.

the center right didnt vote for him, so why throw them bones?

it blows my mind that the first thing people want is to distance themselves from the center and the center left and get all comfy with the ones that voted against them.

im sure he would be fine, but why would u want people who caucaus(sp?) with trent lott and those other tools.

Posted by SeMe | November 7, 2008 5:57 PM

Fun fact you probably won't hear on RushHannityFoxEtAl: Rahm Emanuel's middle name is "Israel".

Posted by rain | November 7, 2008 6:07 PM

This has nothing to do with left/center/right. The insistence on left/center/right classification why people get so fed up with politics. It has everything to do with having them agree with your policy. Hagel agrees nearly 100% with Obama's foreign policy. Who cares if he disagrees on anything else?

Posted by F | November 7, 2008 6:28 PM

How can you expect anyone to bomb an enemy country if they're too busy respecting a woman's right to choose?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 8, 2008 12:03 AM

You know what democrats should really be concerned about with Hagel being secretary of state? That it reinforces the stereotype that democrats don't do foreign policy and national defense all that well. Seriously, why should dems give them credit on that when they don't deserve it and its one of their perceived weaknesses?

Posted by lana | November 8, 2008 1:19 PM

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