Does Libya Success Vindicate Obama’s Leadership or Clinton’s?

The other day I tweeted:

“Love Traister’s writing but it misses key #leadership lesson: executive responsibility C gets, O doesn’t.”

I was immediately flooded with retweets and comments both there and on my Facebook page. Some disagreed but most concurred–strongly. As I see a preponderance of the comments on the Times post do.

Have you read this article? What are your thoughts?

In case you didn’t see it yet, the article referenced is a New York Times Magazine piece speculating “What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?”  by one of my favorite feminist writers, Rebecca Traister. The intent of the article was to suggest people stop speculating, whereupon she speculates that there would have been little difference because the two candidates were both center-right in political philosophy.

I have to disagree strongly with my friend Traister this time. Full disclosure: she interviewed me and quoted me extensively in her book Big Girls Don’t Cry, which analyzes Clinton’s run for the presidency and chronicles Traister’s own slow shift from supporting Obama to Clinton as she considered the gender, racial, and socio-political implications of her voting choices.

So when I received the Politico Arena question, the answer came easily. Their query was: Is President Obama vindicated on Libya?

The answer to the question, it seems to me, is rooted in the same missing piece of analysis as that in Traister’s article. Executive leadership requires setting an agenda, having a strongly articulated point of view and teaching/arguing/inspiring/politicking/leading the people and then the Congress to it.

That is something Clinton understands because of her time in the White House and lengthier experience in national political leadership in general. These toughened her up for the fray. It taught her valuable lessons in how to use diplomacy in the service of an authentic agenda. It’s a quality that can surely be learned, but Obama seems to shrink from the executive role rather than embracing it. His emphasis on “the deal” and penchant for striking pre-emptive bargains against himself have seriously diminished his leadership stature. More troubling, it has given the Republicans way more campaign fodder than they deserve–bereft as they are of caring about anything beyond lining their own cronies’ pockets so they can hold onto their threadbare political power.

I do think getting Qadhafi out of power is a net positive for Obama (though one could argue even here that Clinton is the strength behind the president’s victory). But until he gives America a new economic vision and jobs agenda, I’m afraid the benefit to his presidency will be short lived.



Video: Women, Power, Media, Politics Panel Leaves Questions Unanswered

Yesterday the New York Times reported that women constitute a mere 13% of Wikipedia editors. This is a completely self-selected effort. No closed doors, no glass ceilings.

What’s the problem? There are no excuses, though many reasons remain for this disparity–not unlike the behaviors of women in politics (or not), in business, and women in top media positions.

I had the opportunity to moderate (if one can call it that) a panel of fabulous women at the 92Y Sunday 1/23. It was icy outside but The Nation columnist Katha Pollitt, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY 18), and Rebecca Traister, author of the Big Girls Don’t Cry, warmed things up quickly inside.

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In the video clip above, Rebecca revealed how she found her own niche as a feminist writer, Katha explored how the media either helps or hinders women (one website she likes very much is, and Nita addressed the meanness women in Congress are dealing with now. Read Chloe Angyal’s report on Feministing too.

But still–I contend that the only way to change the catalogue of awfuls these women cited is for women to push forward toward parity and change the system along the way. So I asked the panelists to propose solutions.  When I get the complete video, I’ll share some of those clips with you.

Meanwhile, I’d like to know what you propose to move the dial from 17%–the share of Congressional seats held by women–to something close to 50-50. What do you suggest?

Women, Power & Politics at 92nd Street Y

On January 23, 2011, I moderated a panel discussion about “Women, Power and Politics” at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. The panelists included Katha Pollitt, Nita Lowey and Rebecca Traister.

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For more audience reactions to the event, check out these stories from Huffington Post, Jezebel, and Feministing.

How Can Women Reach Political Parity in a Chaotic Time?

You know I believe chaos is opportunity. But are women carpe-ing the chaos? With all those groups helping women run for office, why aren’t we moving the dial toward political parity faster? At the rate we’re going, it’ll take us 70 years to get there. And even if we do, will it be a plus or a cruel joke if, say, Michelle Bachmann becomes the first woman president? Isn’t it time for progressive women to come out of the closet and acknowledge that a woman’s agenda is more important than her gender?

I’m excited to have a chance to ask questions like these about women, power, media, and politics of three of the most politically savvy women I know at the 92Y in New York this coming Sunday night 1/23, at 7:30 pm. You are most cordially invited.

Panelists are Rebecca Traister, columnist at and author of Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women; Katha Pollitt, a columnist at The Nation and author, most recently, of The Mind-Body Problem, a collection of poems. Congresswoman Nita Lowey represents New York’s 18th District and has been a long time leader for women in the legislative arena.

Come join us for a lively and timely conversation, followed by Q and A and a booksigning by the three authors!

More info and tickets: Women, Power, Media, and Politics
Date: Jan 23, 2011
Time:  7:30pm
Location: 92|Y Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street , New York, NY
Venue: Buttenwieser Hall

Price: $29.00 but here ‘s a secret for you if you are reading this post: Click this link and use the code WP10 to purchase your ticket for $10. Students with valid student ID’s may obtain free tickets by e-mailing