Julia Pierson, ‘Political Correctness,’ and How We View Women in Power

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

89 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Personally, I think it’s disingenuous to be upset at her for being a woman when we all know that the Republicans were hoping the guy would get into the White House and decapitate Obama.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yipe! you’re fucking grim today, Jay.
      me, I wonder if investigating threats against the POTUS diluted the manpower available to the White House division.
      POTUS got SS protection way earlier than normal in his presidential campaign, and I know the SS were scared stiff that he was going to be assassinated — just too many threats to filter them all.

      It is an achievement that he’s managed to make it this far. (Thanks Goldmann!)Report

  2. blazinghand says:

    This situation reminds me of a similar xckd comic: http://xkcd.com/385/

    The comic’s title is How it Works, and in the first panel, there are two men standing at a whiteboard. One man has written an incorrect integral, and the other says, “wow, you suck at math.” The second panel shows a woman in place of the man writing the incorrect integral, and this time, the spaker says, “wow, girls suck at math”Report

  3. Kolohe says:

    Also interesting that Brown gets “Honorable” and Pierson just gets “Ms.”Report

  4. Damon says:

    Of course she’s going to CYA. Bureaucrat = CYA. Sex has nothin’ to do with it. All that really matters is are they good at what they do. So, yeah, Obama is going to take some heat (not much from the left sided “mainstream press”-maybe some token-and well he should. He appointed her and it was his choice. And the correct criticism is that he allowed himself to appoint a friend vs the best person for the job, or allowed himself the fiction that they were one in the same.

    I’ll take issue with the whole women in SS and all that. Yah, women may have less upper body strength and be smaller in size, generally, than men, but given the recent “crazy woman” who drove into a checkpoint and got machine gunned down, I’d pretty much assume that anyone who jumped the fence would be shot on site, especially if he got inside the white house proper.Report

  5. Jim Heffman says:

    “much of what I will say there can be crystallized by our demands that the very idea of women in positions of power be represented by Pierson’s personal failings.”

    Your quotes from Ingraham don’t support this statement. Neither do the rest of her statements.

    “She wasn’t the best person for the job and was only hired because she had breasts” is not the same thing as “no woman could ever handle this job”.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    I think Ms. Pierson’s example is a grimly positive development for women in the workplace: a woman, just like a man, can fulfill the Peter Principle and then disgracefully scramble for personal political cover in front of everyone when the $hit hits the fan. Now that’s what I call gender equality!Report

  7. greginak says:

    One of the many problems with the conservative/anti-PC line here is they aren’t addressing her resume. I have no idea what it is but that is an obvious thing to know about. Did O hire because she was a friend or a woman, beats me, but if she was qualified then those are irrelevant and/or sort of impossible to actually know. If O hired her, like Bush hired Brown, based on being a crony and not being qualified then he should get dinged.

    I also know that if her resume is solid the next line of attack will be to suggest she only got the qualifications and experience because she has girlie parts.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    More sincerely, I find myself surprised to see that she’s the person who was in charge of the Secret Service at the time of the Prostitution Scandal.

    My automatic assumption was that she was the person who replaced the person in charge at the time of the Prostitution Scandal.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    “So long as we view every individual woman’s failing as a reason to second guess all women, we’ll find a way to keep sexism alive and well in the workplace.”

    On the other hand, no one points to the myriad failings of Sarah Palin or the more subtle failings of Condoleezza Rice and says “whatcha expect from a woman”. A lot of this, and *especially* the Fox piece, is just political flimflammery – if Pierson had been, say, a Romney appointee, the entire conservation would be different.

    President Hillary Clinton is never going to be judged fairly, but it’s not (almost entirely but not quite) because she’s a woman, it’s because the right is going to attack her relentlessly and the left is going to defend her with equal passion.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Kolohe says:

      “if Pierson had been, say, a Romney appointee, the entire conservation would be different. ”

      Yes, we’d be asking which binder he picked her out of.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        “The president probably thinks his magic underwear protects him!” is a joke I could see someone tasteless make.

        Meanwhile, in this universe, nobody makes fun of Obama for calling his underwear “The Magic Underwear”.Report

    • Alan Scott in reply to Kolohe says:

      I think you’re wrong here. Obviously sexism didn’t play the same sort of role for Rice or Palin that it did for Pierson, because one was “our team” and one was “their team”.

      But I’d argue that the only reason Rice wasn’t on the 2008 ticket and Palin was is that Rice wasn’t seen by republicans as being feminine enough to be a viable female candidate.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Not at all because she didn’t run and has never shown any public inclination to desire the job?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Alan Scott says:

        …Sorry, duh. As veep.

        I do question whether Rice wanted the job at the time; she had a pretty rough few years there. McCain chose Palin because he thought he needed to shake up the race with an outsider; Rice would have been a pick that signaled continuity.

        More generally, Bush’s approval at that time was in the thirties. Members of his administration were not probably thought to viable, or at least helpful, VP picks.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Kolohe says:

      If Pierson had been, say, a Romney appointee, the entire conservation would be different.

      Yes, the people who appointed her would claim that criticism of her stemmed from her gender rather than her skills.Report

  10. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Agreed that being a woman has nothing to do with this failure. There is nothing inherent about biological gender that would make a man superior to a woman in that role.

    But, if she was put in that role because she was a woman, then that is a failure of Obama. Of course, presidents have always had trouble balancing the desire to hand out political payouts with the need to find competent people to place in charge of X.

    Also, while that guy who ran into the WH certainly had a knife on him, he wasn’t toting a K-Bar or a machete. It was a Spiderco pocket folder. In some parts of the country that are not Manhatten, something like that gets dropped into a pocket or purse as habitually as a wallet does. Hell, I’ve had to surrender knives like that at the airport more times than I like to admit because I forgot it was in my pocket & that I should put it in my checked bag or leave it at home. So yes, he had a knife. That alone isn’t really indicative of intent to do harm. Now if it was open in his hand when he got tackled, that’s another story (but I haven’t heard anything to suggest this is the case). And I only mention this because of the near hysterical focus the media seems to have on the fact the guy had a pocket knife on him. I find this fear people have of weapons themselves to be immensely disturbing.Report

    • Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Just you watch. The next one will have a Maglite.
      “Presidential Assassin Carries Torch!”Report

    • George Turner in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      The scarier thing is that the guy was armed with an idea that Obama might have believed.

      “My fellow Americans. It’s unquestionable that our atmosphere is collapsing due to our over reliance on fossil fuels – and aliens. We must come together to confront that threat, and me and my National Security team, along with my science advisor and the best minds in my Administration, aside from mine, have met to wrestle with the difficult questions about what our society and my government can do to stop the impending atmospheric collapse. So I’m calling on Congressional leaders to pass the plan that I’ll bring to them, a plan based on the best science and policy advice from the full range of department secretaries. But you’ll have to do your part, and pull together as a nation to implement the atmospheric support measures, measures that will have a profound effect to ward off a disaster brought on us by our own overconsumption – and aliens – who we will not profile, because profiling is wrong. Rest assured that I will not rest, and will give this issue my full attention, along with calling on Congress to address the clear need to get this economy rolling and increase the minimum wage.

      Thank you.”Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      Yes, this is the distinction. I don’t feel like parsing all the criticism for who is and isn;t making it, but in positions of leadership/command there’s a danger in having any agenda other than picking the most qualified person.

      Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for having the agenda of picking non-cis-stright-wight-males candidates for those positions. Indeed, to some extent picking the most qualified person requires such an agenda because without a conscious effort to include them, power networks among old boys (aka implicit or explicit racism and sexism) will distort hiring in its own time-proven way that causes the most qualified person sometimes not to be hired. So that needs to be affirmatively(natch) combatted.

      But that agenda can be pursued too vigorously as well. At least, in theory, it would seem it could. I think Coulter has sufficient evidence from the record that the Obama administration probably took pride in choosing the first female director of the Secret Service. But at the same time, in efficacy terms, after the Colombia scandal, it’s at least plausible to argue that being a woman may have contributed to suitability for the position at the time.

      It’s also possible that Obama chose the person he thought was best for the job, and just chose badly. Ironically, Coulter’s assumption that that didn’t happen but that the choice was motivated enough by a different agenda in order to get Obama to choose someone he didn’t have reason to believe was the best person for the job at the time actually reflects a bit better on his personnel management abilities than does trying to pick the best person with only that agenda and whiffing. IMO, I guess.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I will admit that on paper (i.e. the wikipedia page someone linked above), she looks qualified, so this is all quite possibly a case of a hire that has a happy bonus of looking good politically at the time, just not working out as hoped.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I will say that I find this one of the chief cognitive dissonances to be found on the left today. Or if not cognitive dissonance, unstated assumption. We lefties will argue for affirmative action in hiring and then deny in a blanket way that any given person could be holding a position in part because of an affirmative action decision by an executive. We rank administrations and corporations for their record in having hired non-straight-white-males (in particular non-white-males) in positions of authority, and then turn around and deny that executives may in any instance have decided to hire an X rather than a straight white male in part in response to that overt pressure to do so (at least the “hire an X” part, if not the “rather than a straight white male” part).

        Now there’s a potential out to this. We can claim that what’s happening is that executives responding to this pressure are finally honestly trying to pick out the most qualified candidate for every position, finally leaving behind (some of) the effect of privilege that gave white males such an absolute advantage in the past, never picking a non-straight-white-male candidate over a more qualified straight white male candidate.

        But how likely is it that that is happening? Executives don’t respond that exquisitely to political pressure. At some level there is surely some degree of rough-and-ready swapping out of highly qualified white male position holders for slightly less qualified but still very qualified non-straight-white-male candidates. I’d just like liberals to own up to the fact that, realistically speaking, that is actually what they’re trying to get executives to do with their pressure to hire non-sraight-white-male candidates when possible. And when they see an instance of it in the wild, to just say, “Yes, I actually want that person in that job in part because she’s a qualified woman, even if she wasn’t the most qualified candidate and despite the fact that there happened to be a slightly more qualified straight white male candidate for that particular opening. She was plenty qualified and she deserved the job, and we need more equality among holders of positions of authority in society.” Because that really is what the whole thing is about.

        OR! If it’s *not* what it’s about, and it really is about removing white-male-privilege distortions to the selection of the truly most qualified candidate in every instance, then I’d like liberals to come out and say that, in fact, they’re not for affirmative action, at least for the reasons that it has been traditionally justified – i.e. to reform the power structure in society somewhat and place diversity in positions of authority in part for the sake of example and social change. But in fact I think that is what it’s about. So I’d like liberals to double down on that view, and then own the individual, concrete results of that view (which I think on balance are clearly very good – no one, after all, advocates hiring unqualified people for any position).Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew : At some level there is surely some degree of rough-and-ready swapping out of highly qualified white male position holders for slightly less qualified but still very qualified non-straight-white-male candidates.

        This seems to assume that “qualified” is the sort of property that can be objectively determined in an unambiguous fashion, rather than a rough rank ordering based on a subjective weighting of subjectively chosen characteristics which are subjectively evaluated by an imperfect “decider.” If you’ve ever been faced with a stack of resumes or employment applications you’re well aware that “best-qualified” is more than a little bit of a crapshoot often as not.

        My guess would be that Obama’s Chief of Staff presented him with a half-dozen or so candidates of roughly equivalent quality, most of which would have likely worked out fine, but a couple were destined to crash and burn. Maybe he consciously or subconsciously favored the female candidates given the Columbian hooker fiasco; it wouldn’t be irrational to do so. In any case all the candidates were essentially deemed qualified and competent or he wouldn’t have been considering them and he just happened to have the misfortune of picking one that illustrated the Peter Principle.

        And, of course, the Republicans are trumping it up as a scandal. Natch.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I wouldn’t say that it’s unambiguous, but I would say that to the extent that if a president were to run a super-fun experiment in which he in every case intentionally picked who he thought was the least impressive of every six “roughly equally competent candidates” that his staff handed to him for each opening rather than the first-best, assuming the president in question didn’t have some negative-value-add in the personnel-management part of his job, that the harm to the good functioning of the government over time compared to what it would be if he chose who he thought was most impressive would be perceptible.

        IOW, I wouldn’t just assume that the job of the president is to pick any one of the few most qualified candidates for each position and that if he does everything will be fine. It may not be unambiguous, but it seems to me that consistently choosing the best candidate for every position (where determining “best” may include affirmative-action variable to some extent in many of those cases for reasons we openly and frankly acknowledge), rather than the fourth- or sixth-best, even though there may be six perfectly qualified candidates, is a considerable part of the essence of what we’re looking for from presidents (and CEOs) in their personnel-management capacity.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Michael Drew says:

        One way you could determine whether someone is qualified is by using a test.

        Although even that is racist when it turns out more white people pass the test than nonwhite people.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew @road-scholar

        I think you are both circling the reality here.

        Road is right that picking a candidate is tricky and that sometimes it just doesn’t work out no matter who you pick. At the same time, however, Michael is right that it would be good if liberals would at least openly acknowledge that such affirmative action considerations do present a perverse incentive.

        Such a perverse incentive is not necessarily fatal to any given law or pressure, but I think it is extremely important for proponents of that law or pressure to openly acknowledge that it exists & to recognize it’s potential for harm if they want to hold on to any credibility.

        For instance, CA just passed the law that allows for weapons confiscation with severely short-circuited due process. Gun rights folks argued that the lack of due process will open the law up to abuse by law enforcement & people who are engaged in bitter disputes. Proponents of the law seem to gloss over this potential harm with the (I am seriously not paraphrasing here), “It’s hard to know how much it will be used or how much it will prevent,” Wilcox said. “It only takes avoiding one loss for this to be worth it.” canard*.

        An open admission of the potential harm, and maybe even some kind of effort to avoid that harm, is something a lot of people seem unwilling to do when it comes to laws.

        *I often wonder just how much harm has been inflicted on people in the name of saving just one life.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Michael Drew says:

        An open admission of the potential harm, and maybe even some kind of effort to avoid that harm, is something a lot of people seem unwilling to do when it comes to laws.

        So, so much this.

        The problem, I guess, is that people feel like an open admission of potential harm weakens their rhetorical/political position, but I would *love* to see proponents of any new law or policy openly acknowledge its most obvious potential downsides and at least make a case as to why the tradeoff is worth it, if no mitigation is possible.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Michael Drew says:

        At the same time, however, Michael is right that it would be good if liberals would at least openly acknowledge that such affirmative action considerations do present a perverse incentive.

        Every decision-making metric involved in hiring anybody to a complex position presents perverse incentives. Every one.

        So the idea that we need to acknowledge affirmative action considerations as different matters only if they are particularly egregious.

        Not to make any overly rash judgements, or anything, but I would hazard a guess that there are decision-making metrics that have a much higher incidence of “contributing to bad hires” than “does this look good as an affirmative action hire”.

        Including, amusingly, a bunch of metrics that everybody probably agrees are totally reasonable metrics to use. Like whether or not the guy/gal has an MBA.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:


        Is that a perverse incentive, or just an imperfect metric? There is a difference.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Not really.

        Do we measure experience-in-problem-domain? Experienced folks tend to not find innovative solutions. Perverse incentive. Do we measure ability to drive a focused team? You’re team is focused right now, but it might not be in six months. Your focused team driver is now driving team members away. Do we measure loyalty to higher-ups? Well, check the GWB administration for that one.

        Everything that can be regarded as a positive reason to hire somebody comes with possible negatives. There is almost no leadership position candidate out there that is compassionate, driven, intelligent, skilled, innovative, economical, risk-adverse only when they need to be, risk-taking only when it is optimal to be so, inclusive, decisive, politically aware, etc., etc., etc., all the time, all at once.

        I mean, maybe there’s a couple thousand of those folks, planetwide, who do it measurably better than everybody else, all the time. You probably can’t get them all at once.

        So you’re going to decide based upon a giant collection of all of those factors together with “the particular type of leader we need for this particular position at this particular moment in time.”

        Introducing minority standpoints can be a value-add. It can also come with consequences. Choosing to include minority standpoints, at all, in your decision-making process, is not necessarily more likely to lead to perverse incentives than putting all the resumes in a pile and choosing the guy who went to Harvard.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:


        That all depends on how much weight a minority metric is given. If it is weighed about equally to, or even just a bit more than, all other potential imperfect metrics, then it’s no big deal. This is Roads point (that from a pile of all equally qualified candidates, you pick the one that gives you a bit of a political boost & it doesn’t work out, that isn’t a big deal).

        If it’s given the bulk of the weight, then it can be a problem. If, for instance, Obama asked for a pool of candidates that was mostly women, because he REALLY wanted to appoint the first female head of the Secret Service, then that creates an incentive to look over more qualified candidates.

        But, as you point out, the same could be said of the person who only wants resumes from Harvard.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist I think there is also the question of current and historic make up that gets taken into consideration.

        One of the fallacies that I tend to notice in AA conversations (not by you here) is the question of the decision between one highly qualified white, male candidate and one unqualified female and/or black candidate. But I think this is a poor way to look at it.

        More often, I think, you have a list of seemingly qualified candidates and it comes down to non-qualification issues. One of those, for example, is, “what is the best fit for out current department?” And if you have management team that is all or predominantly male (and always has been) then more often than not, you will choose a male candidate.

        It seems to me to be just as good a decision to say, “you know what, we have a company where half the workforce is female, and half of our customers are female, and so out of these 12 qualified candidates I’m going to choose a woman this time.”

        The key difference, I think, is that one of these decisions get labeled as hiring someone based entirely on their qualifications, and the other gets labeled as hiring someone entirely on their gender — and neither of these labels is entirely accurate.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

        are you aware of some of the incidents that have occurred when there was only one woman in the workplace?
        50/50 seems a hell of a lot safer all of a sudden (wish I had it, actually)Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I guess my question is, when did you make the decision to want the minority/female candidate? If it’s made when you are winnowing the pool down to the finalists (e.g. the hiring manager only wants candidates that are minority/female), then that might not be optimal. If it’s made during the final decision from a pool of all (relatively) equally qualified candidates, then that is different.

        Ideally, such things should not enter into consideration until you’ve gotten down to the last round of decisions.Report

  11. j r says:

    There was a point in time when the term politically correct could be meaningfully deployed against a certain strain of leftist thought and activism. That time, however, has past. The current conservative movement is almost every bit as politically correct as the left.

    Reactionaries do not need any real reason to accuse women or minorities, or any other category of other, of being the beneficiaries of special treatment. The very fact that a woman or a minority has achieved a position of success is proof enough of their special treatment. The logic is almost completely circular.

    Notice, for instance, the odd penchant for referring to Obama as an affirmative action president. Never mind that the last three men to be the Republican nominee for president were Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush. That is Mitt Romney, whose grandfather was the scion of wealthy and connected Utah family and whose father was the CEO of major American corporation and cabinet secretary; John McCain, whose grandfather was a Navy Admiral who pioneered the Navy’s carrier efforts and whose father was a Navy Admiral who was in command of all U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War; and GW Bush, whose grandfather was a U.S. Senator and who father was president and who, all three of them, were Yale graduates and members of the Skull and Bones. Yet, it’s Obama, whose parents were both largely unknown academics who is the beneficiary of some special advantage.Report

  12. Vikram Bath says:

    ‘Obviously, coming off the prostitute scandal, okay, yeah, women on top makes sense

    That had to have been said on purpose, right?Report

  13. Burt Likko says:

    Ms. Pierson resigned today. Sad to see; unclear if she was in over her head as an administrator, although all indications are that she had been a very good agent. But it is right that a leader is responsible for what the people acting under her guidance do, and those people did allow an armed intruder to pierce at least five different kinds of security at the White House before being apprehended.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Sadly, the acting replacement is the former head of the President’s detail . . .

      I don’t think the failures are really her’s and they certainly aren’t because she’s a woman. We reset our whole domestic defense posture on 9/12/01 to equate attacks and other bad things with brown skinned people from the Middle East running around scream Allah Akbar! Mr. Gonzales wasn’t one of them, so of course he wasn’t shot. Ms. Pierson is the next in a long line of fall people who are covering for that singular decision.Report

  14. James Hanley says:

    While I think there’s certainly sexism in play here, I think there’s another dynamic interacting with that, which is the “first woman” dynamic. If another woman had previously been the SS Director, successfully, we wouldn’t have quite the same “woman can’t do this” dynamic. For example, 3 of the last 5 Secretaries of State have been woman. Madeline Albright and Condi Rice both performed well enough that while Benghazi produced a lot of criticism of HRC, but it wasn’t, so far as I recall, along the “see, woman can’t handle this job” line.

    Of course it’s still sexist and unfair to hold a first woman to a different standard than a first man, but I do think we get over it as soon as we have a woman successfully handle the job, which like as not is the next one to do it.Report

  15. zic says:

    Underlying the gender roles is the tradition of the man providing and protecting, the woman nurturing and nursing.

    I think that the ‘protect’ role here easily slips to the forefront without people giving it due consideration. At a subconscious level, I’m sure a lot of people have been surprised to discover a woman was responsible for protecting the president.Report

  16. Kazzy says:

    Some people get to fail as individuals and succeed as a group.

    Other people fail as a group and only succeed as individuals.

    Women — even white women — tend to be in that latter group of people. ‘Nuff said.Report

  17. Kazzy says:

    It also seems important to note that the idea that Pierson was hired as some sort of PR move would necessitate some sort of PR campaign. I had no idea the SS was headed by a woman until today. Way to go, Obama… you can’t even politically correct right!Report

    • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

      i think one can say “they likely made it a priority to select a female candidate given the situation the ss* was in for pr reasons” and “it’s sexist to harp on her gender as having anything to do with her personal lousiness” in the same breath.


      the real and true answer here, of course, is that you don’t take anyone from hr and put them in a position of real power.

      * wow that looks bad abbreviated like thatReport

      • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:


        It’s possible they did it for PR reasons. But if they did, it doesn’t seem like they were particularly successful in generating positive press given that a number of people had no idea they hired a woman.Report

      • dhex in reply to dhex says:

        “But if they did, it doesn’t seem like they were particularly successful in generating positive press given that a number of people had no idea they hired a woman.”

        i don’t consider the nytimes and related establishment press to be uh particularly marginalized, but i also think you need to consider audience. pr don’t mean “everyone on earth all the time” and can (and should) be strategic in nature.

        the audience for giving a fig aboutwho runs the secret service is not everyone in america. everyone in america don’t care. you’re relatively plugged in and you didn’t care.

        think of it this way – so you got yourself a secret service problem. they are totally bro’d out, messing up, bro’ing the wrong way. you say, bros, we got a problem bro. let’s get a ladybro in here. unfortunately they picked the wrong ladybro, operationally. or maybe the ss is really, really broken, and ain’t nobody gonna be able to fix it right away.

        regardless, ladybro gets you two things:
        – for your supporters who do care, it’s a nice touch. for the most part it’ll be an automatic positive.
        – for the unsupporters, it’ll be a great rhetorical trap. they’ll go overboard in criticism and reinforce for your supporters that they are bad people with bad ideas, badly. and they’ll do that work for you.

        for the unsupporters, it’s also a sop in that for their audience, it’s evidence that the potus is just interested in firsts and tokenism rather than “Getting the job done” or some such rot.

        so it’s weirdly a win win, or win win enough, for everyone. post disaster (and these were relatively minor disasters, but part of sitting in that position is eating crap every time someone under you, even if you never met them, screws up publicly) you can rely upon the unsupporters to go too far in criticizing her, say sexist things, and reinforce for your supporters that you really do mean well, that your intentions are good. for whatever reason, donks are big on good intentions, so that fits well into the narrative you’re looking to reinforce.

        high fives all around. minor embarrassments with no political fallout because, as you have pointed out, ain’t nobody regular who really cares about who runs the secret service, so it doesn’t have an effect on upcoming elections.Report

  18. Damon says:

    You know, I’m calling BS on the whole sex thing. Sure some folks will make it about that, for their own agendas, but I think this is just plain old “just not being good at the job”. Why is that? Maybe she’s a good soldier but a bad general. Maybe a thousand things. Don’t matter, but I don’t think being female has anything to do with it, with the possible exception of getting sand bagged by some good old boys looking to get her removed…but I don’t really expect that’s the case. No, she just screwed up in her job, some bad PR things happened, and she’s out the door. Happens all the time.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Damon says:

      The issue isn’t whether she was bad because she’s a woman. Some might argue she was, but they’re blatantly sexist if they do. That’s not the argument we’re addressing

      The issue is that there are millions of men and women who would have turned out to be incompetent at the job of leading the Secret Sevice, and Obama (it seems – I might expand on this point in another comment shortly, but let’s just stipulate here he did) picked one of them to do it. The question is why. Was he influenced in his decision of whom to choose by a desire to pick a woman? If so, did that contribute to his having picked an incompetent? (Were there, for example many women he could have chose who would have tuned out to serve competently in the role among the group of people he considered qualified for the position? (Which raises a more basic question – was that group – perceived qualified – too narrow to begin with, such that no one with the relevant qualifications would have turned out to be competent, perhaps because the agency needed an outsider not an snider given the scope of reform it needed, or etc.?)) Or did he choose truly who he thought would be the most competent person and genuinely avoid being influenced to choose a person with any particular demographic characteristic?

      It’s thorny. But the issue isn’t ‘Why did she suck – was it because she was a woman?’ It’s ‘Why did Obama choose her, given that she turned out to suck?’ You can think about whether the reason he chose her had to do with her being a woman without making any claim about whether the reason she sucked had anything to do with her being a woman indeed while strongly denying that it did.

      Also, you can think that asking that question about whether he chose her in part because she was a woman and whether that matters is independently wrongheaded while acknowledging I’m right about these two being different questions.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Damon says:

      I will say that I don’t think the evidence is strong that a desire to choose a woman – -even just that much is not very well-established at all the more I look into it – led Obama away from a candidate who would have performed appreciably better here. Instead, it seems likely to me that the candidate who would have performed so as to avoid a scandal of this magnitude in his tenure didn;t exist within the field of “qualified” candidates, given that that field likely included only Secret Service veterans, and indeed categorically might not have existed.

      Sometimes an agency is in such trouble that the events that lead to one director’s resignation are enough just the tip of the iceberg that the person who succeeds that director is effectively a dead person walking in the job. IOW, sometimes the situation is just such that necessarily effective reform will spit up and chew out at least one more director in an atmosphere of scandal before it’s complete. It not clear to me that anyone could have turned around th Secret Service sufficiently quickly enough in order to have avoided a fate like this, so that inevitably whoever was appointed in 2013 wouldn’t have resigned for incompetence before Obama’s term was up. Not saying that was for sure the case with the early-2010s Secret Service, but its not clear to me it wasn’t.Report

      • Damon in reply to Michael Drew says:

        You never know if someone’s going to do the job well until they actually do it. The whole point is that you catch incompetance early and remove them, not wait until the second or third shitstorm. That’s called “management” and was clearly not the case going on here. Frankly, it’s doesn’t matter WHY she was appointed, UNLESS she was clearly unqualified. Upthread, we’ve pretty much determined that she was qualified, so either the quals aren’t strong enough, or she was only good “on paper”. With two equally qualifed individiuals, personal preference, politics and other factors can come into play. I ain’t got an issue with that.Report

  19. timoric says:

    I read your post because I was wondering if anyone else has commented on this woman’s physical appearance. She looks overweight. Generals can’t do that. Most leaders don’t do that. It says something about you when you can’t be disciplined enough to be fit yourself in a picture that says a thousand words.

    Also, I am bothered by your dismissing the female who was overpowered as brainless. It is not. It is actually moral clarity that political correctness teaches you not to see. That is not okay. The woman should be reassigned immediately, no exceptions just because you are a woman, if you can’t meet the exact qualifications for the job, you are done.Report

  20. Patrick says:


    Up above, In positions of leadership/command there’s a danger in having any agenda other than picking the most qualified person.

    Pretty much by definition, in any reasonably large organization, “the most qualified person” is not an assessment that is done on the basis of the sole question, “will this person be the best candidate to execute the job responsibilities of this position”.

    “Will pulling this person out of their current position be bad for that department?”
    “Will putting this person into this position anger somebody that I currently need not to be angry?”
    “Will putting this person into this position be the best chance we have of retaining this person, because we really need to keep them around?”
    “Will putting his person into this position be the best way to get rid of them quickly by having them faceplant in a way that they can’t recover from and in a way that won’t endanger the organization?”

    I really doubt that anybody is hiring operational positions like “head of the secret service” solely on the merits of waving a fairly meaningless tribal flag; to suggest otherwise is to assume a level of political chicanery that I really don’t think either party possesses although they both like to claim that the other one does. Ambassador to England can be a patronage giveaway. Head of the office of we don’t really have much authority because all of the decision-making is done at the next two levels down can be a patronage giveaway.

    I’m reasonably certain that anybody who is savvy enough to run for office at or above “Mayor of Los Angeles” already has a fairly well developed ability to suss out where to put people. You want to run a campaign for school board, for chrissake, you have to know that you have to give Joe something to do, because Joe wants to help and Joe’s wife is the head of a well-organized parent volunteer organization and pissing off Joe’s wife is not going to help you get elected.

    This is like, for certain, the one skill that I’m pretty sure that all politicians have. Even GWB appointing Brown makes sense in GWB’s head, because GWB didn’t understand the probability of having a Katrina-like event and really, barring a Katrina-like event would anybody on the planet know anything about how competent or incompetent Brown was? You know, those Katrina-like events are pretty rare.

    This event is significant because it shows what the GOP’s media machine thinks of the Democrats, not much else. “They’ll sacrifice anything for political correctness” is flatly freakin’ stupid, but it allows those who don’t like political correctness to rally ever-more-solidly around The Warriors Against PCness as the last true defenders of competency and America.

    From an optics standpoint, it just adds yet another giant chunk of ammo to the Democrats where the winner in the situation should be the GOP. “Obama is making dubious decisions as a leader” resonates with folks who aren’t sure of Obama’s leadership skills.

    “Obama is just a stupid PC warrior” once again makes folks in the middle who aren’t particularly invested in the gender wars but feel naturally that hey, there’s something to this gender disparity thing say, “Whelp, it’s obvious you guys are completely not credible on this topic”, and the “you guys” isn’t the Democrats in this case.

    I swear, the GOP since 2000 has learned all of the wrong lessons, over and over. The midterms are probably going to make it even worse.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Patrick says:


      I don’t disagree with much of that. “Qualified” is a much more narrow term than I should have focused on inalking about executive selections. I meant an inclusive notion of the best decisions an executive can make for filling positions given essentially all his legitimate aims. And note that I went on to say that there is a place for considering personal characteristics that might be seen as incidental to qualifications.

      Ultimately, though, in my view the issue remains whether there is a tension, o at least not a perfect confluence, between the social-reforming purpose of affirmative action and the general imperative of organizational effectiveness. In aggregate, the former I believe advances the latter, but I think it’s unresolved whether there is perfect confluence for each individual staffing or appointment choice where AA pressure come to bear.Report

  21. KatherineMW says:

    XKCD said it very succinctly: http://xkcd.com/385/Report