Meghan McCain is upset that Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are being called "bad girls" for recent revelations, asking, "Are they being forced to put up with a media witch hunt because they are both women and Republicans?"
That's about as deep as it goes in McCain's rather lukewarm defense of Fiorina, who was caught on tape disparaging Barbara Boxer's hair, and Whitman, who shoved and later gave a six-figure settlement to a subordinate in 2007. Both campaigned for McCain's father, and this is the most she can muster on their behalf:
I found both women to be hardworking, and both have a very dry sense of humor, something I always like in other people. Is this enough to make them a good governor and senator of California? Of course not. But I think these women genuinely want to change things for their state and believe that they can effect positive change through their impressive experience in the work force.
Well, most people running for office want to change something. The question is what and to what end, and who benefits. But McCain isn't so interested in that. She's more concerned with saying that what Fiorina said isn't such a big deal, which is somewhat persuasive, and parroting as many PR euphemisms as possible around the Whitman incident, which isn't.
"I am sure if a man had been accused of shoving a subordinate, the reaction would have been more lenient," McCain ventures. This is perhaps the weakest use of the "what if it were a man" exercise in recent memory. Actually, if Whitman were a man, shoving a subordinate, particularly a woman, would have been seen as a more grave example of assault, fairly or unfairly.
But let nothing stand in the way of McCain's conclusion:
Unfortunately, because they are powerful women running for office, they have to deal with a level of scrutiny that just wouldn't be as intense as it would be if two men were running. And because they are Republicans, that intense scrutiny borders on obsession.
Why are the scrutinizers so obsessed with Republicans, particularly the female of the species? Meghan McCain never says, but there is probably some vague notion of liberal media bias in there somewhere.
A more spirited yet reasoned analysis can be found in Joan Indiana Rigdon's Forbes.com column on why, exactly, one might be skeptical of these women and their claims to both represent progress for women and the end of any need for such progress.
She describes how Tennessee Rep. Janis Baird Sontany said at a recent breakfast that when it comes to Republican women, "You have to lift their skirts to find out if they are women. You sure can't find out by how they vote." That elicited a response from Michelle Malkin not unlike Meghan McCain's: "When liberals can't handle GOP women, they infantilize, sexualize, demonize and dehumanize them."
But Rigdon isn't offended by the metaphor, and offers one of her own:
When you use a new highway, you pay higher taxes or tolls. And when you use women's rights that other women—and men—gave their lifeblood to lay down under your feet, you owe them something, too....When there are so few women in high-level politics, it's not enough for the ones who make it there to simply be women. They must also help the women around and behind them.
Fiorina is explicitly uninterested in whether the women around her share her success. Writes Rigdon,
In 1999, when her CEO role at Hewlett-Packard made her the most powerful woman in corporate America, Fiorina told reporters, "I hope we are at a point that everyone has figured out that there is not a glass ceiling."
If you believe that's true, and that all the women who've been held back, underpaid or otherwise mistreated in corporate America are just whining or looking for a free ride or a settlement, then Fiorina is your woman. By all means, support her.
Rigdon suggests that such female politicians be called "freeloaders." There are plenty of compelling reasons to support women's progress and personal freedom, gratitude being only one, but given their political philosophies, it's an apt metaphor.