Political Animal


November 17, 2012 7:31 AM Democratic women defend Susan Rice, call out her critics’ sexism, racism, and mediocrity

By Kathleen Geier

This is gratifying; Democratic women have gone to bat for UN Ambassador Susan Rice, defending her against racist, sexist attacks by conservative Republican critics. In case you missed it, as part of the right’s pathetic campaign to gin up a huge scandal over Benghazi, leading Republicans have lately been directing their fire at Rice. Their criticism has been not only nasty but unusually personal. John McCain, for example, called her “not very bright” and “not qualified.” Lindsay Graham portrayed her as a dizzy, delusional untrustworthy broad, alleging that “She is so disconnected from reality that I don’t trust her.” Both have pledged to do “whatever is in our power” to block Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State, should President Obama nominate her.

This isn’t the only heavy-handed, sexist, racist criticism that has been aimed at Rice. It’s not just conservative lawmakers who been going after Rice; the Villagers clearly have the knives out for her as well. Villager-in-good-standing Dana Millbank has impugned Rice’s allegedly “tarnished resume” and apparently finds her behavior most unladylike (though the euphemism he prefers to use is “undiplomatic”). Among Rice’s sins, according to Millbank, is this:

Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.

Oh noes! Bring out the smelling salts! This stuff is especially odd coming from Millbank, known for writing nauseating fanboy drivel about Rahm Emanuel, a man not exactly famous for his dainty language or decorous approach to politics.

Another of Rice’s sins, according to Dana Millbank, is “insulting” Hillary Clinton, during Hillary’s campaign for president. Here is his sole example of Rice’s “insulting” behavior, in its entirety:

Rice condemned Clinton’s Iraq and Iran positions, asking for an “explanation of how and why she got those critical judgments wrong.”

But hey, I guess the man who unapologetically called Clinton a bitch knows from insults!

That McCain, Graham, Millbank, and other known antifeminists have been going after Rice in such clearly gendered ways has been infuriating. That’s why I appreciated President Obama’s strong words in support of Rice earlier this week. (I also his appreciated him showing his rarely seen “bring it on” side. More like this, please!)

All of which explains why it has been so gratifying to see Democratic women coming to Rice’s defense. I especially enjoyed this:

The Democratic women directed particular ire against McCain, who said Rice was “not being very bright” in her comments. The women pointed out that Rice was a Rhodes scholar who graduated tops in her Stanford University class whereas McCain was in the bottom of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.

I so love that they went there. It’s maddening that this country is more or less run by old, white, out of touch, sexist, racist men like McCain and Mitt Romney, whose accomplishments, intellectual and otherwise, are dubious, and who would reaped enormous unearned benefits from the wealth and connections they were born into. And yet these same people, rather than being humble about their own modest abilities and respectful of others who have accomplished so much in the world despite facing far more formidable obstacles, have the unmitigated call to question their credentials.

The right does this time and again. Women and nonwhites in the public eye constantly have their qualifications and competencies questioned in ways that those of white men never are. No matter how glittering a person’s resume is, how dazzling their accomplishments are, if a prominent person is nonwhite and/or female, he or she is treated as an unqualified usurper. Moreover, they are treated this way not just by the wingnut fringe, but by such icons of the GOP establishment as John McCain. We see this in, for example, the obsessive attempts by those on the right to get Barack Obama to release his college transcript, their bizarre assertions that Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s books, and their ludicrous belief that Obama can’t put a coherent sentence together without a teleprompter. We also saw it, all too clearly, in the disgustingly racist, sexist treatment many on the right dished out to Sonia Sotomayor.

The G.O.P. just suffered an overwhelming presidential defeat, in large part because they have repeatedly made it loud and clear to women and nonwhites that we are less than, that we are not welcome in their America. And yet, in spite of the devastating rejection they just received by the American electorate, they just can’t help themselves. They cluelessly go on their merry way, blithely insulting huge swathes of America, and denying the competency and legitimacy of some of the most accomplished people in America, simply because they possess the wrong genitals and/or skin color. Awesome way to talk yourselves ever more deeply into irrelevancy, dudes! These guys can’t exit the stage soon enough, as far as I’m concerned.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • martin on November 17, 2012 9:46 AM:

    First of all, McCain became part of the wingnut fringe when he picked Palin.

    More important, it appears the Democrats have finally, finally learned to stand up to bullies. Here's hoping they knock the bullies on their asses, and then stomp their faces.

    You go girls!

  • dalloway on November 17, 2012 9:48 AM:

    When the dinosaurs were drowning in the tar pits on their way to extinction, I'll bet they squealed a lot like Cranky McCain and Co.

  • Mikhail on November 17, 2012 9:55 AM:

    I look upon this entire business with a little sadness. Not for Rice, I think she's a stand-up candidate for Secretary of State, and tearing into Dana Millbank is always worth doing.

    But there was a time when McCain was sane, you know? Whatever happened to that?

  • Pavel Korchagin on November 17, 2012 10:04 AM:

    Don't forget that these jerks are part of the crew that outed an under-cover CIA agent --- Valerie Plame --- because she had more balls than they did.

  • g on November 17, 2012 10:07 AM:

    Dalloway, compared to the current Republican thinkers, the dinosaurs drowning in the tar pits on their way to extinction were far more open-minded and independent thinkers.

  • Peter C on November 17, 2012 10:07 AM:

    I think it is time to drop the pretense that the wingnuts are the Republican fringe. I think it is the moderates who are on the fringe. Sarah Palin has more gravitas within the Republican establishment than Richard Lugar. John McCain is making this fuss because he is at the edge of irrelevancy. Lindsay Graham will stand for election in 2 years and has faced the displeasure of the tea-party folks in the past; he too is leading this fight in order to claim the CENTER of the Republican Party. He fears a primary challenge.

  • c u n d gulag on November 17, 2012 10:09 AM:

    When he dies, Johnny Mac's two lasting legacies will be Sarah Palin, and the fact that he is the sorest, angriest, whiniest feckin' loser in American history.

    And Lindseedy GrahamCRACKER's legacy will be that despite turning into DC's reigning drama queen, and that he's basically Johnny Mac's last groupie, that he will lose his Senate seat in '14 to some Teabagging luntatic.

    McCain could have, after he lost, become a statesman and healer. Instead, he chose the low road - or, rather, the LOWEST road.
    And Lindseedy should know better, and do better - because, unlike so many Republicans, like John Kyle, he's no idiot. But instead, he does whatever he can to keep "The Base" happy. Thinking the base will reward him this DC Drama Queen with another 6 years. Lindseedy, old girl, they're just NOT that into you.

    And I hope that the Republicans keep up their misogyny - and racism, xeno and/or homophobia.
    All the better for the changing demographics to drown them in the political bathtub.

    Also too - as far as Rice's, I'll take Susan over Condi, anytime and every time.
    Susan's not someone who would have ignored a PDB saying, "Terrorists determined to attack consulate in Benghazi!', like Condi did with bin Laden and 9/11.

  • bdop4 on November 17, 2012 10:17 AM:

    "John McCain, for example, called her 'not very bright' and 'not qualified.'”

    This coming from a man who, during the 2008 campaign, could not tell the difference between a sunni and shiite when discussing middle east policy. On multiple occasions.

  • stormskies on November 17, 2012 10:18 AM:

    After all the delusional chest pounding by McAsshole, looking for any TV camera to do so, it was stunning to see him yesterday trying to run from the camera's after Petraues testified that Rice simply read from the prepared statement by the Intelligence committee. When he did manage to squeak out a few words of thanks to the general those words came out in the midst of hyperventilating.

    After all the chest pounding simple reduced to squeaking, and running from the very cameras he had been chasing.

    As a Viet-nam vet myself I also resent the fact that this mouse of a man has been called a 'war hero'. The fact is, although deeply buried by the corporate media, is that while he was preparing to take off in a jet on an aircraft carrier during that war he made a giant fucking mistake. This is when he initiated what is called a 'wet start' wherein the jet engines are given a great boost of fuel in order to have the energy to take off. When this is initiated it creates this giant flame coming out the back of the jet engine.

    The 'war hero' initiated this too soon. The jet in back of him was then engulfed in the flame that caused the bombs underneath it's wings to detonate. The pilot was killed. Others were killed. Yet because of his high ranking father it was all swept under the rug versus the fact that he should have been charged court martialed.

    And, yep, he did manage to get himself shot down. Spent five years in captivity. And for this he has been called a 'war hero'.

    Not to me. The 'war hero' is nothing more than a fucking mouse who has a big fucking mouth in which only shit emanates.

  • MuddyLee on November 17, 2012 10:29 AM:

    McCain: you chose Sarah Palin as your VP running mate - I rest my case.

    Graham: are you sure you're not confusing Susan Rice with Paula Broadwell?

    Both of you guys should have been as concerned with the official statements made by Bush-Cheney administration people in the days prior to the Iraq invasion. Now there's a real scandal for you (which you would have understood if you had been listening to public radio - Fresh Air and the BBC overnight broadcasts - easily available in DC and in South Carolina - not sure about Arizona...)

  • Kathryn on November 17, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Don't miss McCain's departure from the Petraeus hearing yesterday, he appeared ready to weep.

    McCain has earned every bit derision that comes his way, every bit of comparison to his crappy grades at the USNA, every bit of questioning of his judgement in selecting the unqualified, emotionally stunted Sarah Palin as his VP choice in 2008, every bit and more.

  • esaud on November 17, 2012 10:32 AM:

    Wow. McCain proves himself to be a first-class a$$hat. And Patraeus proves himself to be just another repubican hack.

    For weeks, McCain went full-metal wingnut with this ginned up scandal. If Patraeus had even a thimble full of integrity, he would have exonerated Susan Rice long ago.

    It is truly astonishing to see the collapse of the entire party, but everyone in the Vllage is playing pretend.

  • xpatriate on November 17, 2012 10:34 AM:

    For the love o' Pete, even if there is a smidgen of truth in these descriptions of Rice's style of diplomacy,if a man behaves this way he gets slapped on the back and called a "maverick" or is the toast of the town as the grand old man (Kissinger)of U.S. foreign policy. Who do you want going toe to toe with Putin or Ahmadinejad, a creme puff or someone with grit? McCain calling someone not very bright? I would be falling off my chair laughing if it weren't such big ol' stinkin' ball o' racist misogyny. Gimme this brilliant, assertive, Stanford, Oxford, Phi Beta God damn Kappa graduate and BBaller Rice anyday.

  • c u n d gulag on November 17, 2012 10:34 AM:

    I don't know about Fresh Air in AZ.

    Dry air, they have plenty of, though.

  • linusbern on November 17, 2012 10:39 AM:

    ""John McCain, for example, called her 'not very bright' and 'not qualified.'”

    This coming from the man who missed the confidential intelligence briefing about Benghazi because he was having a press conference to complain that the Administration wasn't keeping him informed about Benghazi.

  • Ron Byers on November 17, 2012 10:42 AM:

    The Republican problem with Susan Rice is her last name is Rice, she is black, but her first name isn't Conde. Dana Milbank's problem is he is a brainless dick.

    Do you know how we will know when we are on our way to ending sexism as a problem in this country--when people like Kathleen simply report the stupid remarks about Rice without calling them sexist. I suspect Ambassador Rice can handle herself in Washington. Her elbows are plenty sharp.

  • J on November 17, 2012 10:59 AM:

    If she's 'not very bright', what does that make you? what does it make the running mate you chose in 2008?

  • ricci logan on November 17, 2012 11:12 AM:

    wow nice to see all the "tollerant" libs on the page will they ever learn its nothing to do with skin color as much as it is qualification and actions...shame so many are so thin skinned " poor pitiful girl cant defend herself so we must result to name calling and pulling the " racist" card... you people are a sad groupif and when she is nominated for the job lets hope people base thier desicions on wether to support her on her qualifications which from what I have been able to see is minimal at best

  • Anonymous on November 17, 2012 11:21 AM:

    ricci logan: what is minimal is your own intelligence. go find another group in which you can indulge that stupidity with.

  • Dave on November 17, 2012 11:27 AM:

    In the aftermath of Republican delusion over the polls and Romney's chances at the White House, has it occurred to anyone that Graham and McCain actually believe, 100%, the Fox News version of events + insinuations about filling in the blanks?

    That doesn't excuse what they're saying, but this idea that they are simply being calculating ignores the very real possibility that the Republican Bubble World really is that far off the rails across the board.

  • Dave on November 17, 2012 11:29 AM:

    Ricci: "from what I have been able to see"

    One modification: "from what I have been willing to see"

    There ya go. All fixed. You can go back to RBW (Republican Bubble World) now.

  • DRF on November 17, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Hard to fathom what is motivating McCain to personally attack Rice at this juncture. fter all, she hasn't yet been nominated for Secretary of State and she's but one of several names being discussed in the media as a possible nominee. So why start up?

    McCain is definitely not one of the brighter members of the Senate. Couple that with his notoriously terrible impulse control, and you have a guy who often blurts out inappropriate statements. Just listen to his outburst at the reporter who asked him why he didn't attend the briefing.

  • Kate on November 17, 2012 11:43 AM:

    Bright?? Remember when Palin thought dealing with the British government meant sitting down with the queen? She didn't even know there was a parliament!! You want to talk about "not very bright" women McCain, lets have that discussion! As Charlie Brown says, "Good Grief"!

  • rachelrachel on November 17, 2012 12:01 PM:

    I think McCain has age-related cognitive dysfunction.

    I'm not saying that to be mean; I think his mental acuity has gone down in recent years and was in decline when he was running as the GOP nominee.

  • Nenabeans on November 17, 2012 12:05 PM:

    McCain will be termed out of his chair next year, so their looking for a place to park his petrifying body. Enter the call for a "Watergate" style commission. Harry gave that idea the heev ho.

  • Matt on November 17, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Ms. Geier, you write good posts, but your tendency to see racism or sexism when evidence makes it hard to read your posts. In this particular instance, there's one line in your post that pretty much ruins the entire post:
    "Villager-in-good-standing Dana Millbank has impugned Rice’s allegedly “tarnished resume” and apparently finds her behavior most unladylike (though the euphemism he prefers to use is “undiplomatic”)."
    Is it somehow wrong to suggest a woman can be undiplomatic? I read the article, and there were a lot of examples to help Milbank make her case, much more than you suggest. Namely, you ignored the strongest argument in the article:
    "It was Rice’s own shoot-first tendency that caused her to be benched as a spokesman for the Obama campaign for a time in 2008. She unnerved European allies when she denounced as “counterproductive” and “self-defeating” the U.N. policy that Iran suspend its nuclear program before talks can begin. She criticized President George W. Bush and McCain because they “insisted” on it. But, as The Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out at the time, European diplomats were rattled by such remarks because the precondition was their idea."
    Now I know the readers here are generally likely to oppose such preconditions as well, but that's not the issue. The issue is whether the words she used to criticize the policy were too harsh in light of the fact that our European allies had come up with the idea in the first. Furthermore, when attacking a particular conclusion, you should always start by refuting the strongest argument first.

    This is the kind of hackish blogging I expect on Huffingtonpost, not on the Monthly. Hell, this is the kind of posts I expect to see on TheBlaze, stirring up outrage where none can be found while ignoring legitimate sources of outrage. Either way, it's lazy writing and I won't take part in it.

  • seeclearly on November 17, 2012 12:14 PM:

    I would stake my life and my money that they would NOT got to bat for Condi Rice.

  • leliorisen on November 17, 2012 2:01 PM:

    Excellent column. I might add that it is hard to take Senator McCain's evaluation of women too seriously. After all, this is the person who, to this day, sees Sarah Palin as Vice-Presidential material.

  • Rob on November 17, 2012 2:13 PM:

    I want to chime in with Matt. Although I have not always agreed with Dana Milbank, especially during the beginnings of the Iraq War, I agree with him more often than not, and I suspect most readers here do too. I was upset about the McCain/Graham treatment of Susan Rice until Milbank's op-ed revealed another legitimate point of view. Actually I think that for someone who is an international diplomat and our representative on the world stage to give another diplomat the finger is incredibly undiplomatic behavior and grounds for looking critically at her temperament. I read this blog religiously, but I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the right wing.

  • travis on November 17, 2012 2:22 PM:

    "I will not take part in it" says granite backboned Matt, while taking part in it. Please be as good as your word and not take part in the discussion.

  • Col Bat Guano on November 17, 2012 3:29 PM:

    I suspect most readers here do too.

    You suspect wrong. Milbank is a mouthpiece of conventional Beltway wisdom.

  • TCinLA on November 17, 2012 3:45 PM:

    McCain's entire career is due to being the son and grandson of Big Time Admirals.

    Normally, only the top 20% of Annapolis grads are allowed to go directly to flight training, but Wet Start Johnny (I'll tell you how he got that nickname) who graduated in the bottom 5% was sent direct to Pensacola. He was a marginal flying student (continuing his record of mediocrity) and ended up in Skyraiders (at the time a very last-ditch/low-status choice). In 1961, he managed to put southern Spain into blackout by pulling down the major transmission line in the region with his tail hook while "flat hatting" (which usually gets the flat-hatter turned out of Naval Aviation).

    He was promoted up to jets instead. In the summer of 1967, he pulled a joke called a "wet start" that shoots flame out the tail of the airplane about 100 feet. When he did it, it caught the two airplanes behind him on fire and the crews inside died. 177 of his fellow sailors on the USS Forrestal died in the subsequent fire and the ship was put out of service at the height of the war for 18 months.

    Wet Start Johnny was transferred that night to a different ship, and made a senior officer in the light attack squadron. In October 1967 he found out he had been passed over for promotion again and was now on his way out. Three weeks later, he demonstrated his complete incompetence by turning around and flying back over the target he had just bombed, getting himself shot down. Now on the "POW Fast Promotion Track" he came out in 1973 as a Captain. Given a Captain's assignment as commander of the Replacement Air Group for the Atlantic Fleet, he failed. No more Admiral McCains. He was then assigned to the one job he ever shined at: pimp to Congressmen who were voting on toys the Navy wanted. The rest is history.

  • Doug on November 17, 2012 5:39 PM:

    Those complaining about the use of "racist" and "sexist" by Ms Geier might wish to compare what Milbank wrote about Susan Rice, the adjectives and adverbs he used to describe her and her actions and compare THAT with a column about, say, Petraeus.
    Or any other white male.

  • Kobie on November 17, 2012 8:26 PM:

    Not to defend McCain, but the "wet start" story is, from all accounts I've ever read, complete bullshit.

  • Hue and Cry on November 17, 2012 10:27 PM:

    Interesting--this whole debacle. Now McCain's Vietnam credentials are being revisited. He should have left well enough alone.
    I know John Dremesi, author, who was with McCain in Vietnam. He lives a few miles north of me.
    John wrote of the following conversation:

    I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

    "Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

    "It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says.

    "Why? Where are you going to, John?"

    "Oh, I'm going to Rio."

    "What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

    McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

    "I got a better chance of getting laid."

    Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."


  • exlibra on November 18, 2012 12:16 AM:

    Oh, well... It appears that the petty little man can carry a grudge for years, if not a serious thought for a couple of minutes.

    As a campaign surrogate in 2008, Ms. Rice could be withering. When Mr. Obama made a trip to the Middle East, she mocked an earlier visit Mr. McCain had made to a market in Baghdad, during which he wore body armor. She said of her candidate, “I don’t think he’ll be strolling around the market in a flak jacket.”

    And a very nice article it is, too.

  • Allan Snyder on November 19, 2012 3:24 AM:

    McCain is an idiot, and it's ridiculous to blame Rice for this non-scandal, but it's also ridiculous to accuse someone of being racist and sexist based on words that they never used-when you resort to substituting words or phrases to make someone's comments appear more offensive, as you did with Milbank, then you're just as much of a hack as any other beltway villager.

    I know career people at State, and they're not thrilled with the prospect of working for Rice, for reasons that have nothing to do with Benghazi-and I wouldn't insult them by alleging sexism, especially since they mostly seemed to like working under Clinton.

  • greenthing on November 20, 2012 3:53 AM:

    Poor judgement has no race or gender

  • Christoffer Holmsteen on November 20, 2012 4:33 PM:

    I only have one comment, one wish:

    Christoffer Holmsteen
    White, male, sensible human being.