Once again, Pennsylvania's own Ed Rendell makes headlines for stepping in it. On Tuesday night, Rendell was over heard saying the following about Janet Napolitano, the Arizona governor who is Barack Obama's pick to head up the office of Homeland Security:
Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.
CNN's Campbell Brown raises the inevitable question:
If a man had been Obama's choice for the job, would having a family or not having a family ever even have been an issue? Would it have ever prompted a comment?
If 2008 political coverage runs true to form, within the next 20 seconds, the Post-Gazette will dispatch a reporter to furnish a thumb-sucking piece about identity politics, similar to the treatment it gave John Murtha's characterization of western Pennsylvania as a haven for redneck racists. (As it turned out, of course, western Pennsylvania was one of the very few parts of the United States-- along with part of Appalachia and the South -- that went more strongly for the Republican in 2008 than they did in 2004. All of which recalls Michael Kinsley's observation that a gaffe is what happens when a politician tells the truth.)
How about we just skip the whole debate this time around? Let's just acknowledge that, yes, people still do associate female politicians with family obligations to a greater extent than they do male politicians. And yes, that's unfair.
But let's respect Napolitano enough to do what Rendell's chance remark didn't do. Let's actually discuss her not in terms of her role in the gender wars, but in terms of her actual experience.
Fair warning, though: We may not like everything we find out.