It's two days before the critical Texas and Ohio primaries, and how does the mighty Washington Post decorate its influential "Outlook" section? Well, the online headline kept changing: First, "Women Aren't Very Bright," followed by "Why Do Women Act So Dumb?" and finally "We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?" Author Charlotte Allen's thesis was that Barack Obama appeared to be winning the Democratic contest because irrational women fell for him like teenaged Beatles fans circa 1964. Also because Hillary Clinton "has run one of the worst — and, yes, stupidest — presidential races in recent history, marred by every stereotypical flaw of the female sex." Specifically, whining, weeping, relying too much on her husband, and worst, hiring women staffers "chosen for loyalty rather than, say, brains or political savvy." Allen's deepest thought, however, is that: "Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true." Fundamentally stupid, women can't drive, do math or much of anything, really, apart from care for children and love dopey romance novels and TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy," allegedly one of Hillary's favorites. Why, "even men's brains are bigger than women's." Yeah, well, exit polls in 2000 and 2004 showed that women voted against that paragon of masculinity, George W. Bush, both times.
So there's that. Meanwhile, I've got a couple of big-brained fellows out in the barn who exchange significant glances whenever I bring them a carrot. Are horses secretly smarter than humans? Eighteenth century adventurer Lemuel Gulliver suspected so, but he was prone to exaggeration. Chastened by reader reaction, "Outlook" editor John Pomfret alibied that Allen's article was "tongue-in-cheek." To paraphrase Eric Alterman, what's next at the Post? Satires about shiftless Negroes, greedy Jews, Irish drunks, Italian criminals and happy-go-lucky Mexicans? Editorial advice: If you've got to tell people something's funny, it ain't.
Pomfret's excuse was undercut by a companion piece by one Linda Hirshman, gravely examining the causes of Obama's support among female voters. "(I)t could just be that women with more education (and more money)," she opined "relate on a subconscious level to the young and handsome Barack and Michelle Obama, with their white-porticoed mansion in one of the cooler Chicago neighborhoods and her Jimmy Choo shoes." See, there's no possibility it's a rational choice. A few thoughts: First, misogyny may be the last socially acceptable bigotry. On her blog, the inimitable Digby points out that supposedly respectable news networks such as MSNBC "think it's fine and dandy to repeatedly invite someone (GOP consultant Roger Stone) who runs an anti-Clinton organization" whose name is an acronym for the crudest slang for the female genitals. It's safe to say the network wouldn't host the founder of "C.O.O.N.," if such an organization existed. Second, the "Clinton rules," among celebrity journalists definitely remain in effect. Where they're concerned, absolutely anything goes. This has been true in Washington since roughly 1994 and will clearly remain so as long as the couple remains in public life. To cite just one example, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain once told a coarse joke whose punch line was that the lovely and accomplished Chelsea Clinton's real father was Janet Reno. What would happen to a Democrat who talked that way about President Bush's own attractive daughters? Well, he wouldn't become a presidential nominee, that's for sure. Digby, who's refrained from taking sides in the Democratic primary contest, sees it this way: "The fact that Clinton kept going, becoming a senator, then the first woman to ever win a presidential primary and continues to put herself out there in the face of that kind of psychopathic bile is a testament to her tenacity and commitment.
Everybody says they want a fighter. Regardless of who you vote for, the woman deserves respect for refusing to back down from that lizard brain sludge." Third, until early March, Obama, as the non-Clinton in the presidential contest, has gotten a virtual free ride in the press. A recent study by the Center for Media Affairs has documented that since the New Hampshire primary, 83 percent of Obama's coverage has been positive, versus 47 percent of Clinton's. MSNBC has been laughable. Keith Olbermann's "news" program the evening before the March 4 contest featured a string of pundits opining that Hillary should quit the race even if she won. Nobody dissented. Fourth, Obama supporters are living in a fool's paradise if they imagine this will continue. Outlining just a few obvious lines of attack available to GOP smear artists brought a barrage of outraged e-mails likening me to "the Drudge Report or the KKK." "Either you want John McCain to be president," an overheated Obama supporter wrote, "or you are in league with the Neo-Nazis or other hate groups." The awakening, should it come, could prove costly and painful.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Gene Lyons is a national magazine award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can e-mail Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2008,