Did Women Push Obama on Libya?

The real question is, why are people obsessing about this?

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U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice (Monika Graff/Getty Images)

The question of the week appears to be whether the female members of the Obama administration "henpecked" or "outmuscled" the president into taking military action against Libya. In a piece in the New York Times over the weekend, Maureen Dowd explored the issue:

"But everyone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men -- the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers -- outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi."

"The girls took on the guys," The Times' White House reporter, Helene Cooper, said on "Meet the Press."

Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador and former Clinton administration adviser on Africa, was haunted by Rwanda. Samantha Power, a national security aide who wrote an award-winning book about genocide, was thinking of Bosnia. Gayle Smith, another senior national security aide, was an adviser to President Clinton on Africa after the Rwandan massacre. Hillary Clinton, a skeptic at first, paid attention to the other women (putting aside that tense moment during the '08 primaries when Power called her "a monster"). She also may have had some pillow talk with Bill, whose regrets about Rwanda no doubt helped shape his recommendation for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Seriously, "everyone is fascinated" by whether the debate was "boys against girls" and whether there was a "gender gap"? Is there so little of interest going on in the world right now that we must manufacture this type of conflict so we can endlessly debate it? The "girls" at issue here are not some random group of women. They're members of the administration, doing their jobs according to their own views, experiences, and policy priorities. Aside from looking like an attempt by some to make the president appear weak, obsessing about gender in the midst of the crisis seems to diminish these things.  

It's safe to say that the Libyan people still suffering under Qaddafi aren't losing any sleep over the number of X chromosomes associated with each U.S. official right now. It would be great if we didn't, either.

Read more at the New York Times and Salon.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM