Obama called Harris earlier in the day to offer an apology, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
“He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments,” Carney said during a Friday briefing at the White House. Carney acknowledged later that the president had also “apologized for the remark” during the conversation with Harris.
Obama “did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities,” Carney said. “He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”
“The attorney general and the president have been friends for many years,” Harris Communications Director Gil Duran said in a statement e-mailed to POLITICO. “They had a great conversation yesterday and she strongly supports him.”
Thank you, Obama. You did the right thing. Mostly, I appreciate how your spokesperson made clear: “He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”
I also like Harris’s response. She didn’t mitigate the gravity of Obama’s comment. Good job, politicians, Hopefully, Americans are learning something here.
Obama, do you have any idea how hard professional and public women have to work to direct the public discussion, critiques, and evaluations about them about them away from how they look and toward what they do? With just a few words yesterday, your reference to Harris’s appearance gave America permission to focus on the “attractiveness” of female leaders.
If you’re reading this email, you’re a woman, or you care about someone who is.
This year, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the backers behind their ticket are not running on what one would call a pro-women agenda. They are running on a platform of paternalistic, outdated, chauvinistic ideas — and in practice those ideas are genuinely harmful to women.
Here’s what women can expect if Romney-Ryan and the Republicans win:
A repeal of Obamacare and the free preventive screenings it covers. A return to discrimination against women by insurance companies. No support in the fight for equal pay for equal work. Supreme Court justice nominations based on radical ideology.
Every election is important, but I think this one will truly define what America is about.
I’m calling on you today because you are one of the people who can make the difference in this election. Democrats like us must, with no exceptions, speak up for women, for our children and grandchildren.
This election will be close, and your donation of $375 or more is crucial to this fight:
Please talk about women tonight. You didn’t, even one time, in the last debate.
If you get asked about the role of government again tonight, please be more eloquent and passionate. Please point out Mitt Romney’s hypocrisy: he claims to support small government when he wants to get involved in the most intimate and private parts of women’s lives. Clearly, he doesn’t care about small government; he cares about big business.
Mr. President, please explain to Americans tonight that reproductive rights, including choice and birth control, are economic issues. Please say that if women don’t have access to basic health care, which, of course, for female bodies must include contraception, it makes it much harder to get or hold a job.
Please tell Americans that we can’t talk about jobs for women, or the economy improving for women, without securing basic reproductive rights.
Please explain to Americans that if embryo rights supersede human rights, women have no rights at all.
October’s Vanity Fair has a riveting article on Obama by Michael Lewis. One section in particular, I found fascinating:
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions on what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t go through your day distracted by trivia.”
Do you hear what our president is saying, women? Obama is saying that if he spends his mental energy thinking about what to wear, what to eat, and what to buy, he has depleted his resources. He’s got nothing left. He couldn’t be president.
What is it, exactly, that the media tells women are the most important, most crucial areas of our lives? Dressing, eating, and shopping. Those are the three areas where women are actually allowed, supposed to be, the experts.
Is it a coincidence that Obama believes not thinking about those three issues releases the energy that allows him to act effectively as president?
It almost makes me think there’s a conspiracy going on, or maybe more like a social reflex. Women take on that “trivia” while men can choose not to. They’re free to go be president. What would happen if women stopped, really stopped, spending our time and energy obsessing about clothing, food, or shopping? What would we do?
I know Obama couldn’t please everyone. I realize he had to make concessions to get his floundering health care bill passed. I, like many Americans, wanted it passed. But yesterday, when the pro-choice president announced his executive order, ensuring his bill would win crucial votes by promising there would be no changes to the restrictions on federal money used for abortions, my heart sank.
For women, access to choice is access to health care. Obama’s decision leaves poor women out of a new law that was supposed to protect them.
The AP reported:
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the order provides safeguards to ensure that the status quo is “upheld and enforced.” Long-standing federal policy bars U.S. aid for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. The order is designed to help assure the passage of Obama’s massive health care bill by winning support from a bloc of anti-abortion lawmakers.
First of all, the faulty logic of the anti-abortion position alarms me as usual. The rape/ incest qualification makes no sense. If abortion is murder, why is it OK to murder the innocent fetus if the mother was raped or an incest survivor? Clearly, that’s not the fetus’ fault.
I guess this bad thinking implies that any other time besides rape or incest when a woman gets pregnant, it is her fault; therefore, it’s OK to legislate that the guilty woman carry the baby and give birth. But it remains contradictory for the government to put itself in the position of determining that sometimes it’s OK to murder a blameless fetus.
Whenever the reproductive rights debate strays into territory of how or why the woman became pregnant, or whether or not life begins at conception, it always becomes infinite and nonsensical. Instead, the reproductive rights debate should come down to this: the rights of the mother versus the rights of the fetus. The mother’s rights, the citizen’s, must supersede the rights of the fetus, as long as it’s dependent on her body for survival.
It’s not ethical rocket science. As a philosophy major in college, we were presented with a basic ethical dilemma (not unlike the latest Jodi Picoult movie): a child has a mysterious disease; the only way this child can recover is if the mother attaches herself to the child’s body for ten months. Can the government legislate the mother perform this procedure? Or father? Perhaps the cousin? Or second cousin? Maybe the best friend? Can the government legislate that one human give her spare kidney away to a human whose life depends on it? Obviously, it isn’t ethical for the government to intrude on these personal choices.
Anti-abortion Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan
No one wants abortions. There is a clear way to reducing them: empowering women. But Obama’s concession disempowers women far beyond even basic health care. It’s a tragic concession, because until all women have full reproductive rights, America remains far from becoming a strong and healthy country.
Here’s a piece I wrote for the Chronicle when Nader was running against Bush, about how people still don’t get that choice affects everything. Sadly, that cluelessness holds true today, just add “pro-life democrat” every time I write “republican.”
Ask a pro-choice person to explain casting a vote for a pro-life candidate, and the proud response is likely to be: “I don’t support candidates based on just one issue. I care about education, health care, and the economy too.”
Even political savvy supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader aren’t that concerned with the threat to a woman’s right to choose, claiming its one issue among many.
But choice has never been a single issue. Reproductive rights don’t exist in isolation They have everything to do with women’s economic and political power, women’s access to education and health care, women’s status in society and women’s abilities to take care of themselves and their children.
Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger once said, “If a woman doesn’t have the right to control her own body, she has no rights.” Choice is a political barometer, indicative of how politicians feel not only about the basic rights of women, but about the role of women in society, abut sex education, health care, welfare, poverty, the economy and the role the government should play in an individual’s life.
A position on choice indicates whether your representative will fight to get your kids vaccinated and to make contraception affordable.
Years ago, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, said that pro-lifers believe “life begins at conception and ends at birth,” meaning pro-life politicians are adamant about protecting the fetus but don’t care much about protecting the child once its born
His notion was rekindled recently when Prof Jean Schroedel of Claremont College came out with a survey examining the relationship between state abortion laws and spending on children. Her research revealed that the states that most severely limit abortion are the same ones that spend the least on foster care, parents who adopt special needs children, and poor women with dependent children. States with strict abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women. For example, Louisianna had some of the tougest abortion laws and spent $602 per child. Hawaii had some of the most liberal laws and spent $4,648 per child.
Schroedel also discovered that states with restricted abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women.
Her findings support the work of Nafis Sadik, executive director of the United Nations World Population Fund. Sadik has been instrumental in turning the debate over how to limit population growth into a campaign for women’s rights.
She is widely credited with bringing attention to the correlation between over population and the status of women. When women are educated, when they achieve economic independence, when they have access to good health care, when they are valued in society for their intellect and their accomplishments, they have fewer babies.
Unfortunately, pro-life politicians still don’t seem concerned with improving the status of women. One classic example is presidential candidate George W. Bush. Look at his record as governor of Texas.
Texas women had a higher than average chance of living in poverty. The state minimum wage, earned by those in the female-dominated service and domestic workers industries was $3.35 per hour, totaling $6,700 annually for full time employment.
The percentage of women and children without health insurance is the second highest in the country.
Texas ranks 42nd in per capita welfare spending.
Bush made it more difficult for women to obtain abortions in times of crisis, but offered no preventative policy initiatives to reduce unintended pregnancy, no expansion of family planning or funding services, no comprehensive sexuality education program and no insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Texas had the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation.
And the Texas system doesn’t promote sexual health. Texas law requires that sex education courses teach abstinence, but it does not require teaching contraception or HIV/ STD prevention.
Compare that to France where mandatory sexuality education begins when students are 13. Parents are prohibited from withdrawing their teenagers from this program. France’s teenage birthrate is approximately 6 times lower than the rate in the US; its teen abortion rate more than 2x lower, and overall AIDS rate, more than 3x lower.
Conservatives like to say, “The government that governs best, governs least.” What happened to this party? Now, they sound so much more like big government believers.
Many Americans wonder how they came to intrude so much into our private lives, legislating personal choices like whom we should sleep with or pray to.
The reason is because if politicians aren’t going to help to provide access to health care, contraception, STD prevention, access to child care and sex education, and economic autonomy there is nowhere to go but blame pregnancies on loose morals and loose women.
If Republicans acknowledge that women have reproductive rights, they’ll have to acknowledge that women have other rights as well. For Texas, that would mean reasonable funding for family planning and welfare, a higher minimum wage, insurance to cover contraceptives, real sex education and access to heath care.
Pro choice isn’t one issue and it isn’t one choice. Pro-choice means women have the choice to graduate from college, the choice to borrow money to start a business, the choice to get a good job with a fair wage, the choice not live in poverty and keep their kids out of poverty. Choice means that women get to be autonomous citizens, just like men do- with the power to determine their own destinies.
Pro-life candidate George Bush understands better than anyone that choice isn’t just one issue Before heading to the ballot box in November, Americans need to realize pro-life is really only pro-birth.
The Republicans’ concern for mother and child is severed with the cutting of the umbilical cord.