With another in a series of executive orders, President Obama on March 11 created a "White House Council on Women and Girls."
Having been advised that female CEOs run only three percent of the Fortune 500 companies, and that women earn 78 cents for every dollar that men earn in comparable jobs (about which more later), the president wants some two dozen department heads to help remedy those deficiencies in the name of "fulfill[ing] the promise of democracy for all our people."
Before signing the Council creation document, President Obama described the new panel as having "a mission that dates back to our founding," and quoted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the effect that "responsibility for the advancement of women is not the job of any one agency; it's the job of all of them."
Some people love the initiative. Others question its usefulness, suggesting that ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Despite the grandiose rhetoric with which the president welcomed his latest creation into the fold, the new council is lower in the political pecking order than a blue-ribbon presidential commission staffed with marquee names like former HP CEO Carly Fiorina or current Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy would have been. If the Balrog of Bad Intentions comes calling, the council may not be strong enough to shout "You shall not pass!" without sounding like a hobbit holding a Russian dictionary and a badly-translated "reset" button.
The East Room was jammed for the signing ceremony. Interestingly, the guest list released by the White House revealed that professional advocates for abortion comprised the largest single group of attendees after politicians.
Pretty words about fairness for all could not obscure the fact that the president pitched most of his remarks to the pro-choice wing of "grievance feminism." As a result, representatives from influential contrarian groups like Feminists for Life, Concerned Women for America, and the Independent Women's Forum were nowhere to be found.
Outside the field of dreams where "Clueless Joe" Biden roams the baselines looking for a fly ball with which to try out his new glove, all of Washington now knows that only a fairy godmother and a pair of talking mice will get pro-life feminists to official functions of the Obama administration. William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal described the new environment as condescending to "any American woman deemed insufficiently progressive on the received wisdom." Although the White House council is supposed to improve the lot of all women, EMILY's List thumped Susan B. Anthony's.
If you're unfamiliar with those lobbying groups, the contrast in their names deserves scrutiny: Pro-life feminists find inspiration in the example of a real woman, while people who fundraise in the name of abortion rights identify themselves with a cynical acronym ("Early Money Is Like Yeast").
For President Obama, anti-abortion arguments are abstractions to which lip service must be paid for the sake of maintaining bipartisan appearances. Not surprisingly, the president and his inner circle treat pro-life views either as rebukes to be laughed off by underlings or as tools by which annoying conservatives keep trying to thwart political appointments and plans for universal health care.
Think back to Animal Farm and assume for the sake of argument that some women are more equal than others. George Orwell's unvarnished distillation of what happens when socialist theory meets socialist practice explains why pro-life women are rightly regarded as threats to the increasingly tattered myth that pro-abortion politicians actually advance the pro-life cause.
Having already moved to rescind a rule that allowed health care workers to opt out of abortion counseling if it violated their beliefs, and knowing that a lawyer with a history of defending pornographers would be confirmed to the number two post in the Justice Department, President Obama had no desire to draw renewed attention to questions about how those decisions or unprincipled leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services might impact the lives of American women and girls.
Fortunately, the president keeps his flunkies numbered for just such an occasion, and one or more of them had briefed the senior teleprompter on the "78 cents for women to every dollar earned by men" statistic.
That particular ratio has become a teddy bear for people whose definition of "comparable jobs" sometimes stretches enough to mix pilots with Pilates instructors. Other researchers do honest work, but fail to account for the impact of things like maternity leave and sex segregation by occupation. "Due diligence" in this administration does not necessarily involve looking into different points of view, else someone might also have noticed that while a pay gap between men and women does exist, several studies have pegged it at considerably less than 22 cents on the dollar.
Columnist Ilana Mercer was not at the ceremony, but asked the kind of economically-informed question that rarely percolates up through discussions of pay equity: If women with the same skills as men were getting only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, wouldn't men have long-since priced themselves out of the job market? The fact that men haven't done that might mean that different abilities and experiences are at work, Mercer guessed, "rather than a conspiracy to suppress women."
Mercer's glass slipper of a response to equity issues will not fit anyone in the Obama administration, but it still attracts more positive attention than Christina Hoff Summers' argument that boys rather than girls need help, thanks to a culture that derides men as oafs, and an educational system that considers masculinity the root of intolerance.
Governor Sarah Palin, abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, and radio host Laura Ingraham all have a better shot at honorary membership on the White House Council for Women and Girls than Ilana Mercer and Christina Hoff Summers do. Yet while the Obama administration has little time for women like these, the rest of us are not similarly hobbled, and that is reason enough to be grateful.