Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wait! Obama has a speechwriter?

A man named Jon Favreau hit the news a couple of weeks ago when the Washington Post identified him as “President-elect Barack Obama's immensely talented chief speechwriter” and reported that:

... some interesting photos of a recent party he attended -- including one where he's dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and another where he's placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady's chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer -- popped up on Facebook for about two hours. The photos were quickly taken down ...

Some observers were quite outraged and I believe correctly so. You can read Anglachel for a round-up of feminist objections and for her own deeper analysis. Reclusive Leftist has some pungent thoughts on the sight of three men on a news program telling women to get over it. And in the “politics make strange bedfellows” department, the Washington Times is disgusted and furious.

My first reaction however was surprise. I thought only Sarah Palin needed an immensely talented speechwriter to “repackage” her. Surely I read in Time magazine that Obama writes his own speeches.

Oh, I see. Now that Favreau’s been spotlighted - or maybe just because Obama is safely elected - we’re hearing that Favreau had a bigger role in endeavors like the Philadelphia race speech and the convention acceptance speech than previously reported. (In fairness to Time, they did mention Favreau in their article about “How Obama Writes His Speeches” - although they equated him with Axelrod in terms of influence - and they did say Obama “delivered” his Philadelphia speech - silly me for thinking they were implying he wrote it himself.)

In all seriousness, only total idiots ever believed Sarah Palin used speechwriters and Barack Obama didn’t. What is sad about the whole "Favreau groping a Clinton cutout" incident is Hillary Clinton’s response:

... Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines cast the photos as evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps.

"Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," he said in an e-mail.

I certainly agree with Anglachel that no purpose would have been served if Clinton had acted out some type of revenge fantasy in response. But there’s a lot of working room between going ballistic and letting it slide. As I said in response to Anglachel, Hillary Clinton could have said something like:

Mr. Favreau is quite young so perhaps he does not understand how disrespectful he was being to me, to women in general, to the Office of the Secretary of State, and to the man who chose me to represent the United States to the rest of the world. I trust that Mr. Favreau’s supervisor will explain the penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace and that there will be no more incidents like this.

Instead Clinton chose to dismiss Favreau’s behavior as essentially a high-spirited prank. By doing so, she undercuts all the feminists who have been expressing outrage over the sexist attacks launched by the Obama campaign and Obama supporters against her (and against Sarah Palin for that matter). If it’s acceptable - even cute - for the President-Elect’s anointed White House Director of Speechwriting to grope a cardboard Clinton, then isn’t a Hillary Clinton nutcracker just a clever gag gift?

I’ve written before about my disgust with Hillary Clinton's willingness to abet her husband’s sexist approach to women of the “wrong” class and about how I nonetheless slowly and grudgingly began to respect her during the Democratic primaries. Unfortunately her willingness (there’s that word again) to laugh off Favreau’s actions brings me right back to where I started with Hillary Clinton: she has no problem enabling sexist behavior as long as doing so benefits her and hers.



Fresh blood for the vampire by Camille Paglia. I love this article for many reasons but its relevance here is this sentence:

Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women -- an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

Admit it! You’re jealous of Jon Favreau!. This is Ann Althouse’s take on the the Washington Post’s recent story about Favreau as speechwriter. Althouse on the cardboard cutout incident is here.

So What If Sarah Palin Used a Speechwriter? by Betsy Newmark. Writing immediately after the Republican National Convention, Newmark points out that all politicians use speechwriters and concludes: “Big whippety doo.”

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