President Obama's decision to appoint Susan Rice as his national security advisor set off a day's worth of high-voltage caterwauling at Fox News on Wednesday. Still angry about Rice's uncontroversial role in using the intelligence community's talking points during interviews in the wake of the terrorist attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya last year, Fox talkers guests were apoplectic about the appointment.
One of the most demeaning, gender-based reactions from the Fox community came from Andrea Tantaros and Sean Hannity, both of whom suggested the president selected Rice to the prestigious national security position as a way to inoculate himself. That he specifically selected a woman in order to protect himself politically.
So no, the sexist attacks weren't even camouflaged yesterday. And yes, it came in the wake of the recent Fox decision to host a panel discussion about women's earning power and only invite male guests, many of whom launched sexist volleys against working mothers. And yes, it came in the wake of Fox's decision this week to dramatically downplay the importance of Congressional hearings on the topic of sexual assault in the military.
That mindset ran through much of the Rice denunciations. On his radio show, Hannity claimed Obama made the Rice choice “with the hopes that Republicans will now be beating up - in the public eye - a woman.”
And on Fox's The Five, Tantaros stressed that Rice only got the job because she was a woman being used by the president [emphasis added]:
This administration uses women as human shields. And the last time he nominated her, or her name was floated he didn't officially nominate her, he came out and he said, 'You want to go after somebody, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, come after me. She had nothing to do with Benghazi.'
I think they nominate her to set up a trap for Republicans to go after women. They're nominating Samantha Power. Hillary Clinton was Obama's human shield on Benghazi.
First, a human shield -- the act of using civilians to fend off a military or law enforcement attack -- is a tactic often used by cowards who are possibly also criminals. The claim Obama implements “human shields” conjures up deadly, violent imagery and is wildly inappropriate when discussing the President of the United States and one of his most senior advisers.
Secondly, that's an odious double shot of gender politics from Hannity and Tantaros, suggesting Obama isn't man enough to fend for himself so he has to hide behind women. At the same time it denigrates an extraordinary achiever like Rice by assigning her the subservient role of puppet and political pawn.
And in this case, the central claim makes no sense.
Fact: Republican leaders spent much of last November and December 'beating up' Rice when it was suspected she might be nominated to be the next Secretary of State. Republicans showed no hesitancy in smearing Rice with outlandish allegations of misconduct surrounding her minimal role in the Benghazi controversy. So why would Republicans suddenly back off attacking a woman of Rice's stature now, simply because Obama appointed her to be his national security advisor?
And of course it's not just Congressional Republicans who have no problem attacking Democratic woman. Does Hannity not watch his own show? Does Hannity not watch Fox News, which is regularly “beating up” on Democratic and liberal women?
As for the notion that Rice is an Obama puppet promoted just because she's a woman, here are some highlights from her biography:
- Graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University.
- Earned degree in international studies from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes scholar.
- Joined the State Department, where she became one of the youngest assistant secretaries of state ever.
- Confirmed by U.S. Senate to become the United States' United Nations Ambassador.
- Appointed national security advisor to the president.
That's who Fox News is mocking as Obama's “human shield” and belittling as nothing more than a female prop?