The Magazine

The Macho Dynamic

Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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When newspaper editors get together for their next good head-scratching session​—​Why do they hate us? Why don’t they take us seriously? Why are they abandoning us in droves?​—​someone should hand out copies of Ruth Marcus’s column “The girls are back” from the June 12 issue of the Washington Post

Marcus, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, is described by the Post syndicate as “a boots-on-the-ground columnist who reports first and opines later.” But boots on the ground aside, she appears to spend most of her analytical energy calculating the number of females serving in the Obama administration. In her view, it would seem, it is not the quality of women working in the White House (and elsewhere) that counts, but the quantity. And that was the subject of her June 12 column, a celebration of Obama’s appointment of two women​—​Susan Rice as national security adviser and Samantha Power as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.​—​to senior foreign policy jobs.

Now, this is not the place to talk about the pros and cons of Rice and Power. But Ruth Marcus doesn’t take them seriously, either: For her, first and last, they are two (2) certifiable females employed in the Obama administration, which she seems to regard as a hotbed of male chauvinist piggery. And then she makes the following observation: 

[T]he presence of a few well-placed women such as [Valerie] Jarrett and Rice, and the addition of a few more​—​Kathy Ruemmler as White House counsel, Lisa Monaco as counterterrorism adviser, Sylvia Mathews Burwell at the Office of Management and Budget​—​upends the macho dynamic. These are not Dean Acheson’s national security meetings. 

At which point, The Scrapbook nearly dropped its knitting: “Dean Acheson’s national security” apparatus is something to deplore​—​because it was (undoubtedly) composed of men? 

It’s been a long time, apparently by Post standards, but Dean Acheson might well have been the greatest, certainly the most important, secretary of state in modern times, a historic statesman who surrounded himself with advisers and subordinates of near-legendary quality and stature. The Obama White House​—​even with Kathy Ruemmler and Susan Rice on board​—​would be lucky to have anybody approaching Dean Acheson’s authority on staff. 

But it’s quantity, not quality, that counts with Marcus. Which is ironic, in its way. Like Ruth Marcus, Dean Acheson was a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School; unlike Ruth Marcus, however, he had a well-advertised contempt for newspaper columnists. Which, in certain instances, seems richly deserved.

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