Watching MSNBC this morning I was reminded of a cop-out line from one of Maureen Dowd’s recent harshing-on-Hillary New York Times columns (headline: “A Flawed Feminist Test”):

“But Hillary is not the best test case for women. We’ll never know how much of the backlash is because she’s a woman or because she’s this woman…”

How many bigoted assertions can you safely stash behind the “it’s not women, it’s this woman” cover? Quite a lot, if MoDo’s columns are any measure.

But to hear the talking heads of MSNBC this morning, it could be that for some people it is, actually, women. Or, at least, that their feelings about this woman can’t really be untangled from their feelings about women in politics, generally.

To wit:

Pat Buchanan: No doubt about it, when you come to what is called a rally speech. When you have to get up, and, for men, you start shouting. You’re making your points loudly [chops hand in the air].

Mika Brzezinski: That works for the men. Yeah, the chop works for you.


Buchanan: But the women, if they try that speech…


Brzezinski: We’re not allowed…


Buchanan: You can go ahead and do it but it doesn’t come off as well. Hillary knows her strength. It’s sitting at a table and debating calmly and coolly and answering questions … but you get up and deliver a speech? That was [Obama’s] strength. Reagan wasn’t that great at giving a speech, but he was great at being fiery…


Joe Scarborough: You’re right. Men seem to be more effective sometimes when they’re excited and fiery. Women seem to be a little bit better when they’re reserved…

So, to recap: Women should not get up and chop the air and make their points emphatically as women are “better when they’re reserved”—better seen, perhaps, than heard (at least too loudly). So, I guess that Bitch isn’t everyone’s New Black over there in the NBC empire.

And then—in a moment more crusty and sad than anything else—there was Pat Buchanan’s paraphrasing of Samuel Johnson (the eighteenth century English author): that seeing a woman making a stump speech is like “watching a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

So there’s Buchanan’s bar for women in politics—good and low (there’s a reason he’s known as a paleoconservative). He doesn’t expect women to do well on the stump so startled is he, still, to see them there at all.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.