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Oct. 5 2009 — 4:54 pm | 13 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Olympic loss actually a boost for Obama

Barack Obama on the Primary

Image by jurvetson via Flickr

The Chicago loss is actually a win? I know. It’s hard to wrap your head around it. I got a sense of this as I test-drove my counter-intuitive (yet brilliant) theory by my baffled and distracted husband over the weekend.   I figured he’d surely see the logic. After all, he’s now a spin doctor himself–Communications Director for VP Biden. Any silver-lining would immediately be picked up by his political radar, I thought. But all I got was a flicker of confusion in his eyes, and then the top of his head again as he returned to the Blackberry trenches.

So. Pay attention. I’ll move with caution.

Obama had to go. Imagine if he hadn’t gone, and we’d lost the bid. Can’t you hear the bellicose rhetoric about how “out of touch” and “unpatriotic” he is? It would have been take two on that campaign trail talk of an aloof and elitist guy who just doesn’t get what most Americans care about.  “Did he dis the Olympics? The event that brings us together as a nation?”

I’d also argue he’d have gotten much the same treatment if he’d stayed home and we won the bid. “We got the Olympics, but no thanks to our clueless President,” it would have gone. And even worse, the win would have pissed off his critics, and increased their roiling, beneath the surface rage about his good luck. But more on that later.

Ok. Still with me? Here’s where real twists start.  Sure, sure. It would have been great had he come home a winner. Great for all of us. But maybe not so much for him. Why? Because then he would have then really irked his critics. They’re already secretly and not so secretly peeved that he’s been voted the world’s prom king. Another victory would have just started a wave of dangerous, uncontrollable seething. You remember high school, right? We want that good-looking, popular quarterback to drop the ball sometimes. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

Now you see where I’m headed? That’s why I argue this loss is good for him. For him to put his reputation and ego on the line, head over there, and get humiliated–I say is the best thing that could happen for him–and maybe the administration. He’s come down a few notches in the eyes of the world, and that’s a good thing–he’s human. The world can relate.

It’s an especially good thing because it punctures his detractors ballooning and  poisonous envy.  Opponents, gleeful about their rivals’ embarrasement, become a bit less hazardous.  In the meantime, everyone else can empathize, which sometimes makes the heart grow–more sympathetic. “I remember when I tried to make that pitch to the paper clip company, and they turned me down flat. Hmph. I guess it happens to all of us.”

Ok. Maybe we’re not all that empathetic. And I know, I know–everyone loves a winner. But the loss might make humility–not arrogance–the administration buzzword for a while.   Learning to be a good loser is critical. That’s what I keep telling my kids, anyway. And having a larger than life role model–for trying one’s best, nodding to a deserving winner, and then moving on with grace–is invaluable.

It’s also true that losses test character. With so many truly meaningful battles ahead, maybe it was critical for this administration to be reminded it won’t win every time–but that it is important to truly engage in the fight.  And then move on to the next one.

Jul. 16 2009 — 10:09 am | 60 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Mom – 69 – dies leaving 2 years olds. Tabloid horror follows.

I’m at Heathrow for a few hours, where the British newspapers are full of stories of a 69 year old Spanish woman who’s just died, leaving two year old twins. Maria del Bousada lied to doctors in the US to get IVF treatment becoming the world’s oldest mom when she delivered at the age of 66. A few months later she was diagnosed the with cancer and now Christian and Pau are orphans. The papers uniformly suggest it was irresponsible of her to have the twins so old and almost imply the cancer was inevitable.

That’s crazy. Mrs del Bousada could have been 39 and still gotten sick, been run over by a bus or died in countless other ways. What shocks me most about the story is how on earth she could have wanted babies at 66. Having just flown across the Atlantic with 3 of my 4 I realize I’m exhausted by the demands of motherhood (and my kids have behaved impeccable all journey, but it’s still tiring) at 44. I don’t see how anyone could think they’d have the energy for newborns, and twins, to boot, in their mid 60s.

Yet, I’m conflicted. Lots of men have second or late marriages and have children later in in life and few people throw their arms up in horror. Which leads us back to the original, politically incorrect conclusion that men and women, moms and dads are different. By and large, the demands made on us by our children are greater than those they make on their dads and, I suspect, most of us wouldn’t have it any other way. We love the intimacy that goes from being Mom and are happy to pay the eye-bag price that comes with it.

That said those twins are now without a mother, father or any other obvious form of parental input. Mrs del Bousada’s siblings were themselves elderly. Which leaves little Christian and Pau with bleak prospects. That she should have thought of.


Jul. 13 2009 — 2:44 pm | 14 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Sotomayor: why can’t we just admit diversity is a good thing?


Judge Sotomayor is sworn in during her confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee today (Alex Wong/Getty)

As Washington gears up for its standard three ring circus that is a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, there is one subject that will no doubt come up, but will also, no doubt, be tip-toed around in the name of PC politics: is Sotomayor going to rule on issues differently because she is a woman, and a Latina woman?

The most cutting edge research suggests that she will indeed operate differently on both of those things, but that that fact may well be a good thing. In the Washington Post this weekend we wrote an op-ed about much of this research, that suggests, among other things, that having more women in the senior ranks of corporations is good for profits, and the economy. Precisely because women bring something different to the table–a different perspective and a different management style. We tend to build consensus instead of competing, and tend toward caution, instead of risk.  But there is one bit of research that I find particularly compelling. An economist at the University of Michigan has come up with a mathematical model, something he calls a diversity theorem. He’s used it to study corporate decision making, and especially complicated corporate decision making. What he’s found is that the diverse group, when given a tough decision to make, always reaches a better conclusion. Even if the homogeneous group happens to be “better qualified,” the diverse group makes a better judgment.

That got me thinking about the mix on the Supreme Court. Can we extrapolate? Isn’t it therefore arguable that diversity will benefit that group as well? Moreover, won’t the different management and judicial style that Sotomayor might bring also be helpful in moving decisions along toward more broadly-supported rulings?

It struck me as odd, during uproar about wise Latina comments, (which were overstated on her part, I admit,) that suddenly we all had to retreat to the standard notion that good judges do everything in exactly the same way. Of course that is nonsense. But maybe politics just isn’t ready yet for the revolutionary thought that differences exist–and, in fact, can be beneficial?

Jul. 12 2009 — 9:44 pm | 18 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Can women save the economy?

scanned transparency, color corrected.

Image via Wikipedia

Katty and I prescribe a novel solution in the Outlook section of the Washington Post: women could be the answer to our economic ailments. There’s a hefty batch of research that shows the more senior women a company employees, the more money it makes. And a lot of evidence that women manage differently–we are more cautious and inclusive, while men are more competitive and prone to risk-taking. Nick Kristof discussed some of this a few months ago, but we take it one step further by suggesting that the only way women will get to the top is in a more flexible workplace. Let us know what you think.

Jul. 6 2009 — 6:06 pm | 56 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

‘Katty, tell me they think Palin’s crazy.’

Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Politi...

Image via Wikipedia

Every now and again I get a call from a friend in Europe asking me to translate America. For much of the Bush administration, and in particular after his reelection in 2004, the question dripped disdain and even anger. “How could you even live there?” my husband’s Scottish relatives would moan, with that particular brand of barely disguised sanctimony only dour Scots are capable of. It was as if I was somehow personally responsible for the election of GW, the bombing of Afghan civilians, the invasion of Iraq and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib all in one neat package.

Those years of war induced anti-Americanism were the low point of my thirteen years here.

So in contrast, the question I got from home the other day, “Katty, tell me they think Palin’s crazy,” seems a relative breeze. Except it isn’t. Because I don’t know how to answer. Defending the right, even the need, of objective foreign journalists to live and work through the doctrine of preemptive action was frankly simple compared to explaining the puzzle that is the Palin effect.

Yes, clearly a lot of Americans I meet do indeed think the soon to be former Governor of Alaska is not only deranged but dangerous (see Al Franken on the subject.) But I live in Washington DC and have begun to wonder whether my political true north isn’t better found by assuming that on this subject the views of most people I meet are simply the diametric opposite of those in much of the rest of the country. How else can I account for her high approval ratings? And how else to make sense of  moves which the political establishment assume amount to political suicide but her supporters tell me amount to political genius. In all my years here I have never encountered a figure more fascinating, more divisive and more indicative of this bi-polar country. It is not even so much that Palin is enigmatic (although I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what she really meant in that resignation ramble) it is the enigma she reveals in American society that is so hard to put my finger on.

It is testimony to the degree of international interest in Sarah Palin that I was asked last week by editors in London to do a  5 minute piece on her (an epic in TV terms) and the request had come before she even announced her resignation.  During the course of interviews for the piece one thing friend and foe alike could agree on is that there is nothing traditional about this politician. She operates according to her own agenda often defying all political norms. Whether she can get to the White House without at some stage becoming a more conventional politician is a different question, but certainly this singularity makes both her and her impact even harder to read.

Was that speech in her back yard on Friday inspired in its break-out-of-the-Beltway unconventionality or was it the bizarre wild gamble it seemed? In other words, is she crazy, or are we?

So when that question came through from Britain, I was stumped. At the risk of sounding Clintonian, it depends of course on the definition of “they.” Which is where Europeans so often fall down in their understanding of this huge country. They simply assume there is one national response and that there is a united “they” to talk about.  They are wrong, of course. But help me out, and I’ll send back a more coherent reply, do you think she’s crazy?



Claire's the one in red, Katty's in grey. We're both reporters--Katty for BBC, Claire for Good Morning America. Writing Womenomics (a New York Times best-seller!) is one of the best things that we've ever done. It was a labor of....complete passion. Who wouldn't love the subject--it's our lives. But we learned so much along the way--about our power--and about how other women pull it off. And we had a blast working together--even though we were warned that teaming up might destroy our friendship. Ha! I think our husbands worried we might run off together.

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