Carly Fiorina turned in another good debate performance last night. As usual, she was sober, well-spoken, forceful — all of the qualities of style (set aside questions of substance) that made her look formidable earlier in the race.
She struck one very sour note, though. Outlining her counter-terror strategy, and addressing her qualifications to be commander-in-chief, she wrapped up this way: “I’ll just add that Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’”
I’m all for emulating the Iron Lady, but that particular line, employed in anything more than a tongue-in-cheek way, is fairly hideous given current political realities. Across the aisle, the Democratic frontrunner has made clear that her fitness for executive office has an extraordinary amount to do with her genitalia. She’s called her critics sexist, aired an ad with elementary-age girls declaring Hillary should be president because girls rule and boys drool, and, when asked how her presidency would differ from President Obama’s, responded, “Well, I think that’s pretty obvious: Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had, including President Obama.” She doesn’t want you to vote for her because she’s a woman . . . but she wants you to vote for her because she’s a woman.
That men and women bring different natural inclinations and casts of mind to positions of responsibility seems to me obvious. (And if you’re not convinced, there are plenty of studies on this subject, perhaps the best being Harvey Mansfield’s perceptive book, Manliness.) But Hillary is not making philosophical arguments about gender differences; she’s simply plying the playground tribalism of those aforementioned elementary schoolers. And you can be sure that, as the election comes closer, women who don’t support Hillary will be condemned as “traitors” to their sex, much like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Clarence Thomas and Tom Sowell are traitors to their race.
Carly does not have to stoop to that, even momentarily. She is an accomplished, thoughtful, articulate woman; if she thinks men are from Mars and women aren’t, and that her Venusian virtues are an advantage, she is fully equipped to make the case. But that Lady Thatcher line doesn’t do it. Conservatives are respecters of individuals, and of reasoned arguments over mating calls, and should act and speak accordingly.
In Carly’s defense, it hardly need be said that others on the stage are in far more pressing need of learning that lesson than she is.