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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Where's Suze?

Has anybody else noticed that Susan Estrich seems to have disappeared, or at least stopped talking? I haven't heard her distinctive voice in the past few weeks. Could be she's regrouping in the wake of her notorious gender politics dust-up with Michael Kinsley, which has got to be one of the worst career moves since Martha Stewart returned that call from the FBI as she thought to herself in that familiar Leona Helmsley way, "Lawyer? I don't need no stinkin' lawyer. Watch me brush these idiots off." Estrich came on the national political scene nearly two decades ago as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis's memorable presidential quest. After that stellar endeavor, Susan turned her considerable talents to espousing what has become one of her favorite themes: Men are pigs. The unstated though logically obvious corollary: Women are sheep. Translated from these unnecessarily highbrow terms: Attorney Estrich enjoys arguing that women can't be held accountable for their actions, when accountability would otherwise be assumed (of, you know, grown-up female humans), because centuries if not eons of Patriarchy have robbed today wimmens (technical biological term, or maybe I mean amusing folkloric reference, I confuse the two a lot) of the capacity to be full capacity moral agents. OK, so that's an inference. I don't "know" what Susan Estrich enjoys, and it is almost certainly piggish in that very male way to confuse my inference with a fact. Correction: Susan surely seems to enjoy arguing for female persons as lacking the capacity to make informed choices, given her seeming "Oh, look: another chance to run my victim-feminist racket" approach to choosing opportunities to utter in public. For instance: A few years ago, when self-styled pragmatic feminist Camille Paglia mocked young coeds who believe “I should be able to get drunk at a fraternity party and go upstairs to a guy’s room without anything happening,” Estrich spoke up for gender-focused feminists who “would argue that so long as women are powerless relative to men, viewing ‘yes’ as a sign of true consent is misguided.” In the same spirit, Susan recently went to bat for the miasma of cultural incoherence known as identity politics. This is the quaint doctrine that says you must be black to say anything about blacks; you hve to be gay to know anything about being homosexual; you've got to be a woman to explain anything about women. It happens that within each demographic domain lurk subtle degrees of authenticity. Which brings us back to the LA Times imbroglio. Estrich (a woman, who therefore knows) publicly scolded Times op-ed editor Michael Kinsley (a male, who therefore cannot) for not publishing enough essays by women. Upon completion of a gender tally, it turned out Estrich had refused to count some Kinsley-commissioned articles by (conservative) women because those women didn’t write with “women’s voices.” So there are women, and then there are Women, essentially. It was probably the second group that Helen Reddy heard roar. I began noting Susan hasn't been around any of her usual media haunts of late. I hope her absence is temporary, as I love the mental workout following her almost Talmudic conceptual convolutions on gender issues. I'm guessing Karl Rove probably misses her, too. I can't help but think Bush's demonic inhouse genius is secretly hoping Estrich will step forward soon to explain why Janice Rogers Brown lacks qualifications for the D.C. Court of Appeals because she doesn't think like a correct black person or a correct woman person. (Ms. Rogers Brown: Although you are an associate justice of the California Supreme Court, would you be willing to reassure us by producing a valid passport, so that we can set aside any lingering doubts that you are, well, you know — one of us? Thanks so much, and have a great day!) Not to take anything away from Rove, by the way — no doubt he's quite clever. Still, how much "genius" does it take to read what the wacked out cultural left actually says on TV in the newspapers, and then simply use it? Remember late Lee Atwater? He was another alleged evil genius of right-wing political strategy. Atwater wouldn't have been able to craft the now-famous Willy Horton TV ad (featuring convicts walking out of prison through a turnstile) if the then-governor of Massachusetts (Mike Dukakis!) hadn't authorized a real-world furlough program that allowed actual convicted killers to take weekends off on "good behavior." By the way, I'm guessing neither Rove nor Atwater would have thought to put Dukakis in that army tank and ride around with a goofy helmet smiling and waving like Mortimer Snerd, back in the '88 presidential campaign. No, coming up with that media opportunity required a mind that understood the importance of reassuring defense-oriented male voters that Dukakis had the right stuff to be commander in chief. It took psyche with remarkable empathy for the male imagination to put together that remarkable instance of political stagecraft. Hurry back, Suse. You are so missed.