Bill O’Reilly’s segment from last Wednesday — the one in which he asks Kirsten Powers and Kate Obenshain to expound on some mysterious quality that makes women somehow less qualified than men to be president — has to be the most awkward moment of television.
I sympathize with the urge to respond to the clip with mockery. But sometimes a glimmer of truth can be found even in the tawdriest of settings — and it’s Powers who deserves credit for uttering it here. Wracking her brain for something to say in response to O’Reilly’s flippantly sexist provocation, Powers volunteers that a female president might be more easily goaded than a male president into military muscle-flexing as a way of demonstrating her toughness.
I like this comment not only because it undercuts O’Reilly’s smarmy insinuation that a woman would be too weak to stand toe-t-toe with macho tough guys like Vladimir Putin. I also like it because it may well be true.
Ideally, the symbolic nature of the presidency would be lessened and the passions of citizens more restrained. But we must deal in reality. Today, the symbolism of the presidency has never been greater, and the factionalism and passions that so concerned Founders like John Adams are unquestionably on the upswing. In an age in which the media can so easily fan the flames either of worship or ridicule, and when an ever larger segment of the population finds it natural to vent and publicize their every thought through Facebook and Twitter, we are moving steadily farther from sober and responsible control of public passion.
Saul would prefer having an asset within Iran, someone the U.S. can “control” to force regime change — the only acceptable option in his mind. (Note to Homeland: The U.S. did something kind of similar 60 years ago. Didn’t work out so well!)