Kevin Drum is one of many people latching on to a decision Ron Suskind made with a dishy Confidence Men quote from Anita Dunn. Sam Stein talked to Suskind and Dunn to explain the controversy. Dunn told Suskind this:
I remember once I told Valerie [Jarrett] that, I said if it weren’t for the president, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace. Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.
Suskind ran with this on page 340:
"But looking back," recalled Anita Dunn, when asked about it nearly two years later, "this place would be in court for a hostile workplace... Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."
Dunn spins it to Stein: "The fact that the second sentence contains the same words as the first doesn't mean they mean the same thing." And hey, I'm sympathetic to that. Without the clause, a quote about how Barack Obama was a light in the darkness becomes a quote about the darkness. But how great is it for the White House, which is frantically spinning away Suskind, that this has become the breakout story? The grumpy, hostile, sexist treatment that occasionally struck Christina Romer and Anita Dunn is some of the stalest stuff in the book. The details are new, but other details about the same people were reported by Mark Liebovich in 2009, ABC News the same year, Jonathan Alter in 2010 (he gets Romer calling Larry Summers a "bully"), and Richard Wolffe in 2011. The fresh stuff in Suskind is about Obama's capture by Wall Street from 2007, and the inability of his team to adapt when policies bombed out. If that stuff doesn't get as buzzy as Hostilitygate, Team Obama gets off easy.