An Instant-Classic “War on Women” Whiff

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 24 2014 5:55 PM

An Instant-Classic “War on Women” Whiff

In a very well-reported piece for Politico, Alex Isenstadt vividly portrays how Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock parlayed her years in the anti-Clinton salt mines into a political career, and how obsessed Democrats are with beating her. Among the Democrats being quoted, Paul Begala says Comstock has an "almost sick, stalker-like obsession with President Clinton."

Peter Roff, a conservative activist and longtime U.S. News & World Report columnist, argues that Democrats are foul hypocrites if they don't apologize for Begala's sexism.

Sick? Stalker-like? Obsession? Begala would never say that about a man, but apparently thinks he can get away with using such loaded terms because Comstock’s a woman. It’s an attack that is without basis and is lower than low – but discrediting opponents, real and imagined, is what the Clinton spin machine is all about... Too many liberal men like Begala think they can engage in a war on conservative women because nobody ever tells them it’s wrong. They think they can say anything they want, cast any aspersion, make any crack and that folks will laugh – all the while subtly undermining the credibility of an accomplished woman like Comstock who refuses to stay on the feminist plantation.
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You've got to love the "plantation" trope, which makes some sense in the black conservative context and literally none here. After all, the "REAL war on women" argument is different flavor, same food group as the "black voters should know that Democrats used to be racist" argument, which my colleague Jamelle Bouie frequently kicks around the room. There's no sexism whatsoever in attributing "stalker-like" behavior to Comstock.

Let us turn to page 208 of David Brock's memoir, Blinded by the Right.

Comstock invited me to go along on an expedition to the Washington home of senior White House aide David Watkins, the central figure in the travel scandal Olson and Comstock were probing. A short time later, Republican lawyers Comstock, Olson, and other congressional investigators, including David Bossie, and Whitewater investigator Christopher Bartomolucci, pulled up outside my house in an SUV. Though I wasn't sure what the group hoped to accomplish -- they were visibly frustrated with their inability so far to incriminate Watkins -- I went along for the ride. Olson explained that Congressman Sonny Bono had cleared us into the private, gated community where both Bono and Watkins lived, in the northwest section of Georgetown. When we arrived at our destination, Olsen giddily leapt from the truck, trespassed onto Watkins's property, and hopped down a steep cliff that abutted his home. Barbara peered into Watkins's window where she observed him -- watching television. No crime there.

Comstock had the tenacity of a PI. Democrats didn't like it. And the Watkins operation wasn't even what Begala was thinking of when he talked to Politico.

"Even I had forgotten that," says Begala. "But it is true that Barbara asked me if she had deposed me when we were at Mass."

Add to this the fact that women are roughly three times as likely to be stalked as men, and that it's mostly men who stalk women, and I don't think there's much left for every female Democrat to apologize for.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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