Kathleen Rice's "Image Problem"

What Women Really Think
Sept. 9 2010 10:37 AM

Kathleen Rice's "Image Problem"

/blogs/xx_factor/2010/09/09/does_kathleen_rice_have_an_image_problem/jcr:content/body/slate_image

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article about how Democratic female pols can market themselves in the face of the Mama Grizzly assualt, dinging New York Attorney General candidate Kathleen M. Rice in particular for a campaign video in which she all but declared herself tough in spite of her gender. Today, the New York Times profiles Rice in advance of Tuesday's Democratic primary, making it clear that her tougher-than-any-guy image wasn't just a costume she slipped on for that ad, that her aggressive pursuit of harsher sentencing for drunk drivers and fewer plea bargains is what's earned her a national reputation-but not an entirely positive one. She's not popular in the Nassau County legal community, it seems. In addition to citing criticism of her management style, the Times piece notes, " Some defense lawyers accuse her of being more concerned with headlines than with justice. They say her efforts to reduce plea deals have created case backlogs, and criticize her campaign to seek stiffer sentences for drunken driving as political posturing." There were whispers that it was her naked ambition that prevented her from being appointed to a U.S. attorney gig for which she was under consideration, and the most unflattering detail of all is that she "angered women’s groups when she told part-time female prosecutors that they should take on full-time roles if they wanted to continue in the office. Ms. Rice brushed aside the criticisms, saying she had a responsibility to taxpayers to get the most out of her prosecutors. (She later created a special bureau, charged with the initial assessment of new cases, which allowed flexible work hours for some prosecutors.)" And while Katrina Vanden Heuval, who endorsed Rice's opponent Eric Schneiderman in the Nation , recently tweeted , " Why would women support Rice for NY Atty General. Eric Schneiderman has most powerful record supporting womens' repro & civil right," Rice has been endorsed by Emily's List, Gloria Steinem, and NOW's N.Y. PAC.

Advertisement

So, of course, the question to ask is, would Rice's tough image as a prosecutor have received the same treatment from the Times were she a man? Sure. That particular office, NY AG, most recently occupied by Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, isn't a place for pushovers, and there's been plenty of media coverage of both those men's managerial styles and ambition. Though perhaps that full-time vs. part-time detail might not have made the final edit-or maybe it wouldn't have happened. I hate saying it, but that reads like Rice had a particular ax to grind on that issue, that she wasn't willing to give other women any quarter since she'd made it to where she was by going to great pains to not ask for different treatment as a woman. And that's probably what makes her image problem all the more frustrating to Rice. Naked ambition and agression were what helped Spitzer and Cuomo get the same job those very qualities might prevent her from snagging.

Photograph of District Attorney Kathleen M. Rice courtesy of Nassau County, NY.

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?