Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California was her usual bitter self last Thursday during the debate over Iraq, attacking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being a childless woman. Boxer implied that Rice, because she had no children, could not understand the sacrifices made by families of U.S. troops in Iraq and that Rice didnâ€™t grasp the “price” of the war. “Who pays the price?” asked Boxer. “Iâ€™m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old. Youâ€™re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family.”
A nationwide denunciation was quickly unleashed against Boxer, who then refused to offer Rice an apology, explaining “I was just saying what I felt.” The outrageous exchange occurred during Riceâ€™s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 11. Newspapers and TV commentators characterized Boxerâ€™s comments as “vicious feminine politics,” “a new low blow,” “more than cheap,” “degrading,” and “Boxer proved herself a shrill harpy.”
Boxerâ€™s reasoning, if it can be called that, is both specious and fallacious. Just because Rice is unmarried and childless, does not mean she is incapable of feeling the pain of families who have lost loved ones in the Iraq war. Loved ones, by the way, are not limited to oneâ€™s children. There are husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and other blood relatives who have given their lives in the defense of their country. They are, in death, and contrary to Boxerâ€™s vapid comment, “immediate family.”
Boxer seems to think, as many slave owners did, that blacks donâ€™t feel pain, sorrow, fatigue, or other anguish that non blacks do. This was a favorite defense of many slave holders who worked their subjects long hours, separated them from their families, and visited other indignities upon them. There are specific historical references during that era to blacks not feeling the same sorrow as whites do when a loved one dies.
This is the pernicious path that Boxer took on Thursday, even though Rice tried to make clear that she indeed did understand the pain of families who have lost loved ones in wartime. But Boxer managed to cut off Riceâ€™s comments before she could finish. For the record, this is not the first time that Boxer has “disrespected” Rice. During her confirmation hearing two years ago, Rice was accused by Boxer of losing respect for the truth because of Riceâ€™s loyalty to President Bush. “Your loyalty to the administration has trumped your loyalty to the troops,” Boxer charged.
During a television interview last Friday, Rice said Boxerâ€™s comments the day before were needlessly personal. “I guess that means I donâ€™t have kids. What was the purpose of that? Gee, I thought single women had come further than that,” Rice said. She might have added: I thought single black women had come further than that.
Boxer has long been characterized as “an appalling scold from California,” elected by, among others, Hollywoodâ€™s liberal star aggregation, and the hippy dippy voters of Marin County. Her bullying tactics were even immortalized in a Saturday Night Live sketch built around Boxerâ€™s distaste for Rice in which a SNL actress portraying Boxer refers to Rice as “Condo-lies-alies-a-lot.”
If not having children disqualifies a woman from making policy in Americaâ€™s government, then we need to take a second look at senators Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Olympia Snow of Maine, and Libby Dole of North Carolina. All of them are childless, as are several members of the House of Representatives.
Barbara Boxerâ€™s aggressive posture and tastelessness have finally caught up with her, this time for the politically suicidal misdeed of racism. As the New York Post noted in an editorial, “Senator Boxer has made it clear that the next two years are going to be a time of bitterness and rancor, marked by pettiness of spirit and political self-indulgence of a sort not seen in America for a very long time.”