From cursing to credentials, Democratic women in a bruising debate

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Rarely in history has there been so much darn controversy over just two words.

One is "doctor." The other is the F-word.

And they both happen to involve prominent women.

That has prompted charges of sexism and misogyny as these media uproars, neither one of supreme importance, fill the news void left by the winding down of the Trump presidency. But are those accusations fair?

The F-bomb fallout comes from an unlikely source — Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Joe Biden’s highly disciplined campaign manager — and an even less likely venue, Glamour magazine.


But in an interview so friendly that writer Glennon Doyle began "thank you for being here and for saving the world," O’Malley Dillon, well, set off an S-storm. 

Here’s the full context:

"The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, "You think you can work with Republicans?" I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of f—ers. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn’t wish for that, you couldn’t wish for this bipartisan ideal? He rejected that."

It was a rare slip by O’Malley Dillon, who generally keeps a low profile but did manage to jam her thumb (or is it middle finger?) into the eyes of those with whom her boss needs to negotiate. And she will soon be White House deputy chief of staff.

The Democratic establishment, including Hillary Clinton, defended her. But some said no man would be strafed in such fashion for dropping F-bombs. 

I happen to disagree. I don’t think it was the X-rated language as much as the way she seemed to contradict Biden’s message of unity that gave Republicans a chance to complain that they were being maligned.

In a virtual conversation with Democratic operative Stephanie Cutter, who defended O’Malley Dillon for having the guts to call out GOPers, the Biden aide walked it back yesterday. She said she "used some words that I probably could have chosen better," and pivoted to the unity message that she says accounts for Biden’s 81 million votes.

The Jill Biden brushfire has been raging for days, since an author named Joseph Epstein razzed her for calling herself Dr. Biden. A transition spokesman called the Journal piece sexist, and here I have to wonder, given all the men that have employed that title, why it’s only the incoming second lady that gets whacked for this fairly common practice.

I mean, did anyone have a problem with Dr. Kissinger? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Dr. Phil? Dr. Doom? (Okay, he’s a Marvel villain.) It’s only Jill, with her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware, who takes the heat?


Rather than go the perhaps-we-were-insensitive route, Paul Gigot, the Journal’s editorial page editor, seized the offensive:

"Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue? My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism."

Sure, Jill Biden is fair game. But I saw the online revulsion building even before the Biden camp put out a statement. The woman worked hard and earned her degrees, and the op-ed, which called her "kiddo," was condescending and a bit mean-spirited.

But hey, that’s bleeping politics in today’s increasingly coarse culture.

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