State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki is clearly in over her head.
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly took note of Ms. Psaki’s inadequacy recently—O’Reilly didn’t say anything sexist in his criticism of Ms. Psaki. Other than his use of the pronoun "she," there was nothing to indicate Ms. Psaki's gender in O'Reilly's remarks.
But, as you probably know, Ms. Psaki’s deputy, Marie Harf, jumped in to defend her boss at a State Department briefing, accusing O’Reilly of sexism.
Harf, who clearly has no compunction about psucking up to the boss in public, insisted that O’Reilly would not use the same words about a man. Lowering the level of State Department discourse even more, Harf said that what O’Reilly said was “not OK.”
O’Reilly never mentioned Psaki’s gender and, if Ms. Harf thinks that O’Reilly would not go after a man in the same manner, she doesn’t watch Fox News (she probably doesn’t). What was disturbing to me, however, was that Harf felt free to smear O’Reilly knowing that most people would not look up O’Reilly’s original remarks.
Paul Mirengoff has written of Harf’s defense of her boss:
Harf, who makes Psaki look intellectually hefty, should think again. O’Reilly has used similar words to disparage the new White House press security Josh Earnest, calling him “befuddled” and stating that he “looks uncertain” and “doesn’t look like he has a lot of credibility.”
We are left, then, with a baseless, whiney complaint against O’Reilly, the real thrust of which is that it’s “not ok” to express the opinion that a woman is “out of her depth,” even if that’s what one believes. Since when is policing speech part of the job of an administration flack?
The more interesting question is why Team Obama selects obvious lightweights to hold forth to the press on U.S. foreign policy. There are two answers, I believe.
The first reason, according to Mirengoff, is that President Obama is psucking up to his base, which he believes will resonate to young spokespeople such as Harf and Psaki.
The second reason is even more interesting:
But there’s a second, and think more fundamental, explanation for the State Department’s use of Psaki and Harf. I believe Team Obama is trying to “demystify” foreign policy — to make it look unthreatening almost to the point of child’s play. Psaki and Harf provide visual expression of this view just by standing at the podium and talking.
If one believes that the world is a dangerous place and that the U.S. must, accordingly, respond with constant vigilance and, at times, forceful engagement, then you want your spokespersons to look and talk maturely and somberly — to project, in a word, gravitas. For those of us who see the world that way, James Haggerty (Eisenhower’s press secretary who once said “if you lose your temper at a newspaper columnist, he’ll get rich or famous or both”) is a model.
But suppose you don’t believe the world is all that inherently dangerous. Suppose you believe, as Obama does, that the U.S. is at the root of many of the world’s problems and that a new dawn in international relations is possible if America will just lighten up.
Before you cry psexism, the post recalls Tommy Vietor, the (male) foreign policy spokesman who said of Benghazi, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”
If Hillary Clinton runs for president, as is overwhelmingly likely, we’ll see more of this. Legitimate criticisms directed at policy matters will be deflected by charges of sexism, much as overdue criticisms of President Obama’s disastrous policies are “rebutted” by toxic accusations of racism.
PS. I owe my headline on this item to another Power Line post headlined “Psaki Makes Me Psick.”