Hillary Clinton on McCain: “In 2008, he still thinks it’s okay when women don’t earn equal pay for equal work.” Right: Opposing the Lily Ledbetter Act means approving of unequal pay for women. What a disgusting comment.
But what’s disgusting about it, from a conservative perspective? She seems to be making a point of being scrupulously accurate. In this context, saying ‘it’s okay’ amounts to saying that the thing in question is maybe a little bad, but it doesn’t matter much, so you needn’t – therefore shouldn’t – do anything about it. As in: ‘do you need a band-aid for that?’ ‘No, it’s ok.’ A sense that unequal pay for women ‘is ok’, in this sense, is precisely the reason one would oppose the Lily Ledbetter Act. It’s an attempt to solve a non-problem. There will be costs associated with the legislation, in the form of lawsuits. And there will be no significant benefits. This does indeed seem to be the position, at least at the Corner. Reading up and down:
Goldberg on Ledbetter: “Wow, she was even worse than Sebelius. Tootsie with a southern accent. I burst into laughter when they started playing “I’m so excited” after she finished.”
I suppose the point is supposed to be that she is a lousy speaker. Well, I didn’t see her. But it’s pretty unusual for merely flat, lame delivery to be laugh-out-loud funny, unless used as a vehicle for laughable content. So I take it Goldberg finds nigh-inherently laughable the very notion that equality for women is a subject to get worked up about.
Jay Nordlinger (not on Ledbetter but on the issue of equality for women and equal pay for women, I take it): “Did Margaret Thatcher ever go on and on about how she was a woman? Or kvetch about glass ceilings? Did Indira Gandhi? Did Golda Meir? Didn’t they all just get on with it? I thought that Mrs. Clinton’s stress on her sex was unseemly — made her seem kind of affirmative-actiony, rather than a person who stands on her own two feet.”
Since ‘getting on with it’ will, by hypothesis, not involve complaining about inequality, or seeking redress, presumably the assumption is that unequal pay just doesn’t matter much. Why else would it be such an insignificant problem that even talking about it is policy overkill?
To conclude this episode of Smear Watch Smear Watch, ‘will Ponnuru accuse his Corner colleagues of smearing themselves?’ Only time will tell.
Or rather, since we know the answer is ‘no’, there is a semi-serious point to be made here. Which Yglesias made a few days ago: namely, saying something is ‘politically correct’ (affirmitive action-y) is often a strange sort of code for saying ‘correct’; ergo, a means of saying ‘I know what I want is wrong, nevertheless I am right to want this wrong thing,’ which is not really a sensible thing to say. As in ‘I know it’s politically incorrect not to care about women’s equality, nevertheless I wish they’d shut up about it.’ Somehow this is supposed to express a shrewd aloofness, a laziness about faddish concerns that bespeaks deeper earnestness about what really matters. But, when the same people (give or take) feel ‘smeared’ if you just say ‘so you think inequality for women is ok?’ … well, this gives the game away. To put it another way, it’s interesting how ‘politically incorrect’, which seems to express adherence to a philosophical alternative to liberalism, in fact does not. It’s just liberalism with a guilty conscience, coupled with resentfulness about this very fact.
Ponnuru may well say that he, personally, thinks inequality is ‘not ok’, i.e. is a more serious issue. But this isn’t enough to get him off the hook for smearing Clinton as a smearer. Hillary Clinton just pointed out to her listeners that McCain thinks like Goldberg and Nordlinger. And this seems like a good reason not to vote for him. Can this really be a smear, from a conservative perspective?
Goldberg and Nordlinger might say their flip dismissiveness belies a more complex attitude: the Lily Ledbetter Act, for example, would surely be a huge giveaway to trial lawyers, hence is self-defeating in some cost-benefit sense. In general, all legal attempts to redress concerns about inequality will boomerang, ending up hurting everyone (including women) more than they help. This isn’t plausible in a policy sense. More to the present point, it isn’t plausible the likes of Goldberg and Nordlinger really think anything of the sort. Because if this were really what they thought – namely, there is a thing that it is reasonable to want but, alas, that cannot be achieved for complex reasons to do with policy design, then that is an example of something that one would want to talk about at some length, not dismiss or laugh at.
This post has been unnecessarily long. But perhaps it is an important topic.