September 12, 2008 / Uncategorized

A Case for Obama


NOTE: A few days ago we published The X Factor, in which lifelong Democrat Lynette Long urged women to vote for McCain/Palin. For balance, we asked Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors to make the case for Barack Obama.

The New Agenda is non-partisan and does not endorse any candidate. The following is Ann Bartow’s personal opinion.

The President of the U.S. has a tremendous amount of authority over judicial appointments, over federal agencies, and often, over the success or failure of legislation. A Presidency is far more than a person, because the political party that President represents will staff huge sectors of the government for the next four years. George W. Bush and the Republicans he brought into government with him did horrific damage to the Justice Department, FEMA, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Interior, and the federal judiciary, just to name a few obvious examples. To keep Republicans in power for four more years means incompetents will stay in place, corruption yet uncovered may remain that way, and investigations into corruption we are already aware of will remain largely stymied. The people Obama is likely to hire into powerful positions if he is elected may not be perfect, but they are surely going to be a significant improvement over the folks McCain would leave in place.

What if there is another devastating natural disaster? Do we want McCain in charge of FEMA, staffed with his cronies? I don’t think so, because I don’t want to see thousands of additional people suffer and die unnecessarily. What if there is another human-made disaster such as the 9/11/01 attacks? Do we want McCain and his team making the decisions about whether and how to retaliate? Again, I don’t think so. I don’t want to see another nation devastated at our hands the way Iraq has been. I doubt I’ll agree with every choice Obama makes, but I am very confident he and his team would do a far better job of governing under difficult circumstances than McCain.

And consider the judges McCain would appoint for life, not just at the Supreme Court level but also to federal appellate and district courts, and as federal magistrates. Four years would give him hundreds of opportunities to add to the conservative majority that already dominates the federal bench. In a cumulative sense, four years of new Republican appointed judges can prevent a whole lot of justice from happening over their lifetimes.

Hopefully Hillary Clinton will be part of Obama’s team. I like Hillary Clinton, always have. And I’m proud and grateful to see her campaigning for Barack Obama. If he is elected, I’d expect him to utilize her various skills in his administration. She in turn is likely to bring other well qualified women into an Obama administration, where experienced left-leaning women can lead, and more junior women can learn and grow and prepare themselves to assume power in the future. Despite his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate, I am very skeptical about the likelihood of a McCain administration hiring many women. And even if he does, they are not likely to be women who share my values on many issues.

Finally, given how close the election is likely to be, I think women voters generally can exert a lot of influence over an Obama administration. Barack Obama will want to be re-elected, and after witnessing the positive reaction Sarah Palin has received from so many voting demographics, I think he truly understands how important it is to women, who are the majority of voters, to be represented by someone who views and treats us as fully human.

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  • madazhel

    Thank you for your thoughts, Ann Bartow,

    A McCain/Palin ticket will not be cozy for Bush cronies. There is no love lost between Senator McCain and President Bush. Governor Palin cleared out quite a few cronies in her state.

    McCain cannot appoint Supreme Court Justices without approval from Congress. Hopefully our leaders will show some spine if the time comes to choose a justice.

    Senator Obama has not shown the least bit of respect to Senator Clinton. He would not include her in his cabinet.

    I cannot see how supporting a candidate who did not protest the back room shenanigans of the RBC on May 31, supported the Bush/Cheney energy bill, voted for FISA, voted against the BAIPA (Born Alive Infant Protection Act) and spends campaign money like water is someone to be trusted.

    a California PUMA

  • Denise C


    With all due respect, after watching the convention in Denver, I do not for a minute believe Hillary will be part of an Obama administration. If he had any intention of working with her and giving her some say in how he governed, he would have made her VP and he certainly wouldn’t have conducted his roll call sham the way he did.

    Denise C.

  • Jill from NJ


    Thank you for writing this.

    I’m very confused on what to do. I have always felt that the Democrats were the party for women. It’s hard to not imagine voting that way.

    I also think women have taken a step back. But is this because of 8 years of Bush?

    All I know is that I want to work on women’s rights again for my daughters. I’m not sure I’ll even vote – or I might pull the lever for The Green Party – I don’t like either candidate to be honest.

    Thank you,

  • Kristina Fay

    I agree with Ann. Obama is much better on women’s issues. I think he is a great candidate and that he cares about advancing all people regardless of race or sex.

    I’m voting Obama; but I also want to be part of the Women’s Movement. Count me in!!!


  • The Presidency is far bigger than one person. Obama’s TEAM will be a lot better than McCain’s TEAM, which will be comprised of right wing, poor people hating Republicans, many of whom are likely to stay in place if the Presidency remains in Republican hands. The destruction of agencies like FEMA, and the erosion of the independence of the Justice Department will continue unchecked. McCain’s folks will not work to ferret out, expose and punish the vast Republican corruption Bush has facilitated, because they have nothing to gain (and much to lose) by doing this. Obama’s folks would have a lot to gain by scouring the federal government clean and bringing light and air to corrupt practices. I happen to believe Hillary Clinton will be part of Obama’s team, as Palin’s popularity has taught Obama a hard lesson. But even if this does not happen, Obama will appoint better judges and better administrators, thousands of them, than McCain will, and that will improve the country, in my view.

  • Which is more for women in the work place, Obama or McCain?

    Using the public information compiled on the Web site of the non-partisan group Legistorm, Murdock concludes that, on average, women in McCain’s office are paid more than the men in McCain’s office — $1.04 for every dollar a man makes. Men in Obama’s office make more than women do; female employees make 83 cents for every dollar made by male employees.

    Murdock frames this as an issue of pay equity, but it’s not really — if anything, it’s more a matter of a “glass ceiling.”

    (Or, at least, that’s what feminist groups would likely be saying if the situations were reversed.)

    Only one of Obama’s five best-paid Senate staffers is a woman. Of McCain’s five best-paid Senate staffers, three are women.

    Of Obama’s top 20 salaried Senate staffers, seven are women. Of McCain’s top 20 salaried Senate staffers, 13 are women.

  • Ann, I agree with you that, in general, having Democrats in office is better than having Republicans in office. It’s a whole-party thing, and that’s one of the most compelling arguments for voting for Obama.

    I do personally doubt very much that Obama would involve Hillary Clinton in his administration in any capacity. His faction is utterly opposed to the Clintons.

  • Huan, it doesn’t surprise me that McCain staffers are paid more than Obama staffers. Government pay is linked to seniority. Like Obama himself, Obama’s staffers are probably younger and more junior than McCain staffers. The data you present doesn’t seem to take that into account, and it should if you want an accurate picture.

    The article you linked to notes:

    The Obama campaign does not dispute Murdock’s figures (and neither does the McCain campaign), but Obama campaign spox Ben LaBolt argues that it’s a much different situation on Obama’s presidential campaign.

    Obama’s campaign is jam-packed with high-ranking women, LaBolt says, citing Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor Michelle Obama, Chief of Staff Stephanie Cutter, Senior Advisor Linda Douglass, VP Chief of Staff Patti Solis Doyle, VP Communications Director Ricki Seidman, National Finance Chair Penny Pritzker, Policy Director Heather Higginbottom, Domestic Policy Director Neera Tanden, Director of Rapid Response Christina Reynolds, Senior Adviser Anita Dunn, Senior Speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz, Battleground States Director Jen O’Malley, Research Director Devorah Adler, Director of Scheduling and Advance Alyssa Mastromonaco, Chief Financial Officer Marianne Markowitz, Chief Operations Officer Betsy Myers, and the woman whom LaBolt says is the campaign’s highest-paid official, Finance Director Julianna Smoot. (Nice work, Jules.)

  • Violet – thanks. Working in the legal profession exposes me to the damage bad judges can do, and I sure don’t want to see and more appointed for life. And what Bush has done to the Justice Department is a travesty that can only be undone by the Democrats, in my view.

    I’d like to see Hillary Clinton replace Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader if Obama doesn’t offer her a cabinet position. It’s something I’d be happy to work for if Obama got elected and I could breathe a little easier on many issues that are important to me. As I noted above, I like Hillary Clinton and I think she has a lot to offer this country.

  • juliej

    I disagree completely. I trust a McCain/Palin much more than I could ever trust Obama. Look at what he did to Hillary. Look at his history. Look at who’s backed him. People are yelling at Palin not be vetted, but we are still finding lies that Obama has told to the American People.

    Just recently while being interviewed on O’Reilly, Obama mentioned a much deeper connection to William Ayers. He basically lied to everyone until this slip. Now there is new documentation coming out that he knew Ayer’s while at Columbia who help him get the community organizer job.

    No, I’m sticking with McCain/Palin. Four more years of Bush (which I do NOT think will happen) vs four years of an empty suit and puppet to the left wing radical won’t do us any good but destroy the country completely.

  • Daniel M.

    Back McCain and keep the Democrats in control of Congress. Everybody wins.

  • I’m not sure this post can be considered balance, really. Obama is the center, not the left. Where’s the post about the case for McKinney?

  • Where’s the post about the case for McKinney?

    I’m planning to write one next, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I hardly have time to breathe.

    If you’d like to submit one, please do! Email it to me at

    I’m still hoping McKinney will get on the ballot in Virginia. McKinney/Clemente is an all-woman ticket!

  • Ann

    Just because he has a larger budget does not mean his women staff will be paid more than his men staff. Nor does it mean that he will have more women on his staff either does it. How is this negated or balanced by Obama’s campaign staffs. That he has women on campaign staff does not mean they outnumber the men, or are paid equivalent.

    What this exemplifies is that it would be a mistake for feminists to latch themselves onto political parties rather than endorsing candidates based on their records of feminism. Even if your most valued issue is abortion there are plenty of pro-choice republicans and pro-life democrats. When you are too allied to one party or another, you will eventually be taken for granted. It seems to me this has been the case with the Dems and feminists.

    Feminists should broaden your influence by adhering to feminist issues and candidates rather than political parties.

    And in this election, it seems to me that McCain is more of the feminist than Obama is.

  • Elnora

    I am unclear on how The New Agenda expects womens’ support when they publish this kind of drivel on their site. If Obama respects women and women’s issues so much, why did he cast Hillary off so handily?

    I will think twice about supporting this organization henceforth.

  • bellecat

    And exactly, how much do you know about Barack Obama?
    What has he done to make him quilify for the most important position -not only in our country but in the world?

    When someone does not disclose anything about his past, instead denies any access to it, does not have my confidence, does not have my vote.

    The Democratic Party has shown to be just as corrupted as the Republican.

    The argument above is from another one of those that fall in line. What we need is more women in power that can bring a different perspective to the male dominant world that we live in.

  • bellecat

    i.e. Suprem Court Sandra O’Connor, republican appointee but kept the issues balanced and more progressive than the present bench.

  • Bellcat, if you think Sandra Day O’Connor was progressive, you and I have extremely different world views. Seven (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Stevens and Souter) out of nine of the current Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republicans. If McCain is elected that number will probably go up to eight or possibly even all nine. I don’t think that will be very good for women.

  • I am unclear on how The New Agenda expects womens’ support when they publish this kind of drivel on their site.

    Ann Bartow is a respected feminist and her piece is a thoughtful discussion of the issues. We don’t have to agree with each other to treat each other with respect and consideration.

    The New Agenda is a non-partisan organization with one mission: promoting women’s rights.

  • Ann, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I’m sorry to say I think a lot of Democratic women are in deep denial. Obama has signalled in a dozen different ways that he is not interested in feminist issues, is willing to negotiate with the evangelicals our rights, doesn’t respect Hillary Clinton, and has had no problem with the torrent of lies and misogyny spewed out by his supporters. In fact, he likes to egg them on. His surrogates all seem to have gotten the message that its okay to lie about and bash Palin to their hearts content, even if the terms they use set back women’s quest for equality in the political sphere.

    The question is: do we allow the establishment of a new ideological norm for the Democratic party – the Harry Reid/ Joe Biden maybe-I’m-with-you-maybe-i’m-not-oh-I’m-so-anguished-
    over-this-vote-its-worse-even-than-being-a-woman-with-an-unintended-pregnancy model, or do we at least retain the gains we made in the 90s and send a message to the party that you can’t win without us, so they had better get with the us?

    You don’t have to look far to see what works and what doesn’t. The christian right was not happy with McCain and talked seriously about sitting out the election, and they held out long enough that McCain gave them what they wanted. Big time feminists – the Michelmans, the Kisslings, etc – coddled and caved to Obama and enabled him every step of the way. And what did we get? The “you have nowhere else to go” attitude. The “you’ll come crawling back – if you ever want to see your reproductive rights again” attitude. In other words, nothing.

    I say enough is enough.

  • Ann Bartow

    I’m no Harry Reid fan, see e.g.
    and I’m no Joe Biden fan, see e.g. and

    I think the Democratic Party has been letting women down for years. I just vehemently disagree that helping electing McCain (by voting for him or by not voting for Obama) will be helpful. I think the Supposedly Liberal Doods will attribute the loss to “women being stupidly suckered by Palin” rather than accepting any responsbility, and it is clear to me that the MSM is helping to create and perpetuate this narrative.

    I think women will have more leverage and be better off in the long rum if Obama is elected and the Democrats have actual power and resources that can be leveraged. Most of the feminists who support Obama will want pay back. So if he is elected that is at least possible. If he is not, the Bush years more or less continue, as the Republican Party will force McCain to keep most Bush appointees in place.

  • Judy

    I am a 38 year old female who would want nothing more than to see a female holding the highest post in office. But, I think that some women are voting based on emotion and not on the facts and platforms or what will really face us “as women” if McCain/ Palin get elected.

    After hearing the FOX interview with Harriet Christian, Harriet stated that she is pro choice. Harriet, do you realize that there are 2 Supreme Court Judges that are to be retiring soon?

    Once McCain appoints the two new republican judges, now the majority seats republicans. Roe v Wade “will” be overturned very quickly don’t you think? That is just one issue out of many to think about. How is this empowering women?

  • The Court already has the votes to overturn Roe. That’s a done deal.

    I’m sure Harriet knows that.

  • On Roe –

    IMO the court already overturned Roe with the Carhart and Gonzalez decisions. Since they ruled that electeds can ban a procedure any time they’re feeling grossed-out or overprotective, my concern is whether the wingers can get a human life amendment (or something with similar powers) that would preclude states from keeping abortion legal. Which I don’t see happening any time soon.

    What else can the court do to Roe? Reverse its decision on spousal notification / consent?

    Seriously – is there anything left that they can do? Even if they came out and said they don’t recognize a Constitutional right to choose abortion, it wouldn’t affect states like New York that were pro-choice before Roe.

    Anyway, once the public connects the dots that “life begins at conception” would mean severe restrictions on fertility treatments, the jig would be up. Cracking down on fertility treatments would violate this country’s most sacred principle: Never get between a Decent American and something he wants to buy.

  • Now that I’ve re-read my comment (I am the kind of person who really needs the “preview” option) I want to clarify that its not that I think Roe is unimportant. I would love to see it restored. But all that stuff we’ve been saying since Webster, or Rust, guess, about the chipping away and the slippery slope were true. And now we’re at the point where they’ve chipped away so much, there’s almost nothing left. We said it would happen, and it did.

    Yay us, we were right.

    And now our paradigm needs to change. Like Violet says, the Supremes already have the votes to do whatever they want. That’s a done deal. The question is what are we going to do next.

  • Roe v. Wade is still vital enough that abortion is legal in all 50 states. This will not be the case if Roe is overturned. If this happens, the only way to restore abortion rights to all 50 states will be by Congress passing legislation, which a Democratic Congress very well might do. A President Obama would sign this into law. A President McCain would veto it.

  • As an Arizonan, I found this article to be more why not to vote for George Bush then why to vote for Obama. Since George Bush isn’t running, I’m unimpressed.

    The reason the fact that I’m an Arizonan is relevant is because I have a lot of history with McCain and I get some things that y’all don’t. The fact is, things like FEMA are fundamentally broken, because having disaster planning locating 1000’s of miles away in D.C. is stupid. Here in Arizona, we pretty much expect FEMA to be useless no matter who is in office, and we have yet to be disappointed.

    Additionally, the author misunderstands the role of FEMA. FEMA are fundamentally bankers, not disaster relief people.

    What we need instead of FEMA is a group of local task forces focused on the local natural disasters: wildfires in CA/AZ, Hurricanes in TX through GA, tornadoes in the midwest, etc. These task forces would be run not by D.C. but by the local governors.

    I don’t see Obama showing that sort of thinking. Obama’s a rookie, and as such, still believes that somehow, if only a Democrat were in charge, the Federal Government would be all daisies and chocolate bunnies.

  • Ijane

    “…Barack Obama will want to be re-elected, and after witnessing the positive reaction Sarah Palin has received from so many voting demographics, I think he truly understands how important it is to women, who are the majority of voters, to be represented by someone who views and treats us as fully human.”

    I’m kind of thinking that if Barack Obama is only now understanding how important it is for women to be represented by someone who views and treats women as fully human, then the LAST place Obama should be is in the White House or anywhere near it!

    Come on, Ann. Women are smarter then that.

  • Well, if I’m right, at least Obama finally gets it, unlike McCain who in my view does not. If women are smart they will vote for the candidate who will serve women better, if imperfectly.

  • Judy

    Who is really running for the Presidency, John McCain or Sarah Palin? She sounds like she is. How quickly will John McCain push her to the side and make her invisible IF they get elected?

  • Judy

    Maybe someone can explain this to me, but based on my calculation if the following justices …Gingsburg and Stevens or maybe even Kennedy were to retire and the “new” President were to appoint just two new justices that are Pro-Lifers wouldn’t Roe be overtuned? Wouldn’t there now be enough pro life justices (majority) to overturn Roe?

  • There are already enough justices to overturn Roe.

  • Judy, Violet is correct. Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Alito are all conservative observant male Catholics appointed by Republicans, and together they number five. Souter and Stevens may be two Republican appointees who are unlikely to vote to overturn Roe but together with the two Democratically appointed Justices, Breyer and Ginsburg, that is only four votes, who will not be able to stop them. The first five I mentioned can overturn Roe about anytime they would like.

    As I noted upthread, if Roe is overturned, many states will immediately outlaw abortion, my own included. The only way to restore abortion rights to all 50 states then would be by Congress passing legislation, which a Democratic Congress very well might do. I expect that a President Obama would sign this into law, while a President McCain would veto it. So this seems like a reason to support Obama to me.

  • Judy

    Thanks Ann for the clarification.

    My confusion was in thinking that Alito would swing towards pro choice …I heard someowhere that he would be open minded to abortion.

    You are right, this would be a good reason to support Obama!

  • Actually Alito is the most extreme anti-choice judge on the bench. His confirmation made it certain that Roe could be overturned any time. That’s why the failure of Democrats to block his confirmation was such a signal betrayal of women’s rights. The Democrats have pretty much lost any claim to being the party of women.

  • Judy, you might be thinking of Anthony Kennedy, who is hardly pro-choice but has been less anti-choice than some of his colleagues. But he seems to be moving relentlessly in the anti-choice direction. As this article notes:

    “Kennedy was the author of the Court’s controversial 5-4 majority opinion … in Gonzales v. Carhart, marking the first time the Court has upheld a federal ban on a specific abortion procedure since it first declared a woman’s right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973.”

    Read the whole thing for an overview of his abortion jurisprudence.

  • Sandra Binder

    How do you explain this article? I have to vote for the truth. Hillary was truthful…I will wait 4 yrs for her….Obama is NOT the answer…actions speak volumes to me.

    Obama Only Talks Good Game On Gender Pay Equity
    From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    By Deroy Murdock
    September 11, 2008

    Compensation figures for [Obama’s] legislative staff reveal that Obama pays women just 83 cents for every dollar his men make.

    A watchdog group called LegiStorm posts online the salaries for Capitol Hill staffers.

    Based on these calculations, Obama’s 28 male staffers divided among themselves total payroll expenditures of $1,523,120. Thus, Obama’s average male employee earned $54,397.

    Obama’s 30 female employees split $1,354,580 among themselves, or $45,152, on average.

    Among Obama’s five best-paid advisors, only one was a woman. Among his top 20, seven were women.

    Again, on average, Obama’s female staffers earn just 83 cents for every dollar his male staffers make. This figure certainly exceeds the 77-cent threshold that Obama’s campaign website condemns. However, 83 cents do not equal $1. In spite of this 17-cent gap between Obama’s rhetoric and reality, he chose to chide GOP presidential contender John McCain on this issue.

    Obama responded Aug. 31 to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s Republican vice-presidential nomination. Palin “seems like a very engaging person,” Obama told voters in Toledo, Ohio. “But I’ve got to say, she’s opposed — like John McCain is — to equal pay for equal work. That doesn’t make much sense to me.”

    McCain’s 17 male staffers split $916,914, thus averaging $53,936. His 25 female employees divided $1,396,958 and averaged $55,878.

    On average, according to these data, women in John McCain’s office make $1.04 for every dollar a man makes. In fact, all other things being equal, a typical female staffer could earn 21 cents more per dollar paid to her male counterpart — while adding $10,726 to her annual income — by leaving Barack Obama’s office and going to work for John McCain.

    Among [McCain’s] top-five best-compensated staffers, three are women. Of his 20-highest-salaried employees, 13 are women.

    In short, these statistics suggest that John McCain is more than fair with his female employees, while Barack Obama — at the expense of the women who work for him — quietly perpetuates the very same pay-equity divide that he loudly denounces. … ine12.html

  • It may be that Obama is a hypocrite with his own staffers. But he is also on record as supporting legislation to overturn the Ledbetter SCOTUS decision, while McCain is on record opposing it. Both McCain’s and Obama’s women staffers would be better off in a general way if Ledbetter is overturned legislatively, and so would the rest of the women in the United States. So once again, I think on balance Obama is the better choice. You can learn more about Ledbetter here:

  • Maura

    Ann Bartow :
    “…Obama’s TEAM will be a lot better than McCain’s TEAM, which will be comprised of right wing, poor people hating Republicans…..”

    This kind of partisan blurt advances the dialogue sooooooooooooo much, no?

  • Sandra Binder

    On the Supreme Court issue…I am not convinced McCain would be an all right wing far right man. I do not believe that because he is a reach across guy. He has worked with Sen. Kennedy and others. I say that because look at the record of the former Bush (41) he gave use fair judges. I think fair is good. Obama may pick people who are so far left that they will not get the votes. I am not going to trust Obama to make those choices. Like I say…both Obama have track records…McCain has a better woman’s equal pay record than Obama’s. All I want is someone who walks the walk and talks the talk/

  • Bush 41 appointed two SCOTUS judges, Souter and Thomas. While I would agree with you that Souter is fair, I cannot say the same thing about Thomas, not by a mile. And many of the District Court and Appellate court judges he appointed have been far right wing ideologues who are in the Thomas mold as well

    McCain may have a slightly better record on gender equity in his Senate staff, but in fact Obama has a better record of hiring women for his campaign staff. If that is going to be the entire basis of your vote, so be it I guess.