Democrats & Liberals Archives

Woman Be Wise

On October 11, 1991, a poised young Black woman sat down before a panel of Senate Committee members, amid the harsh lights of TV cameras that would beam her image into an unprecedented number of American households. No mitigating circumstances of a political or legal nature had prompted her appearance, yet it soon became apparent that powerful forces determined to discredit her would outmatch any discernable public or personal support.

The veracity of her claim could very well have historical repercussions. Yet, the parameters of determining her truthfulness had been established long before this pivotal moment. Her opponents would not wait for her sworn testimony before assailing her motive. But, that was the least of her difficulties. She had the enormous task of proving sexual harassment charges before a body made up of 98% white males, half of which shared a political affiliation with her detractors.


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“Congressman, do you believe, you’re a sophisticated guy, do you believe watching these hearings that Dick Clarke has a problem with this African-American woman…?”
- Robert Novak
Transcript - Crossfire 3/25


This past Tuesday morning, I was watching television when the announcement of the White House’s capitulation to the demands of the 9/11 commission was broadcast. I switched between cable news stations as they scrambled to get their pundit-in-residence on-air, for instant analysis. A days worth of near unanimous handicapping of the National Security Advisor’s upcoming testimony, led me to post this observation on my weblog:


“Interestingly, the resulting spin/fallout from pundits to talking heads took on an air of racial patronizing, in my judgment. Most gushed how strong and reassuring her testimony will ‘play’, but then failed to assess how such a perceived strength would be so fiercely guarded by the administration.”

The Washington Post article by Robin Wright detailing the substance of a major policy speech on National Security (scheduled to be delivered on 9/11) was quickly met with a familiar volley previously aimed at Richard Clarke. So important was the rationalization for the absence of terrorism as the speech’s central subject matter, that one of Bill Clinton’s final speeches as President was unearthed in an effort to deflect, or at the very least, spread the culpability.


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On May 6, 2004, a poised young Black woman will sit down before the 9/11 Commission panel, amid the harsh lights of TV cameras that will beam her image into an unprecedented number of American households. Her appearance will be the direct result of pressure, due to mitigating circumstances of a political and legal nature, applied to powerful forces she represents.

The veracity of her truthfulness could very well have historical repercussions. Yet, the motives of her most vocal detractor were assailed long before his previous sworn testimony, before this panel. But, he will be the least of her difficulties. She has the enormous task of proving to an increasingly skeptical American electorate, that the threat of terrorism was not ignored and that this country was not misled into going to war with Iraq.

And, that she, and those she represent, have nothing to apologize for.

Posted by Bert M. Caradine at April 7, 2004 12:50 AM