Politics: White House

In Ohio, Obama’s Jeep Wrangler Joke Gets Mixed Response at Chrysler Plant

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June 3, 2011, 10:14 a.m.

An EPIC-MRA poll; con­duc­ted 10/3-7 for the De­troit Free Press/WXYZ-TV; sur­veyed 600 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.0% (re­lease, 10/10).

Obama As POTUS

- Now 6/15 5/26 3/31 2/25 1/26 12/9 10/09 6/09 Ex­cel­lent/good 43% 47% 44% 44% 45% 41% 44% 48% 57% Just fair/poor 57 52 55 55 54 58 55 51 42

Fav/Un­fav

- Now 9/12 8/23 6/15 5/26 3/31 B. Obama 47%/47% n/a 44%/49% 51%/42% 49%/42% 50%/44% J. Gran­holm 35 /58 38%/58% 32 /63 39 /55 36 /59 38 /56

(For more from this poll, please see today’s MI GOV story.)

Nearly every morn­ing I try to wake up, be grate­ful for a new day, put my feet on the floor slowly, have a cup of tea, be as Zen as pos­sible, and ease in­to the day as best as I can. As I say, “feet floor, tea, door!” Today in New York City, that pro­cess got dis­rup­ted in the res­taur­ant of the hotel where I am stay­ing. Big time. And it was all over the defin­i­tion of sex­ism — a top­ic that has been in the news and will un­fold a good bit more in polit­ics over the com­ing months.

First, a little back­ground on my up­bring­ing. I was raised by a very strong and in­de­pend­ent mom. She was top of her class in high school in De­troit and at the Je­suit Uni­versity of De­troit. She read vo­ra­ciously, loved de­bate, and was smart as a whip. She began her ca­reer as a pub­lic school teach­er in the Mo­tor City, then had her first of 11 chil­dren. After that, the tra­ject­ory of her life changed dra­mat­ic­ally, as well as the per­cep­tion of her by many people she en­countered.

She would go to the gro­cery store with many of us, we would haul around two huge, fully-loaded carts, and you could see the dirty looks she was giv­en for hav­ing so many chil­dren. You would hear the not-so-subtle re­marks about her be­ing ig­nor­ant or un­educated or even dumb be­cause of all the kids, and of course be­cause she wasn’t dressed to the nines. It taught me a lot about not as­sum­ing you know someone’s story by what you see or by your own pre­ju­dices.

I think wo­men should be treated com­pletely as equals, that they can do most everything as well as a man, and that this coun­try would prob­ably be a lot bet­ter off if a wo­man was pres­id­ent, or run­ning most of the cor­por­a­tions in Amer­ica. But I also be­lieve in open­ing a door for a wo­man, help­ing a wo­man with her bag on the plane, stand­ing up when she comes to the table, and if she is be­ing ac­cos­ted on the street, step­ping in to help.

So as I walked in­to the café with a base­ball cap on (I am fol­lically chal­lenged) to grab a piece of toast and tea, I over­heard an older man in a golf shirt talk­ing about the Mas­ters con­tro­versy. This is the ri­dicu­lous situ­ation in which the golf club re­fuses to ad­mit any wo­man as a mem­ber — in­clud­ing the cur­rent head of IBM (Ginni Ro­metty), whose com­pany is spon­sor­ing the tour­na­ment. Every oth­er head of IBM has got­ten a green jack­et when it has sponsored, but not Ro­metty.

So this blow­hard in the res­taur­ant was spout­ing off to a buddy about how ri­dicu­lous it was for “wo­men” (he was us­ing this in a pe­jor­at­ive way) to force the Mas­ters to do this. And then he said there was a con­tro­versy at his golf club be­cause wo­men wanted equal tee times to men on Sat­urday morn­ings, and his club “un­for­tu­nately” fi­nally re­len­ted and let wo­men get tee times even though “wo­men” didn’t work like men. I was just pass­ively listen­ing to this and try­ing to ig­nore it.

Then, as he was leav­ing, he walked up to me at my table and said, “You should take off your base­ball cap be­cause there was a wo­man in the res­taur­ant.” I answered, “Really?” And he said, “Really.” I was blown away by the in­cred­ible irony and hy­po­crisy, and said, “Are those your rules?” He mumbled something, I called him a bore, and as I walked out in­to the hustle and bustle I was shak­ing my head.

I am quite sure wo­men are faced with worse every day of their lives just as my Mom was — wheth­er they are full-time moth­ers, full-time work­ers, or a mix of both, as most are. It does raise a fun­da­ment­al ques­tion about what it means to be a gen­tle­man and which is more im­port­ant — the sur­face or ap­pear­ances, or something deep­er and more fun­da­ment­al.

Yes, I think Ann Rom­ney is a great sur­rog­ate for her hus­band on is­sues re­lated to wo­men, but don’t we really want to know Mitt Rom­ney’s val­ues re­lated to wo­men not only at home, but in the work­place?

Pres­id­ent Obama’s spokes­man, Jay Car­ney, said on Thursday that the pres­id­ent be­lieves wo­men should be per­mit­ted at the club — a sen­ti­ment that Rom­ney later echoed. But don’t we want to know how Rom­ney or Obama is go­ing to cre­ate a bet­ter en­vir­on­ment where wo­men can have the choice — to stay at home and raise a fam­ily and not worry about health in­sur­ance, or go to work full-time and not be judged on wheth­er they are a good mom, or be giv­en more flex time to do both?

I hope we can have this dis­cus­sion without both sides in the de­bate de­volving in­to slo­gans and talk­ing points, with the Left ac­cus­ing the Right of wa­ging a war on wo­men or the Right say­ing the Left is wa­ging a war on fam­ily val­ues. And maybe we can learn to treat each oth­er as ladies and gen­tle­men — but I still will prob­ably wear my cap over my bald head at break­fast.

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