Harry Jaffe faults Gray for hiring women
The weekend's news has produced a lot of chatter about what ails Mayor Vince C. Gray. Was it just bad judgment that led him to questionable dealings with marginal fellow mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown? Was it insecurity? Something else?
In a Monday piece on this matter, Washington Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe had other ideas. He argued that Gray's problem was women in positions of authority. The headline read: "Vince Gray's four ladies play amateur hour."
What followed was some sophisticated columnizing. Drawing on his background in urban politics, Jaffe argued that Gray's problem was akin to that of the mob: "There's an old saying among hard-core political operatives and organized crime bosses: 'He wouldn't stay bought.'" The parallel to the Brown situation was sweet and easy: Gray's people, as Jaffe wrote, allowed Brown to become "unbought," ensnaring the mayor in a distraction sure to headline every 100-day evaluation.
Excellent point, if only Jaffe had been content to leave things be. Instead, the columnist moved from identifying the problem to outing its authors. And their gender. Check this out — though column inches in the Examiner's info-packed pages are scarce, Jaffe decided to dedicate an entire sentence to to this revelation: "Gray has four women running his political and personnel shop." Later, he couples gender with incompetence, producing sexism: "The four ladies let Gray down. They let Brown get hired, then fired, then furious. They took care of their own, by seeing that friends and family got city jobs. In the process, they exposed Gray to ridicule and perhaps a criminal investigation."
Journalists have long struggled with how to identify people in their stories. If a group of young men beats someone up, should you mention their race? If a man who is 3 feet 11 inches tall murders someone, do you mention the guy's stature in the news capsule? If a few political appointees are ill-serving their boss, do you make a big deal of their gender?
The last one is the easiest call of the three. Jaffe is tossing gender politics into a story that couldn't possibly be more neutered. The argument here is that women aren't tough enough to do the dirty work of big-city politics, a point that Jaffe makes by:
1) Citing the example of a man, David L. Cohen, who did tough, yeoman's work for former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. Cohen is described as a "smart, tough, trusted fixer...You wanted something done? See David. You wanted something undone, quietly and efficiently? Call David."
2) Using hackneyed, macho language — and mixing metaphors — to describe the job of a fixer: "Mayors need savvy, calculating political knife-fighters to protect them from minefields, and to make sure people stay bought."
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