Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Way to blow the news cycle, Democrats.

I was taken aback by the comments about women's salaries that a youthful John Roberts made in the Reagan White House. I decided those comments ought to lead my paltry blog, with its paltry hits. And, when preeminent blogger Kos highlighted those same excerpts at Noon EST, I felt there was finally a chance for the Democrats to take a few degrees of disadvantage off the playing field, though by no means would it be leveled.

John Roberts, while working in the Reagan White House, likened Republican congresswomen to Marxists. He said that the wage gap was only an "apparent disparity" (read: not something real or worrisome) because it failed to take into account men enjoying more seniority. And, this apparent disparity appears beause women frequently leave the workforce.

This was not just an articulated study concerning who spends more time in the workforce and why. This missive had strong feelings wrapped into it. The references to communism reach their apex with: "From each according to his ability, to each according to her gender."

That is quite a break from how Marx's quote is normally rendered: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

The male gender describes abilities, for Roberts. The female gender possesses needs.

The male gender provides the surplus and the female gender needs all the help it can get.

Then, Kos updated the story, with further reflections. But, after less than 6 hours and only a couple hundred comments, Kos rang the death knell on the important story. The tone was sounded with this excerpt:

Update: As pointed out in the comments, Roberts wasn't talking about equal pay for equal work, but "equal pay for different jobs of comparable value, based on factors such as skills and responsibility." That does muddy the issue quite a bit, if for no other reason that it places things in the realm of the abstract. What is a job of "comparable value"? Who assigns that value?

If nothing else, it makes this issue too complex to become that silver bullet.

That is a valid point. The issue of "comparable worth" is a murky one. You could even argue that it ought not be adjudicated, and that the legislature alone should address the issue of pay equality between the sexes.

Too bad that is not what John Roberts said, for if he had, these memos would fade away as nothing more than additional tea leaves. As I detailed above, and in a previous posting, Roberts' tone is troubling. But these are also 21-year-old memos. I am sure now-Judge Roberts would never dream of writing these same words in this same manner.

That may not matter though, because I do not see much reason to think that these memos will be more than a drop in the bucket. Too bad, for the inability of Democrats to realize when a political opponent does misstep will cost them in 2006 and in the next Supreme Court nominee. Robert Novak noted a few weeks ago that the GOP was looking for a big win on Roberts, to grow the brand -- if you will -- and push someone a little less likeable in round 2.

The gloves remain on.


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