The suffragettes at Seneca Falls in 1848, the marchers at Selma in 1965 and the resisters at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 all led the way toward tolerance, but the president spoke of their sacrifice as if frozen in a time warp of old grievances and tribulation. Even elevating the barroom brawl at Stonewall to landmark status with voting rights for women and the civil rights revolution is a few inches over the top.
Obama's frantic search through his binders of women, looking for names to fill low-level positions for women to make it look "more like America," veers from the ridiculous to the theater of the absurd.
The search for such phony diversity is of a piece with the culture. Consider, for example, the HBO hit "Girls." Lena Denham, its creator, was scolded for not casting a black actor as one of the show's characters.
Since her characters -- college-educated, privileged young women with rich parents -- are drawn from the writer's own personal experiences, they're logically all white. But the chastened Denham responded with satire, intended or not: This season begins with Hannah, her leading character, taking a black boyfriend who is a conservative Republican. She criticizes him with cliches, assuming he prefers friends with guns. She says she never noticed he was black.
When the spoiled liberal white girl discovers how awful it is that two out of three men in prison are black, the Republican boyfriend thanks her for tutoring him in the difficulties faced by black men. She's not sure if he's being sarcastic.
Making fun of white liberal condescension is rare on screens small and large, and hasn't been done with flair since Tom Wolfe satirized the "radical chic" of composer Leonard Bernstein, who served Roquefort cheese balls wrapped in crushed nuts to the revolutionary Black Panthers, who ran through his luxury Manhattan penthouse in leather pants and tight black turtlenecks, titillating his guests like a "rogue hormone." Like the lumpen proletariat, "victims" must be brought together for "collective action."