WASHINGTON -- When you're trying to fashion yourself as an agent of change, it isn't helpful when the sisters of politics past abandon their golf club picket lines in girly protest of mean men who support male candidates.
Reacting recently to Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama, the president of the New York state chapter of the National Organization for Women issued a press release insisting that Kennedy had committed "the ultimate betrayal" of women by supporting Obama.
In the world of identity politics, one woman's bad date is Every Woman's call to victimhood.
Kennedy's history with women needs no rehashing, though it's worth noting that feminists have a convenient way of measuring betrayal when it comes to politics. Womanizing -- and in Kennedy's case, what might be negligent homicide by today's standards in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne -- is given a pass as long as the ol' boys do what the girls tell them come vote time.
Fail that latter qualification, and watch out.
In the minds of women with nothing left to protest, true betrayal is supporting a man when a woman is running. How dare he. It's all rather ... frock-ish. Perhaps precious? In 21st-century America, feminist outrage has morphed into feminine pique.
In the press release, which featured the sort of exclamatory punctuation one usually associates with a too-tight bodice, NOW-NYS President Marcia Pappas wrote that Kennedy's endorsement of Hillary Clinton's opponent "really hit women hard."
Pappas pointed out that women have forgiven Kennedy for all manner of offenses, even "hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, and the Family and Medical Leave Act," and "buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. ..."And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He's picked the new guy over us."
Such debutante breathlessness isn't likely to advance the notion that men and women are equal to any and all tasks. They may be equal to the requirements of the presidency in fact, but theories of women's emotional embrace of victimhood are only aided and abetted by such mewling outbursts.
According to NOW-NYS' interpretation, Kennedy has joined other "progressive white men" who can't handle the prospect of a female president.
Trying to leaven the NOW-NYS remarks, the president of NOW-New York City, Sonia Ossorio, countered with a more respectful take on Kennedy's endorsement, recognizing that people "share differences of opinions." Then, national president Kim Gandy went another step, recognizing Kennedy's work for women's civil and reproductive rights.
When feminists quarrel, is it still a catfight?
Pappas may have accurately expressed what other feminists feel. They've snuggled up to Kennedy and other men, including Bill Clinton, whose behavior toward women wouldn't be tolerated were it not for their usefulness in pushing through legislation demanded by women.
Now that a woman aims for the highest office -- in fact, the woman whose husband betrayed her and countless others -- they feel they have a right to expect more for their investment in iniquity.
But such thinking reveals an ugly truth about feminists and identity groups in general. They don't want what's best for the country; they want what's best for them. NOW wants a woman not because she's the best candidate, but because, by damn, it's their turn.
Hillary, too, might have expected more from her old Democratic chums, but she's a pro and a woman accustomed to emotional and political compromise. Thus, at Monday's State of the Union address, she did the mature thing and extended her hand to Kennedy and apparently to Obama, who was standing next to the Massachusetts senator.
A widely circulated photograph shows Obama turning away, sparking debate about whether he was snubbing Clinton. Obama has said he was merely turning to speak to someone else, and Clinton has left it to others to interpret. While Kennedy gets blasted -- and Obama is characterized as snubbing the former first lady -- Clinton assumes her very best role: Victim Above the Fray.
She knows the high road will take her further, as it has before. But should she win, the boys who forgot their manners had best start practicing their curtsey.