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Obama, Barnard and Women

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The president dropped by Barnard College (my alma mater) this week to deliver the commencement address. It wasn't long planned. No, the college had lined-up a woman speaker -- Jill Abramson, editor of The New York Times. But in March, as part of the "war on women" gambit, the White House decided it needed a friendly female audience before whom the president could strut his feminist stuff. Barnard, bastion of women's rights, dumped the Times gal for him in a New York minute.

The speech got scant coverage. The main takeaway seemed to be that a member of the audience shouted out that Obama should do the "moonwalk" when he happened to mention it. Thrilling. The press is keen to remind us that Obama remains cool to the kids. Chris Matthews, call your office.

I don't care for cool. I'd prefer competent. But as someone who once sat where the graduates were (Toni Morrison was our speaker), I was curious to see what the president would do with the opportunity.

President Obama graduated from Columbia (Barnard's brother school) in 1983. Unwisely, in my judgment, the president reminisced: "For we, too, were heading out into a world at a moment when our country was still recovering from a particularly severe economic recession. It was a time of change. It was a time of uncertainty."

Yes, but in 1983, thanks to Reaganomics, the economy was adding 430,000 jobs per month. What was the job-growth figure for April again? Wasn't it 115,000? And hasn't the population grown by 25 percent since then?

Continuing down memory lane, the president recalled that when he was a student, "We had Walkmen, not iPods. Some of the streets around here were not quite so inviting. Times Square was not a family destination."

So true Mr. President! I remember dodging the hooligans myself. Funny you should mention that, because New York was suffering from the liberal policies that had been enacted by Democrats and liberal Republicans (John Lindsay) for decades. Good liberals just like you ran the city into the ground. They believed that crime shouldn't be punished severely because it was the understandable response to injustice. They believed that high taxes and heavy regulation were the right approach to business, because businesses were based upon greed. They believed that welfare was the least we could do for blacks and others who had been persecuted for centuries. They believed that government employees made life better and that accordingly, we should have many more of them. It was only with the election in 1993 of a conservative Republican mayor, Rudy Giuliani, that New York -- including the iconic Times Square -- was transformed. Thanks so much for reminding us that conservative reform can make such a dramatic difference in such a short time.

That the president would pander to the female audience with talk of how bright and creative and essential they are is neither surprising nor offensive. Less excusable were the outright falsehoods he cited in making the tired liberal argument about how persecuted women were in America until liberals saved them.

"Before women like Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe ... got to Congress," Obama told the graduates, "much of federally-funded research on diseases focused solely on their (sic) effects on men." A hoary untruth. The National Institutes of Health retracted its claim that women were excluded from clinical trials back in 2001. As Dr. Sally Satel noted, "Back in 1979, 268 of the 293 NIH-funded clinical trials contained female subjects. Food and Drug Administration surveys in 1983 and 1988 found that 'both sexes had substantial representation in clinical trials.'" Also, "breast cancer is one of the five most generously funded diseases. ... The other four are heart disease, dementia, AIDS and diabetes."

Despite four years of his leadership, the world these young women are entering continues to be blighted by sexism. They will face "unique challenges," the president warned, "like whether you'll be able to earn equal pay for equal work ... whether you'll be able fully to control decisions about your own health." This is claptrap. Equal pay for equal work has been the law of the land since the 1960s. And to fully "control decisions about your own health" is Obamacode for religious institutions cleaving to their constitutional right to free exercise in the face of his administration's assault.

The pander, like the liberal governance in New York City, appears to be failing. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows Obama trailing Mitt Romney by three points among women.

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