Ten months after I profiled Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy for Washingtonian, the Washington Post provides its own look at the likeliest candidate to become the U.S.' first woman defense secretary. It seems from reading the competition that I missed the real story:
She’s tall and slender with a regal manner. She often wears pearls. Soft-spoken and understated, she is described by her co-workers as brainy rather than blustery. She talks slowly, frequently stopping to think. Her careful speaking style differs wildly from that of Douglas J. Feith, who held her job during the George W. Bush administration and came under fire for his role in building the administration’s case for the invasion of Iraq.
The pearls! Dammit, I missed the pearls! And how could I forget to describe Flournoy's body? I want to apologize to my Washingtonian editor, Shane Harris, for this embarassing lack of judgment. I figured it was more important to delve deeply into Flournoy's ideas and career history, and otherwise explain why she's likely to become defense secretary someday. Of course, the pearls explain it all.
If I was a woman working in the national security field, this kind of shit would have me climbing up a clock tower with a clean rifle. Why is a woman subcabinet official getting profiled in the Post's Style section, anyway? Is it really not possible to grapple with this woman's ideas because she's wearing pearls? Really? When you start from the premise that Flournoy's going to run the Pentagon someday, shouldn't that incline you to explore whether that's, like, a good idea? I don't give a fuck what her workout regimen is. Because that tells me nothing about how she'll run the fucking Pentagon. Have you written your piece about how many crunches Leon Panetta does in the morning? I'll just wait here until you do.
One last thing. The Post makes the point that Flournoy's inspiring a lot of women defense wonks. That's certainly true; I've interviewed many of them. But perhaps the Post might consider that she's also inspired quite a lot of male defense wonks, and has built a constituency for herself within the military -- particularly within the Navy and the Marines -- because of her ideas. It's not just women. And it reveals a lot about the Post that the paper assumed it was.