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November 21, 2012

Women Worth Looking At. (Just Ask the GOP!)

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This “Washington Memo” in the NYT yesterday on the Petraeus fallout captures everything about Washington and personality politics that makes me retch. Credit Stephen Crowley for the photo of the despicable Natalie Khawam led by her lawyer, Gloria Allred, adorned in the serious all black, the dual cameras — like the lions outside the New York Public Library — lending some symmetry, and also the sense of scandal management as an art form, the scene giving off its own daytime TV soap opera vibe.

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At the same time this shallow drama is playing out though, there have been more interesting pictures of women to look at lately that really mean something. Notable, for example, is the rise of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the woman House member who surprisingly (or not surprisingly) beat out the more conservative Tom Price for leader of the House Republican Conference – the fourth highest ranking GOP position. Mr. Price had the backing of Paul Ryan and many of the other leadership.

Published in a National Journal article previewing the leadership showdown, this photo (likely pulled from the AP files) is classic, as if saying “we know what you’re up to.” A random scene applied to present terms, we see McMorris Rodgers, who prevailed over Price in the leadership contest, with Price far right and the GOP’s #3, Kevin McCarthy, in the middle. And the reason this photo was so popular after McMorris Rodgers won? It’s because it imagines the GOP top guns almost gleeful to be adding a woman to leadership after Democratic women made such a statement in the election, as if the the joke is on the older, stodgier white male conservative left off to the right there.

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Ready to be seen a thousand times at those perfunctory Congressional press encounters, the presence of McMorris Rodgers (here at the introductory leadership briefing last week) already changes the face of a party with that much cultural and gender ground to make up.

Not to be too cynical, by the way, but it’s painful how the GOP framed its larger leadership team for the cameras to try and amplify a more diverse flavor, just the way they did in Tampa, with Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the most prominent black Republican member smack in the middle. Here’s the wider angle along with the tight shot when Speaker Boehner held the floor.

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On first pass, I saw the Petraeus story as far afield from the Capitol Hill leadership dance.  In the way DC plays the image management game, however (the top photo taken in Washington, as opposed to Team Kelly’s Florida), perhaps they’re not all that far off.

(photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times caption: A TEAM EVENT Gloria Allred, right, held a news conference in Washington on Tuesday with her new client, Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley’s twin sister.photo 1: Harry Hamburg/AP caption: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga..)photo 2: Alex Wong/Getty Images caption: U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) (C) speaks as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (R) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) (L) listen during a news conference to introduce the House Republican leadership for the next Congress November 14, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House Republicans have picked their choices of leadership for the 113th Congress.) screenshots 4 & 5: GOP press release/video.)

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