What’s sex got to do with it?

Al Kamen
Columnist March 21, 2012

Just as there are trends in fashion and music, there are fads when it comes to legislation. Remember, for a while there, when it seemed that every scrap of legislation — no matter the subject — was a “jobs bill”? Oh, the torturous logic that turned even the most remote program into a job-creating engine.

These days, it’s au courant for Democrats to say that Republican proposals are “bad for women.” This, of course, squares neatly with current Dem talking points. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget? Bad for women! Opposition to the Violence Against Women Act? Bad for women! (Okay, some arguments are easier to make than others.)

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

But Democrats clearly missed some opportunities this week in pointing out how GOP-sponsored measures were injurious to the XX chromosomes amongst us. Here’s how two bills the House adopted this week were secretly harmful to all of ladykind:

●The Excess Federal Building and Property Disposal Act, or H.R. 665, aims to sell off unused buildings and land. But what Republicans didn’t tell you is that inside each of these federal buildings are . . . women’s restrooms.

So basically, the new law reduces the number of bathroom facilities for women, even as women become an ever-larger part of the federal workforce. Why, that’s a strike against potty parity!


Women demonstrators hold placards during a protest prior to an addresss by Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on March 20, 2012 in Gettysburg, Pa. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/Getty Images)

●The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act, H.R. 4086, is designed to make it easier for foreign countries to lend American museums artwork or other pieces.

This is clearly just terrible for female artists abroad, who might not be able to afford the shipping costs. Again, bad for women!

And we don’t even need to point out that all House bills approved this week were sponsored by men.

Drip, drip, drip . . .

Rep. Hank Johnson sure has a vivid imagination. The Georgia Democrat concocted a scenario on Tuesday that could form the basis of a conspiracy-thriller movie.

It happened at a budget hearing for a House Armed Services subcommittee at which the National Security Agency chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, was testifying.

First Johnson posited this bizarro situation: “If Dick Cheney were elected president and wanted to detain and incessantly waterboard every American who sent an e-mail making fun of his well-known hunting mishaps . . . ” Uh-oh. The Loop might be guilty of that. (The guy did, after all, shoot his buddy. In the face.)

Then Johnson wanted to know how President Cheney might root out those poking fun at him. “Does the NSA have the technological capacity to identify those Cheney-bashers based upon the content of their e-mails?” he asked.

Alexander’s answer was a resounding “no.”

Johnson’s line of questioning apparently stemmed from a story in Wired magazine claiming the NSA is building “the country’s biggest spy center” in Utah, a facility that will focus heavily on domestic spying. Alexander emphatically denied the spying program.

Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

Where’s that reset button?

It’s only Thursday, but the award for this week’s Loop Gaffe of the Week — perhaps the month — can surely be given to Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser for GOP presidential-nominee-in-waiting Mitt Rom­ney.

After Romney’s big win Tuesday in Illinois, Fehrnstrom was interviewed Wednesday morning on CNN and was asked:

“Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?”

“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom replied. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

True, you do a caveat here, a little modulation there, a clarification, an explication — but such gambits are not discussed in polite company. The gaffe went viral.

Rick Santorum slammed Romney, saying that voters can “take whatever he said and you can shake it up and it will be gone, and he’s going to draw a whole new picture for the general election.” Santorum and Newt Gingrich both started carrying the toy around to mock the former Massachusetts governor.

Will Romney throw Fehrnstrom on top of the bus?

Keeping up

President Obama has nominated Derek H. Chollet, now senior director for strategic planning on his national security staff and before that principal deputy director in the policy-planning shop at the State Department, as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

He is likely to join a growing list of nominees stalled in the Senate by Republicans angered by those recess appointments back in January. Democrats have criticized the GOP’s stance as partisan politics. But in fact some Republicans are also caught up in the freeze.

Take, for example, the October nomination of Wendy Spencer, a longtime Florida Republican, to head the National Corporation for National and Community Service.

Spencer was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in 2003 to head the Florida Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. She stayed on in the Charlie Crist and Rick Scott administrations and President George W. Bush appointed her to a federal council.

A unanimous Senate committee sent her nomination to the floor in December. There it stays.

So, who said bipartisanship is dead on the Hill?

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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