Today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” co-host Mika Brzezinski brought a touch of identity politics to the debate about Secret Service boss Julia Pierson. In a segment about the scandal relating to the protection of the White House and its inhabitants, Brzezinski, name partner Joe Scarborough and others inventoried Pierson’s difficulties and missteps, including the Sept. 19 White House intrusion and a number of other close calls — as well as Pierson’s panned performance yesterday at a congressional hearing on the whole mess.

It wasn’t just the incompetence that bothered Brzezinski but something else as well. She declared her suspicions that the “steps” in Pierson’s career might not “match” her high-profile job. And after Scarborough wondered aloud why Pierson remained in that job, Brzezinski let it fly: “So I’m going to go further,” she said. “I want to know why she has that job as the first woman to lead the agency, and I want to know why she still has it.” She’d commented earlier that her fellow panelists might have been “afraid to touch on” this point.

Commentator Donny Deutsch commended Brzezinski for treading lightly on the touchy topic of gender and merit. “That was soft,” said Deutsch. “As opposed to, Did she get the job because she’s a woman?” Determined, perhaps, to get Brzezinski to say exactly what she was thinking, Scarborough asked her if she was saying that Pierson got the job because she was a woman. To which, Brzezinski replied: “I’m asking how and why she got the job, given the state of the situation there is today, and those inferences other people can make.”

Nope, sorry: You already inserted those inferences, Brzezinski. It was you who loaded in the question of whether a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service — someone who’d served as chief of staff, as coordinator of the agency’s drug program, as special agent in charge of the Office of Protective Operations and who, according to the New York Times’s Peter Baker, “boast[ed] a résumé much like those of her predecessors” at the time of her elevation — had gotten her job via some kind of gender preference.

As the panelists chewed over the questions, a hearty back-and-forth arose over whether Brzezinski’s gender-heavy question was “legal” or “illegal.” Scarborough himself ruled on that matter: “Nobody is saying it’s illegal, Mika. It’s a good question to ask.”

Of course the question is “legal,” so long as you also question whether every bigshot guy who screws something up got his job for reasons other than hard work and enterprise. We look forward to those “Morning Joe” debates.

(H/T NewsBusters)