What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 7, 2008

Don't tell me...

...That "boys will be boys" or to "lighten up" or any similar bullshit.

The man on the left is Jon Favreau who is President-elect Barack Obama's chief speechwriter and who has been recently appointed director of speechwriting for the White House.

The photo was posted on Facebook (not by Favreau).

It's reported that Favreau has "reached out" to Clinton and offered an apology.

If this was a major corporation -- instead of the White House -- and a photo like this got out to the public, the people who had posed for this picture would be fired (go run it by your HR Dept. or the Corporate Communications people if you doubt that).

As is to be expected, you won't find any condemnation or even any mention of this at Daily Kos*, Talking Points Memo or any of the other big boy lefty blogs even though the story can be found at The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

A spokesperson for Sen. Clinton has responded with humor: "Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application."

If she had responded any other way she would have been labeled (again) as a shrill, whiny bitch.


On a related note, Mackenzie Carpenter blogs at Early Returns about a recent poll on media sexism during campaign 2008:
According to a new poll out today, two-thirds of American women -- 64 percent, to be exact, from across the political spectrum -- think the media coverage of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign was more negative than for other candidates running for office, while 31 percent felt that Hillary Clinton's coverage was more negative.


Ms. Conway called the 64 percent figure "stunning," given that it cuts across all demographic groups. "It tells me that women were able to forge a consensus about Sarah Palin that doesn't otherwise exist about Sarah Palin," she said in a telephone news conference. "I think many women were saying, 'I just don't read the same stories about hair plugs and combovers, but we're obsessed with Hillary Clinton's hair.'"

The poll of 600 women found that 79 percent believed there was too much coverage of Ms. Palin's wardrobe, compared to 44 percent for Mrs. Clinton, while nearly half felt that there was too little reporting on the Alaska governor's policy positions. A plurality of women -- 49 percent -- thought Mrs. Clinton's views were adequately covered. The poll didn't address one key distinction, however -- that much media coverage over Ms. Palin's wardrobe focused on the fact that the Republican National Committee paid for it -- and that some RNC officials claimed to be unpleasantly surprised by the size of the bill.
What I found most interesting about the whole clothes controversy is that while the Republican party touted Palin as the patron saint of the Average Joe (the plumber), when they turned on her, they called her a "hillbilly." Elitist much?

That said, you didn't have to look hard to find many in the MSM who treated Sen. Clinton like the evil witch hag who would not die or Gov. Palin like their own personal blow-up doll -- and it was worse on umpteem blogs.

You know, there is a way to criticize a female opponent that doesn't involve calling her shrill, a bitch, witch, or a cunt; or reducing her to an inanimate object ("Caribou Barbie"); or posting Photoshopped naked pictures of her or illustrations of her masturbating with a rifle all over the Internet; or groping her photographic stand-in's breast in a picture while your buddy grabs her by the hair and shoves a beer bottle into her mouth.

But that would require actual thought instead of rank misogyny.


*No, one single comment at Kos doesn't count.

(h/t to Shakesville)


Gab Bonesso said...

Once again, I love you Maria!

Sherry said...

i think the attitude that some men have is terrible. to me tho, the fact that they either see nothing wrong with it or think women overreact to it or that somehow these men think that it is their god given right to be this way is even worse.

that said, i feel that palin set the equality movement back to the 50's!

she packaged herself that way and just added a little twist to try to update it and show how progressive the right wing religious could be.

i disliked some of the cartoons and jokes about her. they angered me and saddened me but the caribou barbie bit? i think she enjoyed that. it didn't bother me at all. that never came close to the hilliary "nutcracker" OR to be fair, the bill corkscrew.
back to pailin,
that's just me.
perhaps i feel that way because i disliked her and her ideas so very much.

John K. said...

John K: Hello left wing spinners. This is a left wing kook doing this a liberal icon. Don't you dare lump conservatives in with this trash. Own it, its yours. LMAO

Sherry said...

can you read? how's your reading coprehension?

i never mentioned the party affilations in the picture. i CAN read and understood who those people are in that photo.

i DID say that PALIN packaged herself to update the rr, and that is true.

the nutcracker and screwdrivers were specifically marketed towards the right wing republicans.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Each of the incidents you cite needs to be judged on its own merits. I don't want to get into a census of all of them -- I think it comprises a mixed bag -- but that photo? That's awful. What are you, eleven years old? Of course it was done at what looked to be a party, but you'd figure he'd be smart enough not to engage in that infantile behavior at all -- let alone in front of a camera.

But there's a but. But if he's been Obama's head speechwriter, and he's just been promoted to White House speech czar under President Obama ... doesn't that make him really, really, unbelievably good? Certainly the best in our time? Maybe we should take comfort in the fact that he doesn't have any direct governmental responsibility to speak of, and let him do his thing and be an ass personally.

I shudder to think what the Hillary folks were doing / saying about Obama when they thought they could get away with it.

gtl said...

In defense of the photo in question:

Looks like a photo from a frat house, college dorm room, etc. (Hillary has been in the public eye since 1992)

If it is from somebody's undergrad days, I ask for forgiveness on behalf of all of us who have photos of ourselves from those days, doing things that we cringe at, now.

Maria said...


C'mon! LOOK at the photo.

What do you think the possibility is that someone in 1992 -- or 1994, or 2000 or even 2006 -- was wearing a shirt that said "Obama Staff" let alone that they posed for this picture and then just coincidentally ended up on Obama's presidential campaign staff years later when he was running against Sen. Clinton?

Maria said...

Also, funny, but I don't remember pink & gray granite counter tops and sinks in my college dorm room.

Sherry said...

heck, i don't even have granite countertops in my kitchen!!!

what boggles the mind is just how many supposedly bright people take photos of themselves doing stupid stupid things.

Maria said...


"But if he's been Obama's head speechwriter, and he's just been promoted to White House speech czar under President Obama ... doesn't that make him really, really, unbelievably good? Certainly the best in our time?"

Pity then that I (and others) will be thinking of this picture whenever I hear Obama give a speech, no?

Is it worth it?

Would it be worth it if it were male Clinton staffers and the cutout was Michelle? Or if it were a Barack cutout and the staffers were shoving a watermelon in his face? Would you recommend Hillary keep them on staff then? I mean, you know, if the guy was "really, unbelievably good"?

I shudder to think what the Hillary folks were doing / saying about Obama when they thought they could get away with it.

Project much? I guess if Clinton staffers were as evil as you think they were at least they weren't also stupid enough to pose in front of a camera, let alone in front of the camera of someone who thought it'd be OK to take that camera's contents and post them on Facebook.

And, if everything else that I've said doesn't cut it with you, consider this from the comments section at Shakesville:

TerryOtt 4 hours ago

As a 60+ year old guy and former HR executive and consultant, I have a couple of thoughts to offer.

This is not about "due process" or "(coldly)rushing to judgment". Unless this person were to allege that the photo is a fake, and back that up, he's gone. At once. That, of course isn't going to happen here.

Here is what this is roughly equivalent to: a manager in the company is caught on camera in the act of writing a racist slogan in the men's room (anywhere). Fired. Why? Because as an employee (of a company or of Obama) you have a face to the world, and it is partially the company's face. You have also just revealed that you are not to be trusted to have good judgment about sensitive things, and that you are "risk" in terms of exposing the employer to legal risk down the road. Employment is an "at will" thing. If one thinks he/she was wronged, there are venues to have that sorted out: wrongful termination (as with a whistleblower), discrimination if you are a member of a protected class (immature and stupid is not protected). 27 year old white guys don't have those protections, except for sexual harassment against themselves, and for good reason. Favreau can take his verbal talents to advertising firms, to film makers, and so on. Hey, he can write sermons for those Rolex watch wearing preachers and get a piece of THAT action. What he writes and what he says about it knows no limits; it need have NO bearing on his own beliefs or value system. He's a hired gun and there is no reason to feel he'll be hurt by this in the long term (unfortunately, in my opinion)

Taking this a step further: Any executive (like Obama in this case, although he is probably Teflon-like) who "winks" is building a case against oneself and the company. Consider: Down the road a few months, there is a sexual harassment case, and the aggrieved states that the organization had a systemic problem that it knew about and ignored. Hear the bell going "ding ding ding" in the chambers, for an examiner or jury who is sympathetic to the aggrieved? I sure do.

A couple of other points: I pay very little attention to what politicians say, especially the kind of "glittering generality" claptrap dished and spun in campaigns. What they say on the job about specific proposals as Congresspersons or governors etc, that's different; that's important. But it is precisely because people like Favreau write for politicians that I completely ignore it unless it is part of a spontaneous conversation with someone "probing" and testing the statements for credibility. Maybe younger people are unduly impressed with "what they hear" (from politicians) because they are not inclined to reflect about it, test it against their experience (which might be slight), or think through the practical implications. They are comfortable with sound bites and 15-minute campaign speeches. it's our culture not to sweat the details, not to pin down or confront people we like superficially, not to weigh potential adverse consequences. "Sounds good, let's go for it."

People who can "compose stuff that sounds really good" are a dime a dozen. Favreau is just one of those, and to think he is "important" (to say nothing of "hard to replace") is just foolish.

On an easy call, and a blatant one such this one --- let's have a little walking the talk. I'd like that.

Maria said...


I agree that at times I saw Palin trading on her sexuality (flirting with a male interviewer for example) and that McCain choosing her was supremely cynical (hey, we'll get the lady votes and she's "easy on the eyes" for the gents), but I still think it in no way excuses some of the ugly sexist and misogynistic "commentary" that went on, especially in light of the paucity of women who have ever reached the heights of a plausible presidential/vp run. And, I do include reducing her to the status of a Barbie doll in that.

With all the legitimate policy and experience questions about her, why resort to that?

gtl said...

I'll admit that my eyes aren't good enough to read much more than "Staff" on that shirt.

I'll also admit that, on further review, that's some good looking furnishings around the bar there in that photo.

But, how old is this speechwriter? Geeze, they sure look like fratboys to me.

Maria said...

He's 27.

Sherry said...

he's way too old to be that stupid or sexist, and i'd love to see him fired.

maria, i agree with you on everything but the caribou barbie thing. i just can't get upset over that. i have the sneaking suspicion that if palin thought there was a buck to be made or votes to be had, she or her staff would be knocking on mattel's door begging or arm twisting to have them made and sold.

i think she is a danger to the equality of all far greater than a lot of the pundits see her as.

we have already seen that "stupid" is no block to becoming president and she is stupid but she is ambitious and street smart and has a firm faith that her version of HER holy book is the right one and therefore anything she does is A ok by her god.

people are being killed by that type of belief to this very day.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Maria -- What do you do with cardboard cutouts? You take goofy pictures with them. You're in a heated political race, and you're at a party, and a cardboard cutout of Rick Santorum appears. You telling me someone doesn't have a little fun?

Foolish to get caught. If a punk, it makes sense to send a message and fire him. If he's someone upon whom our President Elect has come to rely? ... I'd say hate him privately and get over it.

(Oops, there's that "get over it" again...)

Maria said...

Yes, mimicking sexual assault is teh goofy!

And, you got me! How did you know that I had a cardboard cutout of Sen. Larry Craig that I dressed up in a skirt and a necklace of dildos, and that one of Alan Keys that I wrote the N-word all over, or that one of Paul Wolfowitz that I drew the big nose on? It was soooo fucking funny. My buds took pictures and we all laughed and laughed.


But you're right. I'll stop yelling now because if there's one thing that I've learned in my 49 years on the planet is that displays of sexism and misogyny are never really that important, that there's always reasons to excuse it, and that men who act it out if they are high enough in the hierarchy should be given a pass cause they are just always too damn important to be held to account for it.

Oh, that and that I shouldn't expect more from some so called progressive or liberal men on this topic than I would from, say, Rush Limbaugh defending this sort of behavior if it was done by one of W's speechwriters.

Thanks for reminding me of my and all women's place in the grand scheme of things.

Here's a tip, if you ever have a daughter and one day you're explaining to her Obama's historic campaign and the lofty rhetoric of his speeches, don't show her this picture. Trust me, it would be cruel.

Oh, and by the way, those two guys in the picture are "punks."

John K. said...

John K: Liberals acting like liberals and you blame it on Limbaugh. LMAO LMAO LOL Take some responsibility here.

Sherry said...

john k. still clueless aren't you.

one of the differences between republicans and democrats is that we will address things like this that happen in our own party.we will and can discuss it and have differences of opinon and still go on. we don't march in lockstep kid.

John K. said...

John K: No you don't Sherry. You defended Bubba Clinton. You defended Sptizer and McGreevey. Lay your BS on Gabs. She believes all this lefty stuff. LMAO These were liberals acting like liberals and you are so lame you tried to tie it to Limbaugh. LMAO

John K. said...

John K: And you obviously have no idea of who you criticize when you take on Limbaugh and women. He has been praised by every woman he has met, liberal or conservative, for how much of a gentleman he is. Get out of your lefty slime pit and look around.

Sherry said...

now that was truly funny john k.!!!

oh, and i personally defended clinton tho what he did was just stupid and wrong, but i never defended the other 2. as i said, we do NOT all march in lockstep.

i'm still giggling over your idea of limbaugh!!! thanks for that!

Bram Reichbaum said...

That's odd. Given that it's a cardboard cutout and much is left to the observer, I did not interpret the scene as mimicking hair-grabbing, "forcing beer down her throat", or anything non-consensual. I saw the two of them partying it up with a willing and playful Hillary (who is a cardboard cutout). Nothing in that diarama indicates sexual assault, and they did not deface her image with "n-word" or the "c-word" or put watermellons or dildos up to her face or whatever else you threw into your interpretation.

I also don't see how since it's the first female almost president of the United States, that makes it any worse. Is she like Mohammed?

Maria said...

Funny, I would have bet a week's pay that you all the sudden did not find the photo offensive even though you wrote this upthread:

"...but that photo? That's awful."

So what exactly was awful to you in it before that isn't now?

"I saw the two of them partying it up with a willing and playful Hillary (who is a cardboard cutout)."

So the cardboard cutout gave consent. LOL, you're really cracking me up now.

You know I saw that come hither look in cardboard Hillary's eyes that whispered, "Please, please, grope my breast, Jon. I won't in any way consider you to be some fucking asshole overgrown frat boy doing the old 'I'll take this bitch down a peg by doing whatever the hell I want to her.'"

Yes, it is a statistical fact that most woman simply adore for strange men to see an image of them and grab at their tit in the picture -- it's even better if they pose for a snapshot while doing it. Do you have a picture of your Mom available so I can give it to some guys to test it out? I mean, since you think it's the equivalenmt of a handshake and all, you can have no possible problem with it.

EdHeath said...

I have avoided weighing in here in part because I know myself not to be particularly blameless and because I thought it might be a minefield.

I will say that there exists an entire fashion (including makeup) industry that exists, in part, to make women more attractive to men. There is less emphasis for men in this regard, though it also exists.

At the same time, I will say that men have a long history of using violence in their relations with women. Rape is the obvious example, although I am told that violent rape is a crime of something other than sexual attraction. I have not researched date rape, so I won't say anything about that.

All of which is to say that the relations between men and women are complicated, even in what should be professional arenas. I wonder if there is something that Jon Faverau could do to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of women. He seems like an asset (although I though Obama wrote his own speechs) and it might be nice to retain him, assuming he went through a sufficient penance.

On the subject of sexism at large, I will admit I have not done enough to condem it. I do not think, when I was criticizing Palin as uncurious, I was particularly being sexist. But I certainly saw statements about her that made me shudder.

I think we have made progress on sexism like we have made progress on racism. It is no longer acceptable out in the open, but it is still accepted in an institutional sense. It is too bad that Hillary Clinton is unlikely to advance to the Presidency. But hopefully it will be a woman next time. Just hopefully not an uncurious one (we have already had the uncurious George Bush, that was enough).

The Bag of Health and Politics said...

You're right on this one, Maria. It was inappropriate, and extraordinarily stupid. If you're going to work in the White House, you should be aware that every move will be photographed.

What was even stupider though was the New York Times article about luxury real estate being bought by Obama staffers that ran in the same week as an announcement of 550,000 being lost in the past month. And you know who was the catalyst behind that story? Jon Favreau.

I would've given him a warning for the picture. I would've fired him for the story.

In these times, we need to be assured that those with the power to fix things aren't wasting their time partying--with cardboard cutouts or anything else.

Maria said...


I saw your Kos piece on that!

gtl said...

Is there so much available talent out there, that a picture taken in a private moment of two young men inappropriately behaving with a cardboard cutout of a public figure disqualifies one of them from working in the Obama Administration?

Maria said...


I don't know -- you tell me -- what would they have to have done to be fired?

We know sexism doesn't cut it. Would a racist display bother you? Anti gay? anti-Semitic?

You tell me.

If this photo surfaced at your average corporation they would be fired.

I guess the White House is expected to have lower standards.

Some change.

Sherry said...

i think he should be fired.
i really do and i'm not one to say that lightly. he does deserve to go.

he's young, hopefully he'll learn something good from losing his job.

gtl said...


You, and you are not alone by any means, feel that the picture shows outrageous behavior, and you are outraged. That's certainly your privilege.

I disagree that a corporation would have fired someone for a similar photo.

What would the grounds be for the dismissal? I'm serious. Absent any other incidents, what would the grounds be? Most employers have guidelines for dismissal. A letter in the offenders' files would be about it, wouldn't it?

If the individual is under contract or CBA, and there's a "bad behavior" clause, maybe. But, even at that, I doubt that a hand on the "breast" of a cardboard figure would meet that standard.

You clearly feel differently. This is your forum, and I appreciate the opportunity to express myself.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Well yeah, it's awful. That doesn't mean the guy should lose his job. That wasn't an office party, it was a private moment at a residence.

You can tell because of the granite kitchen fixtures!

Maria said...

Oh, good lord. In Pennsylvania and many other states you can fire someone for no reason or any reason. You may have to pay unemployment if they can prove it wasn't a "just cause" but Favreau doesn't even have this job yet because Obama isn't in the White House yet.

He has a job offer at this point, same as Hillary.

And, if pictures were posted on the Internet of some VP in his home dressed up like a Nazi you can bet that he/she would be fired because the company wouldn't want to be known as the company that has Nazis working for it. They might have to pay the person off, but they would be fired because it's bad PR for the company.

Let alone this:

Taking this a step further: Any executive (like Obama in this case, although he is probably Teflon-like) who "winks" is building a case against oneself and the company. Consider: Down the road a few months, there is a sexual harassment case, and the aggrieved states that the organization had a systemic problem that it knew about and ignored. Hear the bell going "ding ding ding" in the chambers, for an examiner or jury who is sympathetic to the aggrieved? I sure do.

But let's not deal in generalizations and hypotheticals, let's make it Obama-specific.

There's the seven page application to work for Obama's White House. Maybe you missed the part highlighted in this article.

More here.

"If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect if it were made public, please describe."

"Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, My Space, etc.)"

"If you keep or have ever kept a diary that contains anything that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe."

"Please list, and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column, or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or 'handles' you have used to communicate on the internet."

As the saying goes, you keep setting them up...

gtl said...

From your lead post:

" The photo was posted on Facebook (not by Favreau)."

He didn't post it. Somebody else did.

He wasn't pictured dressed like a Nazi. He's got his hand on a cardboard cutout.

You keep manufacturing outrage, and I keep wondering "Why?"

EdHeath said...

gtl, are you saying there is nothing offensive about the image, or that it doesn't rise to the level of being *very* offensive? And when you say "manufacturing outrage", are you saying that you subjectively disagree with Maria or that Maria has violated some objective standard?

Maybe more to the point, do you think that the image is connected to sexism, and/or do you think that we should be as concerned about sexism as we are about racism?

EdHeath said...

Oops, also to make sure I am addressing your comment accurately, Favreau did not post the picture on Facebook, and presumably he took it down. Which is part of the reason I asked whether Favbreau could do something to redeem himself, some acts of penance, such as to volunteer or raise money for a woman's shelter. This would be to say that while he did not post the picture, he did engage in the behavior, and wants to make amends.

Maria said...


It says "Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you." not "that you created" or "that you own" or "that you have posted on."

Here's some more questions where he may want to update his answers:

(61) Have you had any association with any person, group or business venture that could be used -- even unfairly -- to impugn or attack your character and qualifications for government service?

(62) Do you know anyone or any organization, either in the private sector or government service, that might take steps, overtly or covertly, fairly or unfairly, to criticize your nomination, including any news organization? If so, please identify and explain the potential basis for criticism.

(63) Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could suggest conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect.

I'm not manufacturing outrage -- I am outraged.

While you and others refuse to say what would rise in your opinion to a firable or unhirable offense, it's become pretty clear that this does not for you.

I maintain that if these were McCain staffers and the the image was Michelle Obama or MAYBE even Hillary Clinton, it would have been all over the lefty blogs. You would have had a dozen or more KOS diaries, it would have been featured at TPM, Atrios and everywhere else.

Maybe you're not old enough to remember when at the time Agriculture Secretary Earl L.
Butz, who was forced from office in 1976 after making a racial joke IN PRIVATE that happened to be overheard by the wrong person (John Dean).

Favreau actually posed for a picture of his "joke."

gtl said...


Yes, the photo is offensive.

I guess my problem here is the level of the offense.

To me, it's a long way from "groping" a cardboard cutout of a public figure to debating sexism vs. racism.

And, Maria, I think that you have to work pretty hard to make that photo, and the underlying event, into something that should keep a young man from government or even corporate, employment, when "Grow up" would be sufficient. (Remember, again, this was a cardboard cutout, and not flesh and blood.) Thus, I think that you really need to "manufacture" that level of outrage.

If it seriously bothers you that much, then I am sorry.

Archi said...

Don't tell you that boys will be boys or any other ridiculous bullshit? OK, deal. If you don't imply, pretty darn clearly, that these guys might as well be tried for rape.

Rhetoric overblown everywhere here.

And yes, groping a cutout is groping a cutout, and is not hanging a noose or shoving a watermelon, regardless of gender. It's a goofy thing some people do when drunk and in proximity to a cardboard cutout.

Does make me glad the dude is a speechwriter and not an above-water Obama helper.

Maria said...


Are you sure you're not John K cause you seem to have the exact same level of reading comprehension skills.

"If you don't imply, pretty darn clearly, that these guys might as well be tried for rape."

Show me where I pretty darn clearly implied that, by all means.

And then you have the nerve to follow that with, "Rhetoric overblown everywhere here."

You sure you're not talking about what you wrote?

Please, please, pretty please with sugar on top -- just one of you -- explain to me how groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton is not sexist in the same way that shoving a watermelon at a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama would be racist.

Why is one merely "goofy" and the other is racist?

If you did either of these things to the real persons you'd be charged with assault, no?

But mimicing one of these things is just goofy good fun to you and mimicing the other is not and I don't get that. So why don't one of you explain it to me slowly. Enlighten me.

Maria said...


Remember that Favreau just writes words on paper so what he does cannot have any real meaning or message or importance according to your logic. Actually, as paper is thinner than cardboard, what he does with paper has even less weight (pun intended) than what he does with cardboard, no?

What one does with metaphors, or similes or gestures or symbols or images has little significance so why should anyone even bother to communicate anything? We can all stop writing or painting or flipping the bird or talking now because without "flesh and blood" contact it is all apparently of insufficient importance to be taken seriously.

gtl said...


Ok. Favreau just puts words on paper, so what he does is meaningless.

So, let's give him a pass.

Maria said...

So let's not hire him.


gtl said...

Right. Let's send the new president out to give his first State of the Union, in time of severe economic crisis, when he'll be laying out his plans for meeting the extraordinary challenges faced by America, with a speech composed by the back-up writers. Because the head writer, of proven talent, groped a cardboard cutout.

See ya, nose. That'll teach that face a lesson.