The XX Factor

Thinner Skin, Or Just Not Crazy?

One further-and purely speculative-thought about the conversation between Emily, Bonnie, and E.J. about the need for a woman justice to replace David Souter. And this one is based on conversations I have had over the years. I have heard at least a few powerful women lawyers who could be in the running for this type of gig say without reservation that they would never, under any circumstances, put themselves through the nasty, personal, and hate-filled confirmation process that has become almost unavoidable. (I keep thinking of Justice Alito’s wife bolting from her husband’s hearing in tears a few years back). One woman judge bluntly told me she could never do that to her family, no matter what the prize. Others have said they just wouldn’t want to go through something that was almost designed to make them look ridiculous or awful for all time. Just reflecting on the abuse that’s recently been heaped on Dawn Johnsen-Obama’s pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel-I can see why. I’m not quite prepared to assert here that women have thinner skin than men when it comes to being called the Spawn of the Devil on national television. I’m sure many of the women on the so-called short list have endured far worse. But it’s a good time to recall the rumors that there were several highly qualified women ahead of Harriet Miers on President Bush’s short list, who all evidently took themselves out of the running for some of these reasons.