Washington, Oct. 25: Does the White House feel like a frat house?
The suspicion flared in recent weeks — and not for the first time — after President Barack Obama was criticised by womens advocates and liberal bloggers for hosting a high-level basketball game with no female players.
The President, after all, is an unabashed First Guys Guy. Since being elected, he has demonstrated an encyclopaedic knowledge of college hoops on ESPN, indulged a craving for weekend golf, expressed a preference for adopting a big rambunctious dog over a girlie dog and hoisted beer in a peacemaking effort.
He presides over a White House rife with fist-bumping young men who call each other dude and testosterone-brimming personalities like Rahm Emanuel, the often-profane chief of staff; Lawrence Summers, the brash economic adviser; and Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, who habitually speaks in sports metaphors.
The White House has battled an impression dating to the presidential campaign that Obamas closest advisers form a boys club and that he is too frequently in the company of only men — not just when playing sports, but also when making big decisions.
While senior adviser Valerie Jarrett is undeniably one of the Presidents closest confidantes, some women inside or close to the administration complain that Obamas female advisers are not as visible as their male colleagues or, they suspect, as influential.
Women are Obamas base, and they dont seem to have enough people who look like the base inside their own inner circle, said Dee Dee Myers, a former press secretary in the Bill Clinton administration.
Myers said women have high expectations of the President. Obama has a personal style that appeals to women, she said. He is seen as a consensus builder; he is not a towel snapper and does not tell crude jokes.
Obama, in an interview with NBC on Wednesday, called the beef over basketball bunk, saying that the players were largely picked from a regular Congressional game and that the list of invitees was reviewed by women on his staff.
I dont think it sends any kind of message or signal whatsoever, said the President, who often points out that he is surrounded by strong females at home (where he is the only non-canine male). He added, in the interview, that he had hired women into some of the most important decision-making positions in this White House.
Jarrett cites the prominent women Obama has appointed to top positions, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton and six other cabinet-level officials; Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor; health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle; and domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes.
According to figures provided by the administration, there is a 50-50 gender split among White House employees.