John A. Boehner thinks there’s too much of Barack Obama in Washington. Most of the Democrats think there’s a surplus of impertinent Republicans. Chris Christie says it’s Congress that turned Washington rancid. Everybody agrees something is rotten on the Potomac.
The ladies of the U.S. Senate think they’ve figured it out. It’s that beastly testosterone that’s making everybody but the ladies sick.
“We’re less on testosterone,” says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat. “We don’t have that need to be always confrontational. And I think we’re problem-solvers, and I think that’s what the country needs.”
Ms. Feinstein and the 20 ladies of the Senate, the largest number ever, got together on the eve of the opening of the new Congress to talk about how efficient and gracious they are, and how lucky we are to have them in town. The girls’ day out got a big write-up in the Hill, the Capitol Hill political daily.
They’re Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, some almost young and some getting a little long in the tooth, and they come in various shades of gray. Benjamin Franklin, sexist old coot that he was, famously observed that women, like cats, are all gray in the dark. But what did he know? He never took the waters in Washington.
The senator from California is from San Francisco, where estrogen is regularly added to the drinking water, so she knows its many benefits. She got plenty of seconds for her motion. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska agrees that an excess of testosterone may indeed be what ails the capital, but it might be “the ego that is attached there.” Attached to what, she did not say, but ego — and vanity — has never been rationed in Washington. It’s attached to nearly everything.
The distaff senators (to use a term from the quaint past) agree that even when men aren’t so bad, the women are better. “What I find is,” says Susan M. Collins of Maine, “with all due deference to our male colleagues, that women’s styles tend to be more collaborative.” Claire McCaskill of Missouri says that’s because women “by nature are less confrontational,” and Mazie Hirono, newly arrived from Hawaii, says it’s because women are “problem-solvers.”
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota thinks women, unlike men, have a sense of camaraderie. Sort of one for all, and all for one, never a discouraging word for anyone, and everyone’s a pip. “I think there’s just a lot of collaboration between women senators and really standing up for each other that you don’t always see with the men.”
It’s the team mentality that women contribute, Ms. McCaskill says. “Having us in the room, not only do we want to work in a bipartisan way, we do it. We actually work together, Republicans and Democrats, and women try to look at solving the problem rather than just going to political points.”
Well, it’s true that back in the real world, the men, rotters all, are pitching sticks and stones, never kind words, and no powder puffs. Time enough for that after you’re dead. Mr. Boehner was re-elected speaker of the House, but it was nothing like a vote of confidence. Some of the soldiers in the Republican ranks think the speaker himself has inhaled some of that estrogen drifting over from the Senate side.
The speaker had been taking flak from his friends for delaying a vote on legislation to send billions of dollars in relief to the broken and battered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. A couple of Republican congressmen from New York threatened to vote against him and were mollified only when he said he was sorry, more or less, and promised a vote within two weeks.
There’s no estrogen in the water in New Jersey. Mr. Christie told off the speaker good and proper, telling him that delay and diddling were exactly why “the American people hate Congress.”
What the speaker wants is a little love, a little balm for his wounds in the long struggle with President Obama at the edge of the fiscal cliff. He promised his troops Thursday that he’s through with the president, no more one-on-one. From now on it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy, and whatever the president wants will have to go through the regular legislative channels. Testosterone will reign.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.