On Hardball: It's the Year of the Woman But It's Not the 'Compassionate' Woman We Like

The news that it could be a good year for women electorally did not cheer up the likes of MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson and the Politico's Jeanne Cummings, because it turns out it's only going to be a good year for women on the Republican side like Nikki Haley, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina or as Carlson put it: "It's not a compassionate women year." [audio available here]

Matthews, on Monday's Hardball, invited on Carlson and Cummings to take a look at "gender politics" and found that it could be a good year for women, just not the kind of women they like, in other words the more conservative momma grizzly types that Sarah Palin supports. Cummings even bemoaned that a loss of the House could result in "one giant blow to women" in that it "could take down the Speaker, Speaker Nancy Pelosi" who was "a real shining star for the achievements and the rise of women in government."

The following is the full segment as it was aired on the August 30 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Wow, we're talking gender politics. We're back. High profile victories this summer by Nikki Haley in South Carolina and Sharron Angle winning that nomination in Nevada for the Senate. Meg Whitman spending zillions out there running for the governorship of California. This could be the Year of the Woman, maybe. But will women gain ground in Congress this November? On Sunday the Los Angeles Times had a sobering outlook piece. Quote: "After the November election, Congress could end up with as many as 10 fewer female members, prognosticators now say. The first backslide in the uninterrupted march of women coming to Washington since 1978."

Joining us now is Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson and Politco's Jeanne Cummings. Now I know we have to decipher between right and left, the big executive positions and the somewhat lowlier U.S. Congress positions. But look at this now. In the Congress there are a total of 90 women now, Senator and House members: 69 Democrats, 21 Republicans. Margaret, it looks like liberals are in trouble this year, progressives, if you will. That includes a lot of women. 

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: Well, there are more Democratic women than, than Republicans, liberals. So you're gonna have, this is like a final piece of equality for women where they can lose with men-

MATTHEWS: Right.

CARLSON: -when incumbents are in trouble. So women have finally achieved some kind of parity, and boom, it's time to boot them out. But there's a certain kind of woman that's gonna do okay. I mean you have the momma grizzlies but it's the grizzly part of it, not the momma part that's working. You have to be a bear-

MATTHEWS: Give me names, give names.

CARLSON: You have to be a bear who's gonna knock down the tent.

MATTHEWS: Who are the heavyweight women?

CARLSON: Linda McMahon? Can you imagine more of a bear. I mean it's softcore wrestling-

MATTHEWS: Of world heavyweight wrestling.

CARLSON: -porn.

MATTHEWS: And, and Meg Whitman in California.

CARLSON: Yeah and it's the corporate titan bear. Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman as you say. So that is the kind of woman. It is not the kind of - it's not a compassionate women year.

MATTHEWS: Right, it's tough for women. Let me got to that, Jeanne Cummings is this, is this the upgrade to the tougher executive positions? I've always said, and it's a tough line but you gotta get on, the on deck circle to really have lots of shots at the presidency. If women start winning these big governorships across the country like California knocking off Jerry Brown, it'd be a giant killer, things like that really - people tell me Meg wants to be, Meg Whitman wants to be president. Is this what's going on here on the Republican side.

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO: Well absolutely. I mean women like any, all the different types of people before them are earning their way up the ladder, one rung at a time. And winning some of those big governor races is important. We certainly saw how Hillary Clinton was able to use her Senate position, and her prior role as First Lady, but largely her Senate position gave her-

MATTHEWS: I agree.

CUMMINGS: -the credentials to go out there and run on the campaign trail. And so I think this is clearly, that women have now gotten to the point where they are accepted by voters as competent executives, tough enough to run, smart enough to run governments, and those are great achievements for women. I would point out that if-

MATTHEWS: These-

CUMMINGS: Just one quick thought.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

CUMMINGS: That, that if the losses are as bad as they, as some believe they could be in the House, there could be one giant blow to women. And that is, it could take down the Speaker. Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Certainly she's not gonna lose her House seat, but she could lose the Speakership itself. And that has been, for many women, particularly Democratic women, a real shining star for the achievements and the rise of women in government.

MATTHEWS: We haven't had a woman governor of New York, Pennsylvania, California, or probably Illinois. These are big, the big jobs. These are women coming out of industry with a proven executive record.

CARLSON: And mixed, and mixed.

MATTHEWS:

You, you mentioned, Jeanne, you said they're working their way one step at a time. Meg Whitman is not going one step at a time, she's going right for governor.

CARLSON: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: Carly Fiorina is going right from HP for, for Senate.

CARLSON: And by the way her reputation was mixed as a, as a corporate executive.

MATTHEWS: So are things changing? Is the glass ceiling getting smashed at the top?

CARLSON: Well no. I think there's a certain kind of corporate woman that, that does look like she can run a big state because she's run a big country, I mean, a big company.

MATTHEWS: Could it be that men are blowing it? Just to be blunt, could it be that the quality of male candidates has declined. Women candidates have gone up and they're passed them on the old vector there.

CUMMINGS: Well I think that the women candidates can run in this year, the Year of the Outsider. They can run as genuine outsiders. And that is an asset when you have an anti-incumbent election.

MATTHEWS: Wow!

CUMMINGS: And the other thing, in terms of Fiorina and Meg Whitman, they, they both are shooting, going to, trying to go from the corporate boardroom right into the Governor's office or the Senate office, it is true. However, their candidacies were made possible by the victories of women before them.

MATTHEWS: Yeah that's certainly true. Well what do you make of Momma Grizzly's comment the other day? Sarah Palin's, that her biggest accomplishment was that she produced a combat vet. It sounds like women are running what we used to call the Daddy Party, the right, you know the Macho Party?

CARLSON: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: Women are now openly saying, "I'm tougher than the men, I can produce as a mother a got vet, get out of my way." Jeanne, this is strong, strong tea here, if you will?

CUMMINGS: Absolutely. And I have to say, Sarah Palin, I think, has done something unprecedented when you look at gender politics. And that is, she is so influential. She is a king maker.

MATTHEWS: That's true.

CUMMINGS: And we have not seen a female king maker in political history. She has really broken new ground. I mean, what does a Huckabee nomination get you? Page three on the local paper? But Palin's nomination can be a complete game changer, as we have seen in these races.

MATTHEWS: We're looking at that picture as you're speaking, Jeanne, of her endorsing Nikki Haley. Haley was at the back of the pack, she's now probably gonna be the next governor of South Carolina.

CARLSON: But wait Chris, she's a king maker but she's also a queen killer. She killed Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas in favor of the incumbent, Governor Perry.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

CARLSON: And look what she did to Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. So let us, she is an equal opportunity maker and destroyer, and not always for the women.

MATTHEWS: Yeah I also, I also think and I gotta be careful, she's picking women candidates that men are ready to vote for too.

CARLSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This isn't just women voting for women here. There's a lot of, obviously a lot of those right-wing men love Sarah Palin. Let's be honest here. Jeanne, thanks so much, Jeanne Cummings for joining us. Margaret Carlson, thank you.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.