GOP Cloaked in Martinez, Pelosi in Armani

This is probably the last thing my conservative friends want to hear, but I think you folks have a problem. I’m not an expert in winning, but I know a thing or two about losing, and it generally helps to try to figure out why it was that you lost before you go marching right into the abyss.


Take the choice of Mel Martinez as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Nothing personal against Mel, because this isn’t personal, Mel wasn’t chosen for personal reasons.

Dare I suggest that the one Hispanic in the United States Senate might have been chosen for reasons having something to do with …. that?

Which is a bad start, the sort of tokenism I’m more accustomed to seeing on my side, maybe because you haven’t had enough tokens to play the game until now.

Of course, Martinez does come from Florida, a key state. But the real explanation, in all the reports, is the Hispanic vote, where the Republican share has dropped from 40 percent to 30 percent, which is one of the reasons why the Republicans took a thumping.

But the thing about a thumping is that there are any number of things that can explain it. Take the immigration issue. Now I happen to agree with the president and Mel Martinez who favor a guest worker and amnesty program, call them whatever you will. But I don’t vote Republican. I’m nowheres near their base, and the people who are, most of them, don’t agree with them at all.

As a matter of fact, they very much disagree with them, with a vigor I haven’t seen on any other issue in years. Now how much this contributed to the failure of the same get-out-the-vote plan that worked two years ago, I don’t know, but before you’d pick someone who stands for everything these folks oppose you’d think they’d figure it out.

Because here’s the really sneaky part.

It isn’t just about Mel Martinez. This could really backfire on the president. The Democrats could actually work with him on this one. Then what does he do?

Is he really ready to follow through on the promise of Mel Martinez, or is this just a game intended to mollify Hispanic voters with a token political post?

That’s the problem. People aren’t stupid. Games like that can end up backfiring, with unpleasant resignations and recriminations, that end in 30 percent of the vote, or even less. The president still has to figure out what he wants to do about immigration reform, now more than ever, because he actually could get a bill if he wanted one.

Does he? Or would he rather just have a token at the top?

But What Color Was Bush's Suit?

It has already begun.

The AP captioned a photo of Nancy Pelosi arriving at the Capitol on Nov. 8 for her first post-election news conference in an Armani pantsuit.

An “aqua blue-grey Armani pantsuit,” by the way. Color and brand. She may be powerful, but she is still a woman. She will not be covered the same. The only question is how far they will go. Will there be a line?

You can dance on the head of a pin thinking about explanations for why it is so, but the bottom line is us: nobody cares if he wears a blue suit or a grey suit; men don’t care and women don’t care; we’re not even very interested in how much he pays for it. But were you interested in the fact that she wore a color and that it was Armani? Admit it. So what’s the point of not telling us?

Moreover, doesn’t it tell us something about her?

It certainly suggests to me that she’s comfortable with her power (aqua, not black, no need to prove she’s powerful); must have looked great (what woman doesn’t look great and feel confident in a great suit); exuded money and style (she didn’t buy that suit on a Congresswoman’s salary, believe me).

So there is a gender difference there, to be sure, in how we see things, but is it sexist? Aren’t you more interested in her relationships with her kids than you are in Denny Hastert’s relationship with his? What about in how she looks so young?

Where is the line?

Might as well figure it out before Hillary comes along….

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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