Does Katie Couric's Stumble Signal Hillary Clinton's Fall?

Jon Friedman from MarketWatch wins.

How long did this take?

Maybe America wasn’t ready for a woman anchor after all. I kid you not. From Monday:

“America wasn't truly ready for the first solo woman evening-news anchor, let alone someone smart and attractive with pretensions to sounding puckish and hip...”

Now consider: if this is what Katie gets after three months, while she’s admittedly still finding her sea legs (if I can refer to them), just imagine, imagine what we’re in for with Hillary.

If you don’t think her loss is your loss, think again.

If you don’t think her speed bump is your speed bump, wait to see how you feel when they tell you we’re not ready.

Take a look at what “they’re” doing to Katie Couric, and then tell me what’s coming next.

This is the problem with only having first/only/one woman in high places, which is still better than the other immediate alternative, having none.

You can tell me all the reasons it’s wrong, misguided, and unfair – that Katie is only one woman, what about Diane Sawyer, what about the quality of her show, thank you very much, or experience, and why should all women be judged by her, especially women, of whom there are more than a few, to judge by the ratings, who prefer their news from someone else, who happens to be male, at least – but here’s the kicker.

It doesn’t matter.

Not when the bottom line is: we just aren’t ready for a woman. Then she’s just one of us. Whether she or we asked for it. And failing because of it.

Then you can’t just walk away.

What makes all this most pernicious is that it is, of course, impossible to prove and disprove.

Why do more people watch NBC than CBS? Why are, as Friedman correctly observes, fewer people watching now that the show is getting better?

You can accumulate data, but even a careful survey will have difficulty measuring the most common forms of discrimination, the unconscious assumptions on which most people unknowingly operate every day.

Would people rather get their news of a dangerous world from an older man than a younger woman? Would they rather have one running the world? What do you call that?

I was told more than once in my career that nothing personal, but I wasn’t going to get a position because I was a woman. Nothing personal? What do you call it? What’s changed is that people have those thoughts unconsciously now, until and unless “they” call us on it.

Which raises the even more difficult question. Knowing what she’s up against, knowing that we’re being judged, whether we like it or not, what’s a woman to do?

Watch Katie?

Support Hillary?

Knowing what’s at stake, not just for her but for us, knowing her failure becomes our failure whether we like it or want it or not (America just wasn’t ready, and if America wasn’t ready, why should your workplace/family/community be),

Does that give you an interest in her success as well?

You can say of Katie, it’s just ratings, it’s just a TV show, it doesn’t really matter if she succeeds or fails.

Maybe. She’s just about the most visible woman in America right now and you really don’t think it matters if the Jon Friedmans use her to blame us?

But you won’t be able to say that about Hillary.

Once she takes her first stumble, makes her first mistake, one bump in the polls, and the first guy comes out and says – there it is: America wasn’t ready....

And that is also what this election will be like. A test of and for women, which many neither welcomed nor chose, but will face nonetheless.

Who are “they,” I always used to ask my mother, when she would tell me what “they” were wearing, which always scratched, or cut at the waist, or was otherwise unsuitable, especially around the time of the High Holidays, when they somehow managed to wear wool in the heat and look great.

They are the people who never break a sweat, always know what to wear, are quick to judge and may push American women into Hillary’s arms.

Click here to read Susan's response to your email .

Click here to link to Susan's new book, "Soulless."

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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