This Week In Pantsuit Politics: Barbara Boxer Announces Retirement

One need only look at the Oval Office to see that when it comes to politics, we've got a bit of a gender discrepancy. In this weekly roundup, we focus on powerful political women in the news who are helping to break the proverbial glass ceiling of policy-making around the world. Politicos, move aside. We bring you . . . politicas. For more on female politicians to watch, click here.

Barbara Boxer

Before Hillary Clinton, before Condoleezza Rice, before Elizabeth Warren, there was Barbara Boxer. The Democratic stalwart began her congressional career as a member of the House of Representatives way back in 1983, when politics was even more of a good old boys' treehouse with a "no girls allowed" sign dangling out front. Since 1993, Boxer has served as a California Senator—and while her tenure hasn't been without controversy, she's made formidable inroads in everything from women's rights to environmental preservation to trimming the proverbial pork.

This week, Boxer announced her career will be ending come 2016, when she will not run again for office. Before we bid adieu to this notably tough, confrontational, dependably liberal congresswoman, we'd like to take a moment to recall her most memorable hits: Boxer during her time with the House

A former stockbroker and radio journalist, Boxer had her first big moment in the political arena when, as a member of the House of Reps, she made hay over the Pentagon's purchase of $600 toilet seat covers and $7,600 coffee pots (true story!). And so a take-no-prisoners crusader was born.

During the Clarence Thomas confirmations, Boxer was among the seven House members who marched up the Senate steps to demand a vote so that charges of sexual harassment against the nominee could be investigated.

A vocal conservationist who once served as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer was largely responsible for killing a plan to create a low-level nuclear waste dump near the Colorado River.

Is there any higher mark of success than being played by Amy Poehler in an SNL skit? In 2005, Boxer's scathing exchange with Condoleezza Rice over the Iraq War was parodied by the venerable late-night show. Hilarity ensued, as Boxer's prominence in the national spotlight grew.

A few years ago, Boxer enraged conservatives when she had the nerve (or as we call it, gumption) to bristle when a brigadier general from the U.S. Army called her ma'am. The exchange?

BRIG. GEN. MICHAEL WALSH: Ma'am, at the LACPR . . .

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): You know, do me a favor, could you say "senator" instead of "ma'am"?


BOXER: It's just the thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

WALSH: Yes, Senator.

True, the general called the men "sir" as well, and perhaps the reaction was overly testy—but she did work hard to earn her title, dammit, and ma'am has a storied history of less-than-respectful usage. So we say: Good on you, Senator Boxer.

Good on you.

Catherine McKinnell

It's not easy serving as a Member of Parliament (MP) in England—especially if you're doing it while incubating human life.

McKinnell, the Labor representative from Newcastle North, is hardly fazed, though. Due to give birth yesterday (no word yet on an arrival), McKinnell will soon join an elite group of women to have given birth while an MP. But to hear her tell it, she's more than capable of balancing pending motherhood with a high-demand career:

“You don’t plan these things to precision. I think that if I didn’t have the supportive family that I have, I would see this as challenging. Being an MP is an incredible privilege and this is the area where I was born and grew up—I can’t think of a better job.

“I’ve been amazed at how supportive and encouraging people have been. Rules have been changed as well so you can now carry a baby . .  . through the voting lobby; you used to have to leave your baby in the Whips office. Although I don’t think we will have breastfeeding in the chamber, nor do I think that is necessarily a good idea.”

We may not have babies suckling their mothers' bosoms in chamber yet (though we must say, it's an intriguing idea), but thanks to women like McKinnell, motherhood is decreasingly viewed as a stopgap to political success.

Hillary Clinton

Meanwhile, in Hillary-World . . .

If Hillary wants us to believe she won't be running for president, she's doing an increasingly poor job of it. This week, she tapped two top strategists to join her team . . . and we doubt they'll be strategizing about her pantsuits. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the venerable White House counselor John Podesta will also join Hillary's team if/when she runs.

As rumors of a presidency grow louder, so too have the voices of the peanut gallery.

In the category of "least surprising news of all time ever," Fox News is peddling an exceedingly dumb video mocking Hillary as "out of touch." In the "also not surprising but seriously disturbing" category, a few right-wing fire-throwers—including, who else, Rush Limbaugh—connected Clinton with the Paris terrorist attack, because in the past, she asked that we respect our enemies.

Oh yes, we see. Makes perfect sense.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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