The New York Times is out with a 5,000-word fluff piece on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, just as the troubled candidate seems to have changed her opinion on, well, everything. The article claims to provide “unassailable” narrative of Davis’s life, of a “leader of economic development” highly regarded in her hometown.
In a piece too epic (in the literal, “interminable poetic work of literature” sense) to fully parse in one sitting, author Robert Draper has made a scavenger hunt for new inaccuracies in Davis’s life story, from the fact that she once had the chance to finish her third year of law school in Texas with her children and refused to a no-show job her husband provided her straight out of law school.
Draper notes that Davis’s mark, according to Davis, is on every new building in Fort Worth. As City Council member, Davis approved of a number of construction projects that Draper argues turned the city from a farm town to a viable commercial center – thanks to her ability to work on a City Councilwoman’s salary without worrying about the family budget. Davis’s then-husband, Jeffry Davis, gave her a job at Safeco, his company, which paid $40,000. According to one Safeco executive, she did “nothing” to earn her salary: “I never once saw her on the premises of our office. There was no reason for Safeco to have her on the payroll.”
The no-show job is but one of the new revelations in the piece. Another is Harvard Law School’s offer to let Davis finish law school in Texas, at Southern Methodist University. She declined, she tells Draper, because she had too much to gain being around fellow Harvard students. Given that one of her best friends from law school, Patti Kraft, is among her wealthiest supporters today, Davis’s point may have something to do with her political career. Davis also notes, starry-eyed, the inspiration she gained from her father’s decision to leave her with her “heartbroken and destitute” mother to pursue a career in theater: “I learned the lesson of what it means to live your dreams.”
The Times profile has a number of lighthearted moments, from the has-to-be-joking claim that her biography included only “minor inaccuracies” to the punchline that Davis is a “policy enthusiast.” Which policies continue to remain entirely unclear, as Davis announced today her opposition to late-term abortion and support for medical marijuana, joining the NRA “F” rated legislator’s support for open carry among the elements of the shocking, difficult-to-follow platform Davis has constructed.
Finally, the piece leans heavily on Davis’s gender to justify almost every problematic aspect of her career.
Her biography, Draper writes, was “politically exquisite” despite being totally wrong because it “connected the candidate and her devotion to issues like education in a personal rather than an ideological manner.” It was politically inexpedient when facing the reality that “a woman challenged stereotypes at her peril” in politics, he notes, and Davis eagerly uses the excuse.
When questioned about her salary at Safeco and her opponent’s concerns about her trustworthiness, she replies, seemingly unprompted, “Do I think that I’m being held to a different standard than a man who would be in this exact same race with the exact same story might be? Yes.” The defensive, non sequitur answer is reminiscent to one given by controversial tennis player Richard Gasquet after a tournament to the question “do you plan to go around the city?”: “I’m not gay.”
Draper allows her the flexibility she needs to talk about gender issues where there aren’t any repeatedly throughout the piece, but as progressive and feminist as the article shouts into the heavens that it wants to be, Draper indulges in some double standards himself. Describing Davis’s filibuster, he notes that Davis was to prepare for “an endurance feat of incalculable magnitude.” The filibuster is not new and dozens – if not hundreds – of older white men have engaged in the practice. No one described Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster against extrajudicial killings as a “feat of incalculable magnitude,” nor Sen. Ted Cruz’s 21-hour effort against Obamacare, and one gets the sense that the language shift is about more than the latter two being Republicans. Paul and Cruz (and almost everyone else in the history of the country to filibuster) have been men, senators expected to do their work. But when Davis, a slender woman in pink shoes, exerts the same physical effort, she is babied by a liberal media that seems to expect less of women than of men, no matter how well they prove to be equally qualified.
Draper similarly wears the kiddie gloves when discussing her campaign, suggesting that she will need “Olympian dexterity” to win an election as a Democrat in Texas, despite calling George W. Bush a “uniter” and speaking “supportively” of the Second Amendment. While listing candidates like Hillary Clinton as those who would require some flexibility in their positions to win, it is difficult to imagine the bar set so low for a man running for office in the same position – certainly, no one suggested Chris Christie’s victory in Blue New Jersey was a feat of “Olympian dexterity.”
The title of the piece is remarkably apt, however. Davis is trying to “have it all” – all the ideological positions, all the gender-based privileges, every possible edge that could give her a shot at the governorship. As a craven political force, her desires are not ill-founded, but the media’s insistence that they come from somewhere purer than pure lust for power are as transparent as their adoption of a harmful, big-f Feminist approach to gender equality that demands every female politician wear training wheels because political attacks are just too painful for a delicate flower like Davis.