November 25, 1945
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Occupation||Journalist, op-ed columnist|
|Alma mater||Marquette University|
|Notable works||As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
Once you're done being president, you tend to want to defend your record more than plumb your inner feelings. I find it hard to imagine Obama going home at night and writing sensitive, introspective journal entries about his meeting with John Boehner.
I have always believed the iron rule of politics was that women don't vote for men who yell.
Some of our national heroines were defined by the fact that they never nested – they were peripatetic crusaders like Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Sojourner Truth, Dorothy Dix.
Conservatives were sure that if you eliminated welfare for single moms, it would eliminate – or at lease greatly reduce – single motherhood. So in 1996 we had welfare reform. Did not change the trend in the least. Soon half of all babies will be born out of wedlock.
The economic sense of possibility was so great when I was growing up that my parents had no question that I could do anything I wanted to do, even as a girl. I've always believed that the economics of a story intersects with the women's story – that stuff often happens at the time it happens because of the economy.
Women in America will have to find an answer for the pressures of work and family, but if you really care about women's issues you have to think about women in the world, especially Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In the 1960s, you had this booming economy, and you didn't really have enough men around to fill all the jobs. So there was this sudden demand that women come back and perform a lot of the white-collar and pink-collar roles that men had done before or that hadn't existed before.
In college, the guys aren't worrying about whether they'll be able to pursue their career dreams and still have kids.
Texas has no income tax, which is a big draw for corporate executives who do business there. But it's hardly tax-free. The property taxes are high for a Southern state. The sales taxes are high. One study found that the bottom 20 percent of the Texas population pays 12 percent of its income in state and local taxes.
The one big, humongous, immense thing that we didn't change, that we didn't figure out how to deal with is, if men and women are both going to work throughout their lives, who's going to take care of the kids?
Until Eleanor Roosevelt, there was only one or two First Ladies in all of American history who made an impact, who people could even have recognized or identified. And it's really only been since Jackie Kennedy that there's been this idea that the family life of the president is such a central thing.
Well, it'd certainly be fascinating if we discovered that gays were better at being married than heterosexuals are. Talk about irony.
During the Obama years, the Republicans have done an unprecedented amount of stonewalling on cabinet-and-below appointees. I would also argue that their war on judicial nominees has been way beyond what went before. Really, if the president nominated God to serve on the D.C. Court of Appeals, Mitch McConnell would threaten a filibuster.
Non-crazy gun advocates – the ones who aren't stockpiling in preparation for a zombie invasion – don't like the idea of expanding background checks because they think it'll be a lot more paperwork. And it probably would make it more difficult to sell guns at, say, a flea market.
The history of American women is about the fight for freedom, but it's less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women's role that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders.
As long as we decline to allow sick, uninsured people to just lie down and die on the side of the road, everybody has to have insurance for the health care system to work sanely.
Whenever you bring up women's internal workings, guys want to change the subject. Unless, of course, they're trying to change the laws.
When the women's movement started in the 1960s, there was a vision of a future where women didn't wear makeup or worry about how their hair looked, and everybody wore sensible, comfortable clothes. It ran into an absolute brick wall.
There have been tons of politicians who were slow to accept equal rights when it meant changes in the established social order. Many eventually came around, admitted they were wrong, and were forgiven. But the ones who actively choose hate-mongering don't ever get a pass.
Illegal immigration can never be completely stopped, no matter how high the wall or how many patrol agents you have watching it.
Women are needed in the military because there aren't enough soldiers, and we're seeing more women serve.
One very clear memory I have of college is that I never learned anything in the big lectures. I have a feeling I'd have done even worse if they'd been on a laptop screen.
The middle of 'America's Women' is about the Civil War, and how women, black and white, confronted slavery and abolition. As in every other period of crisis, the rules of sexual decorum were suspended due to emergency.
I kind of think that if you show conspiracy theorists a photo of the dead Bin Laden they will come up with an explanation for why it's really a Photoshopped picture of Bin Laden asleep. Or his dead cousin Fred. Donald Trump apparently believes that Bin Laden is dead, so that ought to be enough for the Middle East.
There's always been that theory that if a candidate can't run a decent campaign, he probably can't run a decent presidency. That might be true, although sadly I must admit that running a brilliant campaign does not translate into running a brilliant White House.
I just really like Houston despite its craziness. There is a sense of energy and a kind of excitement, 'We're going places and God knows what'll happen next.' It's very interesting. It's very exciting.
I used to like John McCain, too, but I must admit that was because he was bucking his party to do things I agreed with. I would not have had that reaction if, say, Bernie Sanders decided to rebel out of principle and support privatizing Social Security.
When the women's movement began, it was a middle-class phenomenon. Certainly, black women had other stuff to think about in the '60s besides a women's movement. Working-class women were slow to get into it.
I used to have a sort of soft spot for Huckabee. He seemed to have a genuinely saintly streak, which caused him to defend illegal immigrants and give pardons to criminals who were perhaps a little less rehabilitated than he had imagined.
When people say this isn't the America they grew up in, they're right. Nobody gets to grow old in the America they grew up in.
You reduce illegal immigration by making it harder to get jobs here, or easier to get jobs south of the border. This idea that we can't pass an immigration law until we hit some imaginary security target is just a way to derail reform.
I admired the way McCain worked on campaign finance reform. I admired the way Nancy Pelosi stiffened the Democrats' spine during the health care debate. I admire the way Barack Obama has raised a dog in the White House without ever putting it on the roof of the car for a vacation drive.
Natural Texas politicians make terrible, terrible presidential candidates. Phil Gramm, I remember the 'Phil Gramm for President' campaign. I thought that was the worst thing in the history of the world, but Rick Perry was possibly worse.
My only thought about Margaret Thatcher is the same one I had about Ronald Reagan. I hated a lot of what they did, but once in a while a country just needs a change.
This is the moment when I should also admit that when the Internet first arrived I kept telling people it was a fad.
The Bushes were certainly part of Texas in their mind, but they didn't have the kind of political flavor that you normally find in Texas politicians. It's just Texas is such a unique place to itself that politically, at least so far, they haven't found anybody to play nationally.
Hillary Clinton almost got to be president. The reasons why she didn't become president had to do with bad judgments about how to handle the early caucus states, which is not a gender-specific trait.
The key to success for any woman who wants to have a really serious career and a family is to marry a guy who is going to take at least half the responsibility for the house and kids – and sometimes more than half.
To be honest, I haven't seen much serious budget planning since the Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 elections and grabbed onto the Senate filibuster. It's not the White House's fault that John Boehner couldn't deliver on a bigger deal.
Take Hispanic voters. They favor Democrats because they like the party's programs, from health care reform to government spending on education. It's not because the Republicans don't have a big enough Office of Hispanic Outreach.
Certainly Nancy Reagan had an extraordinary effect on her husband. I'm truly not sure that, say, Laura Bush had that much effect on the Bush administration. She certainly, you know, seems to be a nice person who I think the public likes. But I can't really put my finger on any huge impact she's had.
The whole student loan thing drives me completely nuts. If it wasn't possible for 18-year-olds to sign themselves up for tens of thousands of dollars in debt in order to pay their college bills, the state governments wouldn't have found it so politically easy to cut taxpayer support for public colleges and universities.
Can I say that I think it should be against the law for one state to use taxpayer money to try to bribe businesses in another state to move? Which then causes the target state to use taxpayer dollars to try to bribe the businesses to stay.
Texas is a great place to be rich and a terrible place to be poor. It's got the highest percentage of people without health insurance in the country. If you get injured on the job, good luck getting workers' comp. And God help you if you're poor and mentally ill.
I'm sort of suspicious of most economic development projects, but the ones that encourage taxpayer-funded relocation bidding wars should be declared unconstitutional.
Billy Jean King could not get credit when her husband was in law school and she was winning the Wimbledon, because he had to sign the cards. You know, you had these cases in the '70s of women who were mayors who couldn't get credit unless their husbands signed for them.
Downplaying their faults is pretty much the point of campaigns. But we do count on them living with the constant terror of public rejection.
Gay rights is just a matter of time. Look at the polls. Worrying about gay marriage, let alone gay civil unions or gay employment rights, is a middle-age issue. Young people just can't see the problem. At worst, gays are going to win this one just by waiting until the opposition dies off.
You know, I have a lot of books on my iPad, but when I try to read them, I find myself wandering off to play games. Those are books I'm interested in. I can't imagine what would have happened to me in college if my biology class had been on the same computer as 'Words With Friends' and 'Doom.'
The IRS targeting certain groups for harassment because of their politics would be unfair. If we found out the NSA was keeping special tabs on everyone who worshiped at a mosque or took a Bible trip through the Middle East, you'd have an uprising.
For years I've been hearing 20-somethings say they don't expect Social Security to be around when they hit 65. Eventually, I came to realize that they really mean that they just don't expect to be 65. Or 40. Neither did I, when I was 22.
It's possible that you have been told a time or 10 that you don't appreciate how tough your elders had it. It's true that, if you had been coming of age back in, say, 1960, you would probably be feeling more restricted, if only because you were doomed to spend your days in a skirt, nylon stockings and girdle.
I can't tell you how many times I've had conversations with politicians who've done something morally reprehensible but not indictable, yet still think they should be able to stay in office. The office isn't a 'right.' It's a kind of loan.
There are competing studies on how much crime drops or doesn't drop when there are strict rules on gun possession and sale. I don't think there's any question that New York City's very tough laws have reduced violence.
My all-time favorite program in my entire life was 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'
The work-family divide is the biggest issue for American women. But in some ways it's amazing how adjusted society has become to it. In the 1970s, as women began to take more jobs, society was reeling.
I think voters want somebody who understands their problems. You're right that they don't expect the president to fix everything. When he's wrestling with Congress and Wall Street and the rest of the world, they hope he'll be looking at things from their vantage point.
If you live in a place that you perceive to be a crowded place, you appreciate government; you see it as this thing that protects you against crime, that keeps order, that makes sure that nobody puts a massage parlor next to your house, that keeps other people's dogs from pooping on the sidewalk.
Elections have to have at least a little meaning. Obama ran on income tax hikes for the wealthy. People knew they were voting for that. They 'want' that. And it's good policy.
The history of American women is all about leaving home – crossing oceans and continents, or getting jobs and living on their own.
Back in the '70s when my friends in California were at Berkeley, in-state tuition was around $700 a year.
Sarah Palin is an heir to the women's movement. She has not been constrained by gender. At no point in her life has she thought, 'I can't do that because I'm a woman.'
The Tea Party people say they're angry about socialism, but maybe they're really angry about capitalism. If there's a sense of being looked down upon, it's that sense of failure that's built into a system that assures everyone they can make it to the top, but then reserves the top for only a tiny fraction of the strivers.
The fantasy I've always had is that somehow I could move back in time. I would like to be there when Susan B. Anthony was dying, or someone like that. I would say to her, 'You won't believe what's going to happen.' And then I would tell her.
Once when I was working for the Daily News, I was summoned back to work from vacation because Donald Trump announced he was getting a divorce.
There are lots of reasons for that gap between men's and women's wages but to me, the big one is the work-family issue. Trying to juggle children and a job is tough under any circumstances, but especially if you're shooting for the kind of career that involves long hours at work and being on call 24-7.
I picked up my college copy of 'The Great Gatsby' in an attempt to recover from the movie and was interested to find out what I'd underlined. The answer was basically: everything.
I don't think the folks in the low-tax states really want to go into a fairness discussion. Residents of Connecticut and New York would love to remind them how much they pay in federal taxes to support programs for Mississippi and South Dakota.
If immigration reform passes, it'll be a big victory for sanity – nobody really believes it's healthy for a country to have millions and millions of undocumented noncitizens living in the shadows. But it'll also be a sign that the Republican Party has gotten tired of letting the Tea Party push it around.
The high point was that the people are really nice – despite the crazy politics – and I loved being there. The hardest part was knowing some of the things I was probably going to write about Texas would make those nice people very unhappy.
When the simple word processors came in, writing became crisper, less dense – just because of the way we could instantly edit on the screen. Now the ability to mash up words and pictures and links and songs and tweets is what matters. I can't imagine what writing will be like in 2154.
There's more student debt than credit card debt! Everywhere I go, I run into young people trying to build careers while they keep shelling out money on their education loans. If the economy is looking for a new generation of home-buyers, I can't imagine they'll get it from these folks.
Any time you write history, you insert your opinion. You pick and choose what you are going to write about. I feel really happy not inserting myself. I spend too much of my life inserting myself. It's just great to let other people carry the narrative.
I did some research once on the way people in the past imagined the year 2000. They tended to picture the things they already had getting more sophisticated – flying cars, self-cleaning windows. And the folks in the early 1900s had a wildly optimistic estimate of the future of pneumatic tubes.
Despite my excellent mood, I don't have any sympathy for Romney. If he'd been a good candidate he wouldn't have had a different campaign for every month on the calendar.
Personally, I'd be really glad to have a national conversation about whether to outlaw most forms of birth control. For once, the kids and their grandparents would find themselves on the same side.
Now my poor hometown is being castigated as the center of an IRS scandal. Humble workers at the Cincinnati office targeted Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations for special scrutiny when those groups applied for tax-exempt status. There's no conceivable excuse for that. It was deeply, deeply wrong.
How do you give smart, accomplished, ambitious women the same opportunities as men to reach their goals? What about universal preschool and after-school programs? What about changing the corporate mind-set about the time commitment it takes to move up the ladder? What about having more husbands step up and take the major load?
I'm being driven crazy by people who are obsessed with limiting the scope of government, but feel perfectly free to demand that government get involved in women's most personal choices.
You know what Americans are really sensitive to? Issues of fairness. I think this is a modern phenomenon, born of the civil rights movement. Once you convince Americans that something is basically unfair, you've got a winning cause.
At the beginning of his administration, Obama homed right in on Medicare, which he wanted to fix by reducing the overall cost of health care in this country. He risked everything – some would claim he lost everything – by being so single-minded.
There are a lot of people in Congress who would never have made a great career or fortune in any other profession. But after they spend a while hanging out with the rich guys, they begin to feel they've been undervalued, and that an eventual seven-figure income as a lobbyist isn't just an opportunity, it's their due.
One line I'd draw would be on raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare. It sounds fair, since people are living longer. But it isn't. Lower income workers are the ones who find it hardest to keep working after 65. And they'll get penalized with lower benefits.
I am prepared to admit that when it comes to dealing with the House and Senate leaders, Obama is terrible. But he's great with the public. Which hates the House and Senate as much as he does.
For the undocumented immigrants, the big priority is just to get out from the shadows, be able to get a driver's license, buy an airplane ticket and stop worrying about sudden deportation. But for the country as a whole, it's crucial that everybody have a citizen's stake in the nation's welfare.
I grew up in one of the most socially conservative neighborhoods in Ohio, and my parents were traditional Catholics. But in her old age, my mother got her home health care from a guy who was gay, who was wonderful to her. Before she died, she rode a float in the Cincinnati Gay Pride Parade.
The idea that 'if you don't like how things are going, you can just leave' is so ingrained in Texas, the secession movement is no surprise.
Sarah Palin is treated like a bimbo sometimes, but she has never given the public the respect they deserve. She acts silly and doesn't know stuff. She didn't even finish her term.
You can hit as many revolutions as you want, but women are always going to wear uncomfortable shoes that look good.
You hear younger women say, 'I don't believe I'm a feminist. I believe women should have equal right and I believe in fighting for the rights of other women, but I'm certainly not a feminist. No, no, not that!' It's just a word. If you called it 'Fred' would it be better?
You know, I really miss sex scandals. They're generally colorful. They almost never mean anything over the long run. And while they're going on, the people who actually keep the government running are let alone to go about their business. Good old sex scandals.
What naturally you want to do if you were a prominent person in the public light and you are disgraced, you want to make a comeback, and normally that begins with somebody saying, 'I want to do something to help people. I want to do something to help the lepers in the Third World. I want to do something to help abandoned wives in India.'
For a border state, I would argue that Texas is less lunatic on the subject of immigration issues than other places around it, like Arizona. They're much more comfortable with their long-term identity as a place with a very large Hispanic population.
My own dream is that we discover that the NSA has been secretly keeping files on members of the National Rifle Association.
Bin Laden wasn't all that central to the terrorist network any more, but taking him down created a kind of national catharsis. It's been a really, really long time since we had something to celebrate that didn't involve a sports team. I'd rather it had been a non-death-related occasion, but we'll take what we can get.
When I started giving talks about women's history, one of the things that bothered me was the tendency to say, 'Well, everybody was totally oppressed and suddenly in 1964 we rose up, got our freedom, and here we are.' It dismisses the women who fought for rights for several hundred years of our history up to that point.