Anonymous tip: Barbara Boxer is a bullying shrew!

Unnamed sources claim personal flaws will keep the senator from passing a climate change bill. (Sotomayor, anyone?)

Topics: Environment, Global Warming, U.S. Senate, Broadsheet, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.,

Have you heard the one about the powerful Democratic woman with the temperament problem? She hates being called “ma’am” rather than her official title. Colleagues say she’s condescending, thin-skinned and moralizing. Anonymous snipers say she’s a bully, and “her way is the only way.”

So we’re talking about Sonia Sotomayor here, right? Or at least, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s version of her, delivered in a lecture on how she could improve her personality so she’d stop being a “terror” and “difficult”?

Nope. The criticisms I quoted above are actually all anonymous attacks on Sen. Barbara Boxer in an article running today in Politico. Funny how all these prominent Democratic women seem to need anger management.

The Politico piece claims that Democrats — all anonymous — don’t trust Boxer to shepherd climate change legislation through the Senate. Says one Democratic aide, “People don’t look at her as the person who’s going to make a deal and bring both sides to the table. Her way is the only way.” Says another, “You can’t just do this by guilting folks. It has to be an orderly process where every member has their say.”

You see, the California Democrat chairs the deeply divided Environment and Public Works Committee. Her Republican counterpart, Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, believes global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He also thinks climate change believers are comparable to the “Third Reich,” and once tried to hijack a session of the committee from Boxer. So naturally, it’s the fault of Boxer — whom Inhofe has charmingly called a “very liberal gal” — that effective global warming legislation is going to get a tough reception. God, what a bitch.

The gist of the anonymous attacks on Boxer is that she’s too much of a self-involved bully and control freak to do the job properly. But the task of shepherding the bill through the Senate has been split up among six committees. Says Boxer, “I took the things that worked last year and didn’t work last year and am trying to approach it in a different way. It’s not my baby.”

Her moral superiority is also apparently deadly in combination with her hard-left California politics. How can such a rigid extremist possibly reach out to the moderates needed to get the climate bill through? Perhaps by holding meetings with all the committee’s Democrats, as well as some of its Republicans, which she has in fact been doing. Maybe by keeping in close touch with White House political staff? Check. Courting Senate moderates seems to be important, and Boxer is apparently hard at work on that, too.

But none of that is apparently enough to keep Boxer from getting Sotomayor-ed. (Or Clinton-ed. Or Pelosi-ed.) Says her committee opponent, Inhofe, “Her environmentalist extremist friends, and there are a lot of them out there, they’re going to be mad at her because she didn’t get it done. And the logical people who know the science isn’t there, and that taxes are something we can’t handle, they’re going to be mad at her because she tries so hard.”

Catch that? If she tries too hard to pass a bill, she’s a bully for pushing. But if she doesn’t, she’s an ineffectual doormat. You’ve got to think this stuff is a way of undercutting her politically.

Meanwhile, Rahm “Motherfucker” Emanuel is a street-smart charmer. And elsewhere in the Senate, Montana’s Max Baucus gets lauded as bipartisan for criticizing Obama on healthcare, saying, “Basically, the president is not helping us.” If only he were a woman, so we could call him a harpy who just wants to “guilt folks.” Maybe then we’d get decent healthcare.

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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