Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
In a Tuesday interview with Salon, National Organization of Women President Terry O’Neill blasted the White House’s approach to choosing a replacement for Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. “The signals I’m seeing from the White House is that his advisors – and he tends to agree with them – that they are still looking for someone other than Janet Yellen,” O’Neill told Salon. “And to me that’s just pure sexist.” NOW endorsed Obama for president last July.
“I mean, there’s only two differences between Janet Yellen and all those men,” said O’Neill. “Number one, she’s more qualified than all of them are. And number two, she’s a woman. And so looking for somebody other than Janet Yellen, I don’t know how you classify that as anything but sexist.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Speculation about the post has centered on Yellen, the Fed’s current Vice Chair, since former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Obama Economic Advisor Larry Summers removed himself from consideration on September 15. O’Neill criticized Obama both for appearing to have favored Summers for the post, and for what she called “trial balloons being floated by White House staffers to find some man other than Janet Yellen” following Summers’ withdrawal from the process. Summers’ critics had cited his role in deregulation and his reference to “differing variances” between men and women as a cause of women’s underrepresentation in the sciences.
Before Summers “did the right thing” by bowing out, charged O’Neill, “every signal from the White House was that the president was going to bypass the better-qualified woman in favor of a less-qualified man who happened to be his friend. Huge problem.” O’Neill added, “This is exactly how the glass ceiling operates…that’s the essence of sex discrimination.”
O’Neill argued that Yellen was a better pick for the post in part because she would be more likely to consider the consequences of her decisions on “actual people” suffering from high unemployment. When it comes to a “judgment call” like whether to continue the Fed’s purchases of financial instruments, said O’Neill, the question is whether a Chair will be guided by the “understanding that unemployment has real, damaging impacts on real human lives,” or “guided by your relationships with financial institution leaders.”
“The other qualified men who could be up for this,” warned O’Neill, “I am very deeply concerned that those men may have ties to Wall Street that are simply too strong.” In contrast, said O’Neill, Yellen is “not trying to impress those boys.”
Asked about Yellen’s past support, noted in the Huffington Post, for repealing Glass-Steagall regulations and reducing future Social Security benefits through “chained CPI,” O’Neill said “they definitely concern me,” but that she wouldn’t expect Yellen to hold those stances today, “because she is evidence-based and data-based.” “There are a lot of conditions that have changed since the ‘90s,” said O’Neill.
Criticizing the White House’s perceived hesitancy to tap Yellen, “who stands head and shoulders above the others” in contention, the NOW president said, “The planet on which this happens is a planet on which men are so used to being in control that they cannot conceive of putting a woman in this position.” Asked if that criticism applies to the president personally, O’Neill answered, “Look at his behavior so far. It unfortunately does.”
While “there is no question that Barack Obama is a friend to women in the policies that he supports,” O’Neill said that “when even he has trouble picking the best qualified person who happens to be a woman, I think that is a startling reminder that even our friends who are men are so used to being in control that so far putting a woman in that position just doesn’t compute for them.” She said the episode reinforced the need to elect more female politicians, including a female president.
“This hesitancy around Dr. Yellen,” said O’Neill, “is very revealing about how far we have yet to go.”
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)