White House Men's Town

The Interloper: Melody Barnes clubs her way in.          (ap)

The sports metaphors, the men-only basketball games, the all-male inner circle — women voters helped President Obama win, and his record on appointing and nominating women is strong. But the New York Times is right — the West Wing is a total boys' club.

“Women are Obama’s base, and they don’t seem to have enough people who look like the base inside of their own inner circle,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former press secretary in the Clinton administration whose sister, Betsy, served as the Obama campaign’s chief operating officer.

It's a theme the Examiner also has explored, and it's much-discussed around the White House press room. Women in the administration get sent out to represent the White House before the North Lawn television cameras often enough, and many occupy top spots in the administration. But there is a pervasive sense of second-class citizenship among women working for Obama.

Obama's inner circle is all men: senior adviser David Axelrod, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Although women, such as Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett occupy prominent roles in the administration, it's Gibbs and the guys who are generally perceived as those Obama relies on most.

NBC News White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie asked Obama last week about a recent <a href=”http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1009/28578.html” target=”_blank”>all-guys basketball game at the White House and what kind of message that sent. Historically, the White House has pretty much always been a men's club — but wasn't Obama supposed to be different?

“I think this is bunk,” Obama said. “I don't think it sends any kind of message or signal or whatever.”

Yesterday, when NYT writer Mark Leibovich's what-about-the-ladies takedown appeared on the front page of the newspaper, Obama was getting ready for his (mostly) weekly round of golf. Usually he plays with trip director Marvin Nicholson, and some combination of other guys — sometimes press office staffer Ben Finkenbinder, or cabinet members.

Imagine the surprise of the Sunday press pool, waiting in the motorcade vans for Obama to head out to Fort Belvoir, when they learned that domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes was joining this week's foursome. Coincidence? Obama has played 24 rounds of golf in nine months since becoming president, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News. The first time a woman joined them was the same day the Times' story ran.

On Air Force One today (Obama is in Florida) Robert Gibbs said Barnes' appearance on the links was not in response to criticism.

“She's just a good golfer,” Gibbs said.

Power glower: Leibovich, the gender avenger!

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