Political News

Amy Klobuchar is not apologizing

Posted February 15, 2019 2:44 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2019 3:39 p.m. EST

— I'm sorry.

Women say these two words all the time. Much, much more than men. And often for no real reason.

Lowering the armrest on an airplane? I'm sorry. Almost bump into someone in the hallway? I'm sorry. And, my favorite? Actually bumping into a chair. I'm sorry! As a female doctor writing in Psychology Today put it: "Women Apologize for Everything and I'm Sorry About That."

But, you know who isn't apologizing? That would be Amy Klobuchar, who -- à la Donald Trump and many, many men -- is leaning in to not being sorry.

Not for leaving tardy slips on the desks of late employees. Not for sending mean, ALL CAPS E-MAILS LATE AT NIGHT DECLARING EVERYTHING "THE WORST." Not for tossing a binder. Not for being called one of the worst bosses in Congress by Politico. Not for high staff turnover.

Asked by Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America" about her rap as a "tough boss," Klobuchar didn't go with the "I'm sorry if people ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... and blah ... blah and ... something about how DC can be a tough work place to work."

Klobuchar first praised her staff and then said: "I'm tough. I push people. That is true ... I have high expectations for myself, I have high expectations for the people that work for me. And I have high expectations for this country."

In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, as the chatter about her management style ramped up, she used the same line and went a step further: "I know I can be too tough sometimes and I can push too hard. That's obvious."

And specifically asked by Fox News' Bret Baier if she had ever thrown a binder at someone as had been outlined in one of the stories, she pointedly clarified she threw the binder down, not at someone. See the distinction there?

Klobuchar has a story and she is sticking to it. It's a story about her gritty and hard-charging personality and work ethic, forged in middle America in a household with an alcoholic father, and highlighted by her announcement speech in a Minneapolis blizzard.

When she questioned Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing, calmly responding to his flippant and inappropriate rejoinders, she embodied Minnesota Nice. It provided a level-headed, dispassionate contrast to not only Kavanaugh (who later apologized), but also the other Democrats who were all fight.

The reports about her management style (and more will likely come out), seem to complicate that.

And with women, it is often that way -- you're either Dorothy, Blanche, Rose or Sophia, rather than a mix of all of the above.

While it isn't necessarily sexist that her behavior is drawing scrutiny, it is certainly true that women, are stereotypically supposed to be nicer. Remember all those stories about women being the bipartisan bright spot on Capitol Hill? Well, behavior that is at odds with those expectations means women pay a higher price for bad behavior than men do.

There is no equivalent of "boys being boys" for women. Men are bosses, women are bossy (and another "B" word).

Among the women, this field will contain multitudes, often in the same candidate. Voters will sort out how much they care about Klobuchar's behavior and if her sorry-not-sorry approach works for them.

For her part, Klobuchar is pretty much embracing this whole storyline. Apparently happy to have her defenders say it's a sexist attack, she herself hasn't played the gender card. Instead, she is using these stories as an argument for her toughness (something that women always have to do), and by saying Minnesota Nice can also be Minnesota Boss.