Taking its cue from an article in today's New York Post, Fox News Channel panelists took shots at a Democratic Senator for her "low blow" against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday.
Later in the day, the White House spokesman called Senator Barbara Boxer "tacky," while Rice implied to The New York Times that the lawmaker who was once called "perhaps the personification of the feminist left" by the Almanac of American Politics had set back feminism.
Also, interviewed by the Times, Boxer accused Republicans of distorting her words "in a really tortured way to attack a United States Senator who voted against the war."
"Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, an appalling scold from California, wasted no time yesterday in dragging the debate over Iraq about as low as it can go – attacking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being a childless woman," the New York City tabloid reported on its front page Friday. "Boxer was wholly in character for her party – New York's own two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, were predictably opportunistic – but the Golden State lawmaker earned special attention for the tasteless jibes she aimed at Rice."
Boxer asked Rice, who was defending Bush's new Iraq policy to the Senate, "Who pays the price?"
"I'm not going to pay a personal price," Boxer said. "My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young."
Then, Boxer said to Rice, "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."
"Breathtaking," the Post observed. "Simply breathtaking. We scarcely know where to begin."
The paper wrote that Boxer "apparently believes that an accomplished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman."
Multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch owns both the Post and Fox News Channel.
A few days ago, Rice expressed enthusiasm for the entire Fox News staff.
"My Fox guys, I love every single one of them," Rice was heard to utter into an open microphone in between interviews.
One Fox and Friends panelist read a letter, which he claimed was written by a Marine sergeant.
"Please relay my message to Senator Barbara Boxer," wrote the Marine. "Please let it be known that she does not have to worry, I will pay the price for her."
Snow calls Boxer 'tacky'
White House spokesman Tony Snow jumped into the fray this afternoon, telling his former colleages at Fox News that Boxer's words were "outrageous."
"I don't know if she was intentionally that tacky, but I do think it's outrageous," Snow told Fox News. "Here you got a professional woman, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Barbara Boxer is sort of throwing little jabs because Condi doesn't have children, as if that means that she doesn't understand the concerns of parents."
"Great leap backward for feminism," Snow told FOX News Talk's Brian and The Judge.
Left unsaid by Boxer's critics was that she had only referred to Rice not having "immediate family" in danger, not necessarily children she never had.
"Instead, Boxer's comment fits firmly within the rich history of attacks levied on the Bush administration and Congress for pursuing wars of choice despite lacking personal experience in combat or immediate family members exposed to its ravages," blogger Ezra Klein writes. "It's a variant of the 'chickenhawk' charge, not chauvinism."
An article in Saturday's New York Times reports how the "passing exchange during a Senate hearing on Thursday turned into a political flashpoint overnight as Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused one another of insensitivity in comments about motherhood and the war in Iraq."
"In an interview this afternoon with The New York Times, Ms. Rice suggested that the California Democrat had set back feminism by suggesting during the hearing that the childless Ms. Rice had paid no price in the Iraq war," Helene Cooper and Thom Shankar write.
"I thought it was okay to be single," Ms. Rice told the paper. "I thought it was okay to not have children, and I thought you could still make good decisions on behalf of the country if you were single and didn’t have children."
Boxer: 'Really tortured way to attack'
The Times also interviewed Senator Boxer, who accused Republicans of "getting off on a non-existent thing that [she] didn't say," and explained that her "whole point was to focus on the military families who pay the price."
"What I was trying to do in this exchange was to find common ground with Condi Rice," Boxer told the Times.
"I’m saying, she’s like me, we do not have families who are in the military," Boxer added.
"What they are doing is a really tortured way to attack a United States Senator who voted against the war," Boxer said.
The Times notes that the "comments and the claims and counterclaims about what [Boxer] meant have captivated the blogs and received extensive coverage on Fox News and other cable channels," but only quotes from conservative blogs who "were quick to seize the issue."
Brad Blog complains that the "real scoop" during the "passing exchange" which went unreported on "rightwing outlets" was that Rice admitted that President Bush's "surge" plan lacked body count estimates.
"When asked directly by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), 'Do you have an estimate of the number of casualties we expect from this surge?,' Rice's answer came back as: 'No, uh, Senator...I don't think there's any way to give you such an estimate,'" Brad Friedman writes.
Saturday's Times article didn't note the lack of accounting for casualties, either.
"Surely due-diligence when creating such a plan requires such estimates be made by the military for the cost expected in blood for our U.S. troops before such a plan is actually implemented," Friedman writes.