The model of female leader has morphed from Iron Lady to soft power. And the controversy over Rice stems in part from the fact that she does not fit comfortably into this model of collegial, nurturing, division-healing woman.

The adjectives used to describe her are fraught with sexist undertones. Blunt. Sharp-elbowed. Driven. Egotistical. Some of these terms come from her friends. No one thinks she would win Miss Congeniality. …

It goes too far to say pure sexism, but I think gender plays a role, however subconscious. My analysis assumes that the Rice critique does not stem solely from her comments on a single Sunday morning of talk-show rounds.

Something more is going on here: A touch of chummy old-boy (and old-girl, for that matter) networkism in support of Senate colleague John Kerry. A residue of bristling over previous encounters (see Rice’s tart 2008 comments about then-GOP presidential nominee John McCain). …

And also sexism, albeit of a modern, less overt variety. Let’s face it: Society has more tolerance for men behaving badly than for women.