The second involves the relevance of gender. Haspel would be the first woman to head the CIA. “It is not my way to trumpet the fact that I’m a woman up for the top job at CIA, but I would be remiss in not remarking on it,” she said on Wednesday, “not least, because of the outpouring of support from young women at CIA and indeed across the [intelligence community] because they consider it a good sign for their own prospects.”
But gender cannot be used as an offset to moral failure. And the insinuation that resistance to Haspel equates to hostility toward women is repugnant. “There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted on Saturday. “Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite.” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn was scarcely more subtle in a floor speech on Monday. “Women everywhere will be watching this week,” he said, “and Democrats should show them that ambition, good character and hard work are always welcome and rewarded in the upper echelons of the United States government.”
Oh please. “Women’s empowerment,” to use Sanders’s phrase, means judging Haspel by the same standard as any man up for the job.