Perhaps it was inevitable. Senator Amy Klobuchar, alleged staff-abuser and Democratic candidate for president, has decided to cast her “tough” treatment of aides as a positive quality. The Minnesota Democrat told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that while she “can always do better,” being a boss means “you have to have high standards.” She went on to claim that her behavior would make her a good president:
One can always do better, and that means you want to be sure that you are listening to people if they felt that something was unfair, or they felt bad about something. But I still think that you have to demand good product. When you’re out there on the world stage and dealing with people like Vladimir Putin, yeah, you want someone who’s tough. You want someone that demands the answers and that’s going to get things done, and that’s what I’ve done my whole life.
Former staffers have accused Klobuchar of throwing objects at them, forcing them to run banal and demeaning errands, and sabotaging their applications for jobs outside her office. Unless Klobuchar plans to force Putin to clean a comb after she eats a salad with it, it’s not clear how she intends to apply her workplace behavior to global affairs — and it’s even less clear that doing so would advance the nation’s interests.
Klobuchar really only had two available routes after reports of her behavior became public. She could apologize and publicly account for her actions, or she could deny all of it and act like she’s been done in by her own extreme competence. That latter option has an extra advantage — deployed by a woman in public life, it invokes sexism. Call it the Lean In defense: It’s tough out there for a lady boss. If Klobuchar’s hard on staff, it’s only because everyone else is hard on her.
In this case, though, it just doesn’t wash. No sensible person would deny that female public figures are held to unrealistic and sexist standards, but Klobuchar’s alleged behavior is out of bounds for anyone. Competence and cruelty are not interchangeable qualities.
Klobuchar may genuinely believe that her demeanor is just what the presidency demands, but the opposite is true. American workers don’t need a president who might make Putin cry; they need one who recognizes and respects the innate dignity of human beings.