Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama's Women

With the Hillary Clinton melodrama still unfolding, the news today is about two women heading for the Obama cabinet--Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security and fund-raiser Penny Pritzker for Secretary of Commerce.

Gov. Napolitano of Arizona won reelection in John McCain's home state by a nearly 2-1 margin in 2006 and, during her years as a US attorney, was involved in the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing. Her new job could position her to run against McCain for the Senate in 2010.

Ms. Pritzker, on the other hand, is a Chicago billionaire with no previous political experience but much in the field of commerce as a member of one of America's least-known richest families.

My final years as editor of McCalls were spent working for her uncles, who bought the magazine as a minor investment in the 1970s and were astonished to find themselves on the front pages of the New York Times. "Welcome to the information industry," I told them by way of explanation.

Their niece may be similarly surprised if and when she faces Senate confirmation and finds herself being grilled about her stint with the Superior Bank of Chicago, another minor family subsidiary that made headlines by being embroiled in a subprime mortgage mess two decades ago. But her career in business and philanthropy will no doubt override that minor embarrassment.

Meanwhile, along with the appointment of Karen Kornbluh as his chief policy director and longtime family friend Valerie Jarrett as White House senior adviser, Barack Obama has made a good start at surrounding himself with powerful women, no surprise for a young man who was reared by a strong grandmother and chose an even stronger wife.

Update: Ms. Pritzker late today announced her withdrawal from consideration for the Commerce position. As I recall, her family always hated getting too much attention to their business dealings.

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