GQ’s 50 Most Powerful People in Washington list came out yesterday. And it turns out that there are just 11 women on the list, two of whom (Heather Podesta and Lissa Muscatine) appear in the rankings with their husbands; three of whom (Svetlana Legetic, Jayne Sandeman and Barbara Martin*) appear as a single item on the city’s social scene; and one of whom, Buffy Wicks, appears at the end of a long list of men who will play key roles in the 2012 elections. Just five of them, Hillary Clinton, Kathy Ruemmler, Nancy Hogan, Patty Murray, and Liz Cheney get to stand on their own. There are some deeply bizarre exclusions here, ignoring women who wield power in the administration, the media, and think tanks and academia. Here are 15 we think could — and should — have made the cut.
1. Valerie Jarrett. Or Nancy-Ann DeParle. Or Samantha Power. Three of President Obama’s closest advisors are women, who have guided his thinking on everything from Libya strategy to health care reform. If that doesn’t count as power, I’m not sure what does.
2. Nancy Pelosi. The former speaker of the House may have lost her fanciest job title getting President Obama’s health care bill passed, but all that means is that she did exactly what elected officials are supposed to do: value policy results over the outcome of the next election cycle. And having your party down doesn’t mean you’re out. Pelosi is still a force in the House, even in the minority.
3. Katharine Weymouth. The Washington Post may not be the paper it once was, but that hardly means it doesn’t matter. As the Post’s publisher, Weymouth runs the biggest paper in town. She’s important, especially as the Post competes with upstarts like Politico and builds new initiatives like Ezra Klein’s publication-within-a-publication, Wonkbook.
4. Jane Mayer. The New Yorker’s resident giant slayer isn’t afraid to take on anyone, from the Koch brothers, to Art Pope, to the architects of the worst of the war on terror. Another rising Washington reporter, Annie Lowrey, who is part of the New York Times’ economic team, could also be on this list.
5. Neera Tanden. No, it’s not just because she’s my boss. It’s inexplicable that GQ would pick Liz Cheney, who runs the strawman think tank Keep America Safe and contributes to Fox News while ignoring the woman who runs one of the most powerful think tanks in Washington, and who was a key adviser to Hillary Clinton to boot. There’s real power, and there’s the ability to fling rhetorical bombs. Any power list worth its salt should distinguish between the two.
6. Maureen Dowd. She may go waspish more than she goes sincere. But even if you think she’s light, there’s no question that Dowd can skewer her subjects, or define them, whether with uncomfortable nicknames or facts.
7. Kathleen Sebilius. Or Janet Napolitano. Or Michèle Flournoy. Or Mary Schapiro. President Obama has women overseeing everything from implementation of his health care law, to homeland security, to the country’s securities oversight, a critical issue in this economic crisis. And Flournoy could be Secretary of Defense some day, too.
8. Jessica P. Einhorn, Dean of Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. SAIS is a highly respected institution, and Einhorn is part of an important generation of women in foreign policy, and this summer, will wrap up 10 years of creating the next one.
9. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The senior woman on the Supreme Court has hung on through health issues to continue her life-long fight for women’s rights.
10. Chan Heng Chee. Washington isn’t just a town where American policy gets made. It’s also the home of a vibrant diplomatic community. The deputy dean of the diplomatic corps, Ambassador Chan is the leader of Washington’s women ambassadors, a fixture in the city’s social scene, and has a long-game perspective on the American relationship with Asia.
*Full disclosure: I worked with Jayne and Barbara while I was at Washingtonian, and like and respect them both. If you’re going to put the curators of the social scene on the list, they undeniably belong there.