Jim:

Last week we saw and heard the last hurrah of Hilary Clinton. Stepping down from four hard years as Obama's first Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton handed several smug GOP senators a hard one-two punch, as she swung back at their silly accusations about the Benghazi embassy attack. She pounded her fist on the table and interrupted their inane blather. I was proud of her and will miss her on the national scene. I slept better while she was the head of the State Department.

Last week, too, Obama nominated an equally tough woman to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mary Jo White served for ten years as the United States Attorney for Manhattan. During that decade, she convicted some of the Islamic thugs who committed the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. She nailed white-collar thugs who were guilty of securities fraud. And she hammered some organized crime culprits, as well.

Quipped the President during his announcement, "I'd say that's a pretty good run." He added, "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo."

That's a good slogan for the Wall Street tycoons to hang on their office walls for the next four years. It could make a refreshing change. The SEC has been a weenie agency for longer than I've been a senior citizen. The agency missed, or ignored, what Bernie Madoff was up to for years. It blew the whole "derivatives" debacle until that bubble blew up in the commission's collective kisser.

Even when the SEC went after an errant financial firm, it settled for fines from the company. Individuals were left alone, allowed to stash their personal ill-gotten gains in offshore accounts. SEC prosecution, when it happened at all, became just another cost of doing business. The extant acronym among corrupt investment bankers, I have heard, was IBGYBG: "I'll be gone; you'll be gone," when the doodoo hits the fan.

We Boomers can now hope that one of our number is about to turn that white whale around, sparing us the next Wall Street bubble by vigilantly chasing down the greedy so-and-so's who plot these scams. Is it too much to hope that our pensions are secure?

If so, my hat will be permanently off to the second truly tough woman that Mr. Obama has had the good sense to bring into the Administration's inner circle.

What would bring this story of tough women in Obama's White House to a perfect ending would be a female successor to the first black president, come 2016.

Claire:

Last week, Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta officially removed the longstanding military ban on women in combat. Although many women have in fact been serving in combat for quite some time now, those that serve will finally get the recognition and benefits they deserve, and others will get the chance to which they're entitled.

Of course, not everyone sees this as a huge step towards equality. I'm talking about men.

It doesn't matter that Panetta explicitly stated that standards will not be lowered for any job based on the applicant's gender. It doesn't matter that there hasn't been a draft in 40 years, and so it's unlikely that women will ever be forced into the military (a dubious concern if I ever heard one, and a clear case of concern-trolling). It doesn't matter that women already face rampant sexual harassment in the military, a problem that needs to be addressed but has little to nothing to do with the ban on combat (and is nevertheless consistently pulled out as an excuse to segregate the sexes). There are still men out there who find it inexplicable that a woman could - or rather, should be allowed to - ever compete with a man. But if what these men claim is true - that women are physically, mentally, or otherwise too weak to be in combat with men - then why are they so afraid of letting women try?

I think it comes down to this: men are the real wimps in this situation.

Take the words of Jerry Boykin, a former Army lieutenant general, now the executive vice president of the Family Research Council. He has a lot to say about women in combat, including the usual smack about women being too weak to fight or lowering the military's standards - both false statements. But then his argument takes a turn, and he ironically makes men sound like the far weaker sex. His arguments?

First, that it would be too humiliating - even traumatizing! - for men to be on combat missions with women, because of personal hygiene issues. He says: "Now, as a man who has been there, and a man who has some experience in these kinds of units, I certainly don't want to be in that environment with a female, because it's degrading and humiliating enough to do your personal hygiene and other normal functions among your teammates." So basically, men are simply too shy to have women invading their privacy.

Second, women are just too darn sexy for combat. How can a man be expected to concentrate on a war when there are breasts in the vicinity?

I don't know about you, but these arguments are making me question the ability of men to serve in combat, not women.