Chief White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz blogs from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:
The administration wants to sell 900 JDAMs ..those big, precise GPS controlled bombs, to a country that won't let me go to the hotel gym because I am a woman. And it is an American owned hotel--a Marriott. Yes, the announcement that the JDAMS would be added to the 20 billion dollar weapons package for the region came at almost the precise time I walked into the gym to inquire how late it would be open. "Sorry, ma'am---but ladies are not allowed in here." As you might imagine, this did not sit well with me. After eight brutal days on the road hopping from country, you grab a workout whenever you can. So I offered what I thought was a reasonable compromise---let the men work out for a few hours, then let "the ladies" work out. "Let me check," the man at reception offered. I knew it wouldn't happen, but I had to try. After a few minutes, the answer that I expected. "Sorry, ma'am, but that is not possible."
Don't get me wrong, I respect other cultures and am a seasoned traveler in the Mideast. I know in some places they separate women and men (which is what my solution addressed I thought!) But it is the first time in decades I was made to feel like a second class citizen---and it is not a pleasant feeling. I also wondered how President Bush, an exercise fanatic, would feel if he was turned away from a gym. He touts the positive changes that the US invasion of Afghanistan brought...and criticizes the human rights record in Saudi ( compared to that record the no gym action pales) but judging from the fact we are spending two days here (and only 4 hours in Egypt) Saudi is very high on the president's BFF list.
And I am sure all the men on the treadmill were pleased about the news that 123 million dollars worth of bombs might be coming this way. I don't know how the women feel--there weren't any around.