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Front Page » March 6, 2007 » Opinion » Different shades of gray
Published 3,138 days ago

Different shades of gray

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Sun Advocate Columnist

Each month the Sun Advocate presents two views of the same subject as columnists Terry Willis and Tom McCourt see it.

Madam President?

Prominent Democrats are still throwing their hats into the ring and announcing their intentions to seek a presidential nomination. We haven't had any primary contests yet, and we don't know who will ultimately win the prize, but it is very likely that Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat candidate. She has the largest organization, the most money, lots of friends in high places, and she's been running for president for at least 14 years. But is the nation ready for a woman president, and should Hillary be that woman?

It's not that a woman couldn't be a good president. Margaret Thatcher was a good British Prime Minister and Golda Meir was a great Israeli Prime Minister. They were women of honor, character, and courage far beyond most of the men who surrounded them. David Ben-Gurion once said that Golda Meir was the only real man in the Israeli cabinet. Both women were prime ministers during times of war and both showed remarkable courage and leadership.

Throughout history there have been several women who have achieved greatness as leaders of men and nations. Queen Boutica lead the Celts against the Romans and sacked the city of London in the first century. Joan of Arc led Frenchmen to victory over the English in the early 1400s; Catherine the Great ruled Russia for 34 years; Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire for 63 years during the very peak of British world power; and more recently, Indira Ghandi served 3 terms as prime minister of India.

But in our 230 years as a nation, the United States has never had a woman president, even though a few women have come close. There have been wives who have had great influence on the presidencies of their husbands. Hillary Clinton comes to mind, as does Abigail Adams and Nancy Reagan. But no woman has ever been a presidential nominee. Geraldine Ferraro was the Democrat candidate for vice president in 1984 but went down in flames with Walter Mondale when they lost to Ronald Reagan.

There have been women in American history who might have made good presidents. Eleanor Roosevelt was smart enough, tough enough, principled enough, and popular enough to have been elected, and she might have made a great president. Today, Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, and Nancy Pelosi are as qualified, or more qualified, than most of the men running for president. There are several other women serving in government who are well qualified, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time before a woman leads our country.

But today might not be the best of times for a woman to take the helm of government. Our primary enemy today is radical Islam. Women are not equal to men in Islamic culture and most Muslims disapprove of women holding high office. That is one of the reasons Condoleeza Rice and Madeline Albright have both had difficulty negotiating in that part of the world. A woman president of the United States is going to have to be as tough as nails and she'll have to earn the respect of the Jihadists. Fear and respect is the best she can hope for from our Muslim enemies, for they will never see her as an equal. They will surely see her as an easy mark and they'll test her sorely. Any woman president lacking the courage, leadership skills, moral timbre, and resolve of a Golda Meir or a Maggie Thatcher will never measure up. And in my humble opinion, Hillary Clinton falls short, as do most of the men running for president this time. Hillary is a great politician but too malleable in the heat of public opinion to be a good leader. We need someone with real convictions and the courage to stand by those convictions, come what may.

The job of being president is an important job and we must be careful who we pick. Presidents are given great power and the decisions they make affect the country, for better or worse, forever. Abe Lincoln held the country together; Reagan won the cold war without firing a shot; and we are still living with FDR's new deal, LBJ's war on poverty, and Jimmy Carter's decision not to support the Shah of Iran against Islamic extremists in 1978. Who we pick for president is important.

Gender isn't nearly as important as brains, resolve, and the courage to do the right thing in spite of the critics.

Change is coming

It is amazing that out presidential race starts earlier and earlier. One thing is certain, that the public seems to be clamoring for change. The time is ripe to send someone to the white house that is not a 60'ish white male political insider.

The Republicans so far have not given us anything to really speculate about except for Mitt Romney who is (gasp!) LDS. But the Democrats have jumped in with a black young male and a female. Both candidates are going to turn the political picture on its head even if they don't succeed.

I think it is the prospect of Hillary that scares the status quo the most. The Republicans will have a hard time letting go of their hatred for her husband, the former president. Maybe Hillary Clinton is not the best choice to become president, but I am not sure that we have chosen the best choice for a while now. I don't believe the best choices have even stepped up to run. But Hillary is running. She knows what some people think of her. She has had to face the press and tabloid media. Still she is willing to put it on the line for a shot at running the country. I certainly do not even begin to try and compare Hillary Clinton with Margaret Thatcher. She was a great leader, but not without controversy and strife herself.

There was much ado about whether Margaret Thatcher could stand up to the world threats and great powers around her. She was untested when she took office and she met those tests. Can Hillary? Only time will tell. Using the argument that she won't have the respect of radical Islam to see her as less qualified is just worthless. I am not sure that they have respected any of the last few of our presidents. They do not see anyone in our country as an equal.

If the time is not right for a woman to become president, it is because our country still does not view women as equal. This is not just a men against women thing, but it pervades our society as a whole. We still have a salary gap in many jobs. Wal-Mart was just taken to court in a class action lawsuit for its labor practices against women. Women are still under represented in the ranks of high paying CEO positions and other high salary jobs.

Our society still prefers to watch any men's sporting event over a women's team. We forgive a basketball player who was charged with rape and pay big money to see him and yet crucify a singer whose breast was exposed on national TV through no fault of her own. The male that exposed the breast is still treated like a super star. Everyone has their opinion about these incidents, but basically we are truly harsh to women in our society that begin to get too big for their britches. Anyone remember Martha Stewart?

Hillary sums up everything we love and hate about powerful women. She is strong and brash. We have seen her go toe to toe with the big boys and come out on top. Hillary has shown signs of weakness when maybe it wasn't the best time to be soft. She has a bad boy husband. She has money. She has shown political savvy in her bid to win the New York congressional seat. I think over the next few years the press is going to chew her up and spit her out. If she can survive that, she will make it as president.

Ultimately it will come down to who is the best showman over the long haul. We don't even know who will survive the next few months in the race. Our weird political machine can send someone out of the front position over the stupidest things. In the last election it was a scream that got played over and over again. I actually hope that the race for president will be a crowded field on both sides for a long time. Keep our enemies wondering and our allies interested. Let us chose our president on their worth and not let it get decided by who votes for the peripheral issues such as bans on gay marriages.

This will be our leader for the next four years. We are in a time of great turmoil. Our president needs to be strong enough to lead us into peace, not war. We need to quickly address the issues of global warming and pollution to minimize the future damage we will cause to our planet. I agree with you totally that gender isn't nearly as important as brains, resolve and the courage to do what is right in spite of the critics.

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March 6, 2007
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