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Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 1999 /12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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No disaster for women that Dole is out -- ELIZABETH DOLE has dropped out of the White House sweepstakes. With her go the chances of electing the first woman president of the United States. But, as a woman who cares about the well-being of my gender, all I can say is, so what? Dole was fond of telling audiences that they could "make history" by electing her America's first female president. Departing the national political stage (for now), she declared proudly that "women of all ages have invested me with their hopes and their dreams."

But really, can anyone imagine Britain's former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, having made her gender a reason to elect her? Hardly. She was simply a great leader who happened to be a woman. So it will almost certainly be, and should be, for the first woman elected to the White House.

But groups like The White House Project insist otherwise. Associated with the feminist Ms. Foundation, this is an organization "dedicated to changing the climate of American politics so that in the future women will launch successful campaigns for the U.S. presidency."

Why? How will my life be different and better simply because a person of my sex is America's chief executive? This woman's agenda is lower taxes, a strong national defense and more respect for the rights of families and parents. And it doesn't matter to me if it's a man or a woman who delivers on these issues.

Of course, those activists demanding that a woman become president believe it's fundamentally important for girls and women to see one of their own sex in that position. This is supposed to somehow make my daughters and me feel better about ourselves. But this blind push for a pair of X chromosomes in the Oval Office does just the opposite. It says that today a woman is really valued only to the extent she adopts traditionally male roles.

I know of a Marine general who bragged to anyone who would listen about his daughter, who was a Navy fighter pilot. Finally a woman asked him: "General, if your daughter were simply happily married and a terrific mother of three kids, would you be as proud of her?" The answer, of course, is no. How sad.

Liddy: "I quit!"
Then, perversely, some women aim to enhance their worth by entering some male preserve -- and, having won their way, suggest a woman's touch is needed. Patricia Schroeder, who herself once made a brief run at the presidency, served in Congress from 1972 to 1996. So one would think she'd have some interesting history to relate.

But her book, "24 Years of House Work, and the Place is Still a Mess," is, as the title suggests, an estrogen-laden look at being a female in a "male gulag." In it one reads all about her fight for so-called women's issues, including better restrooms in the House. Schroeder is a woman proud of telling us that she was once sworn into office with baby spit-up on her shoulder.

Compare her book to Margaret Thatcher's "The Downing Street Years." Thatcher didn't spend her time measuring women's restrooms. As her book recounts, she fought passionately in the great debates of the day for the big ideas she believed in, ideas that transcended puny identity politics.

Feminists didn't much care for Thatcher. And maybe as a woman she was in some ways an anomaly. (Frankly, I'm not sure I would have wanted her for a mother.) But there's no question she was an extraordinary prime minister.

So, is it unfair that a woman can't gladly sport baby spit-up and at the same time be taken seriously as a great national leader? Maybe. But my guess is that won't matter to our first female president, who will likely appeal to Americans precisely because she rejects the politics of gender.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


10/19/99: 'Humanitarian' hypocrites
10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

©1999, Scripps Howard News Service