March 8, 2007
"Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton launched a drive on Tuesday to mobilize women voters to help her break the 'hardest and highest' glass ceiling by winning the White House," Reuters reports from Washington:
Clinton, a New York senator who hopes to become the first woman U.S. president, said her experiences as "a woman, a wife, a mother" would shape her campaign and influence her decisions if she reaches the Oval Office.
"I believe that my experiences and my qualifications uniquely equip me to hit the ground running in January 2009," she said at a luncheon for Emily's List, an influential group that helps Democratic women candidates who back abortion rights and has already endorsed Clinton.
Well, heck, if being "a woman, a wife, a mother" qualifies someone "uniquely" for the White House, our sister-in-law should be president!
Meanwhile, the New York Sun reports that at least one prominent feminist--and we're not talking about Ann Coulter--has been won over by John Edwards's womanly charms:
"Why John Edwards, given the historic nature of our extraordinary campaign for the presidency this year with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and all the others?" [abortion activist Kate] Michelman asked as she warmed up the crowd for Mr. Edwards. "I've gotten to know a lot of political leaders over the years that I've been an advocate for women's rights. I know the difference between those who advocate as a political position and those who understand the reality of women's lives." . . .
"As a lawyer, as a senator, as a husband, as a father of two daughters, he understands the reality of women's lives. He understands the centrality of women's lives and experience to the health and well-being of society as a whole. . . . He understands that on an extremely personal level," she said. . . .
Pressed about how Mr. Edwards could have a feel for women's problems that is even comparable to that of someone like Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Michelman said her concerns goes beyond identifying the issues. "He doesn't just understand. You have to begin with understanding. It's an understanding but it is a commitment. . . . He understands in a way that is tied to all of his beliefs about lifting everyone up."
But not everyone agrees that the lawyer, the senator, the husband, the father of two daughters is more suitable spokesman for the fair sex than the woman, the wife, the mother:
"I would argue that Hillary has a really good sensibility, as well, of what it's like to be a woman," the head of NARAL's New York chapter, Kelli Conlin, said with a chuckle.
The leader of a group that endorses and funds female candidates supportive of abortion rights, Ellen Malcolm of Emily's List, said Mr. Edwards's sensitivity can only go so far. "Every once in a while we get in a primary race where a man says he's the best woman in the race. I've never seen a candidate win with that argument yet. It's just ridiculous," she said.
"Hillary Clinton has spent her entire adult life working on behalf of women and children. She has a unique experience as a woman who has faced the obstacles in the way of women," Ms. Malcolm, whose organization has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, said. "No white man can understand the experience a woman has to go through to move ahead."
"No white man"? Someone will have to explain that racist non sequitur to us. While you're at it, try to make sense of Malcolm's claim that Mrs. Clinton is "unique" for having "faced the obstacles in the way of women." Apparently she is the only woman ever to face the obstacles that are in the way of them all.
In any case, there's something odd and pathetic about this whole exercise. Did Margaret Thatcher campaign on the claim that as a woman she had a unique understanding of "the reality of women's lives"? Did Golda Meir or Indira Gandhi?
Doubtless America will one day have a female president. But our guess is it'll be someone whose appeal transcends sex--who tries to win votes not from women qua women but from men and women qua citizens. So far that would seem to exclude both Mrs. Clinton and John Edwards.