Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How much longer before ‘Madame President’?


By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer

American women lag far behind women of other countries in reaching the top rung of political office.

But maybe they're getting closer. The fact that Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann scored high in popularity polls among Republicans indicates that the once-stuffy GOP doesn't blanch at the possibility of a female as commander-in-chief.

Knocks on females trying for so-called male work positions have always been degrading—women are too frail, too susceptible to mood swings, too motherly-intense and home-valuable to handle anything more challenging than homemaking.

Women waited 144 years after the Declaration Independence before winning the right to vote in 1920.

Except for clerks and nurses, not until World War II did the military accept women (Women's Army Corps). Only volunteer WASPS pilots were allowed to fly military aircraft, the largest and fastest that men flew, incidentally. The Navy, Army and Coast Guard came along later.

Female airline pilots and the first military pilots came along in the 1970s, combat flight status in the 1990s.

NASA got around to sending the first female astronaut into space in 1984 (Russia was first in 1963).

Women fill public offices from city hall to Congress, presidential cabinets, the Supreme Court and governorships.

But they're stalled in reaching the presidency.

Meanwhile, look what's happened in other countries.

I found 56 women listed in the archives who've served as presidents of their countries.

But women with the real power in foreign governments aren't presidents, but prime ministers that actually run the show.

I counted 51 female prime ministers. Among the most famous and influential are Britain's Margaret Thatcher, Israel's Golda Meir, India's Indira Gandhi, Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto, France's Edith Cresson, Canada's Kim Campbell, New Zealand's Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark, Germany's Angela Merkel, Australia's Julia Gillard and prime ministers of several former Soviet states.

Note that several were wartime prime ministers—Thatcher during the Falklands war, Meir in the Yom Kippur War. No frailty there.

Except for Democrat Hillary Clinton, most women prominently mentioned lately as presidential material are Republicans who frankly are giddy and shallow, not impressive adults with the intellect or levelheadedness for the Oval Office.

That kind of standout candidate won't emerge as long as Republican elders tacitly accept the likes of Palin and Bachmann as party favorites. They should be publicly rejected as skin-deep pretenders. Brainy, tested and serious women in the party known for their political savvy should be cultivated for the presidential race and held aloft as models.

"Madame President" has a nice ring to it.




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