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Madam President? August 12, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Claire McCaskill, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, National Politics, Politics, Presidential Politics, Republicans, Sarah Palin, Women's Issues.
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claire-mccaskill-and-flag1As a woman, I hate to admit that I have always had a problem with women politicians.  I view them in the way I have always looked at the female bosses I have had; they’ve worked so hard to make it in a man’s world that they have become male clones.  The qualities that we value in women – empathy, nurturing, listening, and comprehension – are highly valued leadership qualities.  Most women turn their back on this in favor of the “tough manager” requirement of leaders.   But leadership is not merely management.

For the past three years, I have been involved in a series of leadership forums both as a participant and as an instructor.  Good leaders are hard to find – and it is very difficult to teach leadership to anyone.  It is a lot easier to teach women how to be tough and effective managers than it is to teach men to be caring and empathetic leaders. 

This was the problem, I believe, that Hillary Clinton had with voters.  Her advisers probably told her that the first serious female candidate for President needed to be perceived as tough.  This is why she could never back down on her position on the Iraq War.  That position cost her with the Liberal base voters – the ones that generally show up for primaries and caucuses.  Even Sarah Palin – who doesn’t seem to have an empathetic bone in her body – was handled incorrectly.  Despite her obvious intellectual shortcomings, Sarah could have been sold to the American public.  She was, after all, only nominated as Vice-President, and no matter what you think of John McCain’s age – he seems pretty healthy.  Instead, Sarah was sent out as the attack dog; the pit bull with lipstick attacking the Obama campaign and chewing it up.   The McCain campaign should have played up Palin’s management and leadership skills both as a local and state politician – but also as the mother of five managing a job and a household.  People – women and men – would have responded.

There are, however, two women politicians out there with national profiles that fit this new mold of female leader.  They are Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D- FL) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D- MO).  

Rep. Wasserman-Shultz is the first Jewish congresswoman ever to be elected from Florida.  She served many years in the State Legislature and is well known for her fierce advocacy of women and children’s issues as well as her principled position during the Terri Schiavo debacle.  She is one tough lady – but she is also the mother of three and waged a personal battle against breast cancer – all while serving her constituents and taking care of her family.  I have a great admiration for this woman – and agree that she bears watching for the political future.

Then there’s Claire McCaskill.  She first came to my attention early in the Democratic primaries last year as an early and vocal supporter of Barack Obama.  McCaskill was elected as the first woman Senator from Missouri in 2006.  She has a background as an attorney and prosecutor and served as Missouri state auditor prior to her election to the Senate.  McCaskill spent many years raising her children as a single mom and exhibits the toughness and no-nonsense approach that is the hallmark of the single mother. 

What really has grabbed my attention about McCaskill recently has been her demeanor in contentious town hall meetings during the past few weeks.  In the face of these angry, shouting mobs, she has kept her cool and been able to bring real information to the “Fixed-News” ginned-up crowds.  Yesterday, Senator McCaskill held a meeting in St. Louis.  Many of the hundreds of people in the crowd were obviously there to shout her down but she was actually able to make  a few points about the misinformation floating around out there – and on several occasions, seemed to calm the unruly constituents (?) down.  It truly was a heroic performance (watch video clips HERE).

Women like McCaskill and Wasserman-Shultz have that “just-right” mix of principles, character, toughness, and empathy that make them the perfect women to grab this nation’s highest office.   If either of them choose to run – I am totally on board.



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