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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.

Palin’s Prospects July 29, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in National Politics, Politics, Republicans, Sarah Palin.
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ap_palin_fishing_090706_mnNow that she has departed as Alaska’s governor, will we finally stop obsessing over Sarah Palin?  The whole “what will she do now” debate is getting nearly as bad as the “what does Hillary want” discussion prior to last year’s Democratic convention. 

Most pundits think that Palin is beginning her campaign to lay claim to the 2012 Presidential nomination.  I say nomination because most analysts, even Conservative ones, do not believe she could win.  Also, leaving elective office – not necessarily leaving the public eye – has never been the way to bolster one’s credentials.  Palin will have the shadow of “quitter” over her head.  Americans don’t tend to like someone who quits things.

On Hardball with Chris Matthews yesterday on MSNBC, Pat Bucahan and Tom DeFrank (political columnist for the New York Daily News) discussed Palin’s prospects.  The panel wondered if Palin was using the “Nixon playbook” to rise to the Presidency after her farewell screed excoriating the media (the media that MADE her, after all).  Nixon made the famous “you won’t have me to kick around” statement in 1963, then went on to win the Presidency in 1968 as the “anti” candidate; anti-media, anti-liberal elite, anti-Hollywood – all the “anti’s” that Palin is focusing on.  It is obvious, DeFrank said, that this is the playbook she is following.  DeFrank describes her as “a walking culture war,”  but he also believes that Palin following the Nixon playbook will not work.  “She has no intellectual curiosity,” DeFrank said.  “Remember, Nixon was a member of Congress, he was a Senator, a Vice-President.  She was a governor for two and a half years – and she walked away.”

One thing is certain, Palin will have to work very hard to keep herself in the public eye and bolster her approval ratings.  The latest ABC-Washington Post Poll finds her negatives at 53% among all voters, and among the crucial indepent block, her negative rating is at 51%.  As one independent voter stated, “She just, to me, lacks substance and dedication,” and added that Palin “strikes me as being more interested in celebrity than in actually doing political work.”  Palin still has great numbers among Republicans at 70% approval – but as the Republican party continues to shrink – will that help her or hurt her?  Her support among Republicans to actually win the nomination and become President is only at 17%.

What is worse for Palin is the new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll released today that shows 32% of Americans believe that Sarah Palin should focus on being a homemaker now that she is out of government.  Only 14% and 6% feel she would make a good Vice-President or President, respectively.  Perhaps all of her focus on the “attacks on her family” have made Americans believe she should spend more time with them.

I make no bones about it – I don’t like Sarah Palin and the kind of politics she represents.  The last administration were masters of the game that Palin is trying to play – take the voter’s minds off big, real issues with silly distractions about flag pins,  liberal media bias, and cultural issues that the culture can figure out without help from politicians.  I also believe that  Americans can no longer afford to value style over substance and elect a person that knows nothing and doesn’t care to learn it.  Palin has unbelievable political  instincts but she is just a beautifully wrapped box – with nothing inside.  Sarah does what is good for Sarah.

I am 47 years old and I want to see a woman as President of this country before I die.  Electing this woman, however, is not on my bucket list and shouldn’t be on anyone else’s.