When an e-mail chat with a friend turned to the subject of the presidential race the other day, I expressed my disappointment over several recent comments by Sen. Hillary Clinton.
My friend's reply: "So you are displeased with Hillary? I like Hillary and will probably vote for her. I just find it so interesting when people (especially women) say they won't vote for Hillary because they 'just don't like her.' Too bad our society feels so threatened by intelligent and strong women. I truly believe the world would be a better place if our leaders were all women."
I couldn't agree more with the latter part of his statement. You see, I'm a card-carrying liberal feminist - well, there's no actual card, but if there were I'd carry it proudly. My car has bumper stickers that read "God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions" and "Peace Is Patriotic." As an 18-year-old, I marched against the Shoreham nuclear plant; today, I march against the war. I reuse and recycle. I support a woman's right to choose. When one guest at a recent dinner party said to me, "Oh, you're one of those peaceniks, aren't you?" I thanked him - even though somehow I don't think he intended it as a compliment.
With my liberal cred established, you might expect that I'd be thrilled that, finally, there's a viable female candidate for president. I grew up well before you could buy a Barbie doll pre-packaged as the commander in chief. A woman with a chance to win the highest office in the land? Where do I pull the lever?
As with many of my politically simpatico friends, I want to want to vote for Clinton. I'm not one of those women who "just doesn't like her." But, despite my belief that the world desperately needs more women in positions of power, Clinton has been a real disappointment to me.
Yes, she's extremely intelligent, very capable and probably truly concerned about the issues I care most about: environmental protection, health care, diversity, world peace and the rest of the so-called liberal agenda. But, regardless of the fact that right-wing extremists like to make Clinton the poster child for the bleeding-heart crowd, her positions have been anything but liberal.
Why has it been so difficult for her to acknowledge that her vote to support the Iraq War was a mistake? Former Sen. John Edwards has done so. Far from an act of weakness, it's a sign of character to be able to say "I'm sorry" - especially for an action that has led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. Now that the war rates poorly in public opinion polls, Clinton has spoken out against it. Better late than never, but late nonetheless.
Why can't Clinton take on the hate-mongerers and stop the "I support civil unions, but marriage is between a man and a woman" talk? I know, I know. No other Democratic candidate - with the exception of Dennis Kucinich, and we know where his poll numbers are - has been firm in his support of gay marriage. It's probably politically naive to expect it. What a shame.
Why can't Clinton come clean and refuse to take money from lobbyists? Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Edwards have both made that bold pledge. Her reasoning - that lobbyists represent "real Americans" - doesn't ring true. Perhaps this is just more liberal naivete on my part.
Speaking of naívetÃƒ©, that's an accusation being tossed around frequently these days. Clinton has called Obama naíve and irresponsible for saying that he would meet with foreign dictators and take using nuclear weapons off the table in targeting Osama bin Laden. Trying to engage in talks with leaders who disagree with us? Coming out against using nuclear weapons? Those hardly seem like outrageous positions.
Before the Clinton-Obama sniping grabbed the headlines, Elizabeth Edwards made some waves by suggesting that her husband is a better candidate for women than Clinton. "Sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues," Elizabeth Edwards said of Clinton. But it's misleading to get sidetracked by whether Clinton is overdoing the testosterone-laden talk. I know plenty of men who support the same issues I do, and some women who don't.
The truth should come down to this: Women - and men, for that matter - should support the candidate who most reflects their principles, not their anatomy. It's not about "just not liking" Clinton. It's about just not agreeing with her.
Jenna Kern-Rugile is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Newsday.
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