Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 1999/ 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Lose one Dole, lose two
IN THE DAYS of Damon Runyon and other grown-ups, when you could talk about guys and
dolls as guys and dolls, someone would have described Elizabeth Dole as "a classy dame.''
She's good looking and dresses to show it. She wears high heels, never clunky running shoes.
She's aggressive but never loses her feminine charm. Her soft southern accent helps.
appealing to women for her courage to get out in front with issues and to men who never
found her shrill. She struck the right style if not the right substance.
But she's not ready to be the first woman president. Close, but no cigar. It's not the money.
She doesn't have the clarity of vision to speak unequivocally about what she believes. She
has never before run for elective office, and two cabinet offices don't count. "Wife of''
presidential candidate doesn't either. (Hillary take note).
She was never the Stepford wife her critics tried to make her out to be, but she failed to
follow through on issues like gun control and rebuilding the military. She could have linked
those two ideas in a powerful theme showing her independence of mind, but she didn't.
Many women decried her withdrawal from the campaign as the result of the prejudice that
still confronts women candidates. That's not quite true. She actually tapped fresh resources in
galvanizing women contributors and volunteers. More than half of her big donors were
To her credit, she didn't cry sexism. Successful women (and men) have to learn how to run
against sexual stereotypes. George W. is boyishly macho and he runs with it, not from it.
Elizabeth Dole is feminine in her fashion without compromising her credibility. It's time to stop
demanding that a woman who runs for president has to sound like Margaret Thatcher,
dominate like Indira Gandhi and look like Golda Meir.
To her credit, sexual politics was peripheral rather than central to Elizabeth Dole's campaign.
No one debated what wonders she would bring to the office because she was not a man.
She was hurt rather than helped by being half of a "Power Couple.'' Bob Dole was not an
asset. She was not an avenger for her husband as George W. is an avenger for his father. A
lot of people say they regret not voting for the father but nobody regrets not voting for the
husband. That wasn't her fault but she was stuck with it. The sooner we can get away from
exploiting the spouse, the better.
John McCain and his wife Cindy were interviewed side by side on ABC's "This Week'' and
both suffered. This was not Bill and Hillary on "60 Minutes,'' where a wife was called on to
save her husband. Nevertheless, it was difficult not to feel sorry for Mrs. McCain to be so
patronized by the interviewers.
She wouldn't disagree with her husband about anything. Most "spouses of'' can't either,
unless they're "exploring'' a run for themselves, for say, a Senate seat from New York.
The lingering sexist issue in campaigns is how we allow these "spouses of'' to be exploited. It
has mostly fallen on the shoulders of women, but we shouldn't expect a spouse of either sex
to be interviewed over what he/she thinks about issues of the candidate. It's always
demeaning and may explain why Bob Dole, perhaps unwittingly and certainly ungallantly,
talked out loud about sending money to Sen. McCain's campaign.
When Sam Donaldson asked Cindy McCain how she responds when her husband is
accused of being a hypocrite for taking money while campaigning for campaign reform, she
replied, "I don't.'' What else could she say? Did Sam, Cokie or George expect her to agree?
"Being the wife of someone like this,'' she says, "is often difficult for me because I can't
always answer those questions and I can't always say what I really think with regards to how
I feel.'' So what's the point of the interview?
Conventional wisdom says Elizabeth Dole has a shot at George W.'s veep if Al Gore (or Bill
Bradley) takes Dianne Feinstein or another woman to be his lawful wedded running mate.
Maybe, maybe not. Elizabeth Dole would have been a stronger candidate if she had
expanded on her foreign policy insights. But it's difficult to believe that George W. wants two
Doles in his inner circle. We've learned how expensive it can be when you buy one, and get
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©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate