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March 14th, 2008
09:46 AM ET

The Politician's wife: Caught in the crosshairs

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Faye Wattleton, President, Center for the Advancement of Women

While political sex scandals are nothing new, the media's scrutiny of their impact on politicians' spouses is a relatively new topic of conversation.

As far back as we know, men in power have engaged in extra-marital affairs.  It wasn't until then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, perhaps due to her elevated profile on universal health care reform, endured the public humiliation of standing beside her husband, before a phalanx of cameras on live national television, did the public begin unrestrained discussion and debate about the behavior of the victims, especially that of the politician's wife. "Stepford Wife" was a label often uttered by the disdainful; others defended her stoicism.

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Filed under: Eliot Spitzer • Faye Wattleton
February 29th, 2008
12:43 PM ET

The men behind the woman

It’s ironic that at this historical point in women’s political advancement, the governing powers of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign - Mark Penn, Terry McAuliffe, Howard Wolfson and her husband - have managed to do the impossible. They’ve turned the first credible and well-funded run for the presidency by a woman into something that looks and feels exactly like everything Americans have come to detest. The strategy has resulted in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign becoming just another partisan attack dog.

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Faye Wattleton, President, Center for the Advancement of Women

In focus group research, by the Center for the Advancement of Women, some women said they wouldn’t support Mrs. Clinton because they viewed her as calculating and manipulative for her personal political ambitions. Other women told us that they wouldn’t vote for a woman for president because she is a woman. If she didn’t put forth an agenda that would make life better for women, her candidacy would be judged as any other.

It’s hard to understand why Mrs. Clinton has allowed her campaign generals to squander the opportunity to mobilize women by focusing on everyday issues that we care about, instead of resorting to complaining, ridiculing and attacking her primary opponent. They’ve given women, who should have been a solid supporting constituency but never were, good reasons to close the gender gap by finding inspiration on Sen. Barack Obama’s vague promises of unity and change. 

Women would expect Mrs. Clinton, the first woman to make it this far in the presidential race, to know better. From her personal journey, she could and should address women in a way that reflects a visceral understanding of the continuing struggle for equality and fair treatment and how her presidency will truly make a difference for women.  She still can turn her campaign toward addressing inequality and oppression. Lilly Ledbetter could become her campaign’s symbolic poster girl for the need for change to achieve true equality for women. Connecting to women is connecting with America. At this point, she has nothing to lose.

If the men behind the woman understood this reality for their candidate she certainly hasn’t reflected it. I simply can’t believe that she doesn’t know better. It’s not too late: the delegate spread between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama is slim, two delegate-rich primaries lay ahead, and the undecided super delegates could still give her their vote.  Even if her dream is denied, the power of her delegate base can force Mr. Obama to make concrete commitments to improve the lives of American women during his presidency.

– Faye Wattleton, 360° Contributor/President of the Center for the Advancement of Women

www.advancewomen.org


 


Filed under: Faye Wattleton • Raw Politics
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