For the week of January 6, 1999   thru January 12, 1999  

The best and brightest take their places

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

At the risk of seeming sexist about a gender topic, this might be the right time to say, "You’ve come a long way, baby!"

Women are taking their place, big time, in U.S. society since the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1920, giving them the right to vote.

Whereas women once were patronized by men as weak sisters who should stay home, bear children and fetch slippers when the Man of the House made his evening entrance, they now are powerful forces in U.S. society.

They’re university presidents, powerful newspaper and magazine publishers, Hollywood studio heads, corporate CEOs, pro sports team owners, politicians, and government cabinet officers.

And a couple events this week suggest something more is going on.

First, Elizabeth Dole resigned as president of the American Red Cross and fed every pundit ammo about her possible run for the American presidency or vice presidency.

And five Arizona women took oaths as the top, most powerful elected officials in Arizona – Jane Dee Hull as governor, Betsey Bayless as secretary of state, Lisa Graham Keegan as superintendent of public instruction, Carol Springer as state treasure, and Janet Napolitano as state attorney general. All are Republicans, except Napolitano, a Democrat.

Although Arizona was an early leader in electing women to office – including a state supreme court justice, legislators such as onetime state Senate majority leader Sandra Day O’Connor, who went on to become the first U.S. Supreme Court justice, Phoenix mayor and the like – the fact that five women beat out highly regarded men is tell-tale.

My hunch is there’s a vague, but spreading, unrest among voters about men and how they’ve botched the nation’s public affairs – and a feeling women should be given a chance to sort out the mess.

I’ve mentioned this before – the onetime female colleague who’s research for a book led her to conclude that the added X chromosome in women gives them more reliable character.

Those of us who’ve been around politicians and watched their cozy pack mentality at work eventually tire of the crudities and callous conniving. Each year brings revelations of more politicians involved in flimflamming voters, embezzlement, sexual misconduct, dodging and weaving.

Bill Clinton’s arrogant, sexual predatory habits surely are cause for some of the growing disgust.

Women in public life, however, seem to have a natural inclination for honesty and truth – perhaps born of maternal instincts to raise children properly.

There are and will be exceptions. Prisons are beginning to fill with more women who’ve turned to crime since the liberating influence of the so-called feminist movement.

But for now, the tilt is toward trusting women with the public’s business.

Her flaws and critics notwithstanding, Hillary Clinton’s higher popularity rating over husband Bill Clinton speaks volumes about whom the public trusts more.

Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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