For the week of March 17, 1999  thru March 23, 1999  

Dole's not the only choice for female presidential candidate

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Yep, America is ready, maybe overdue, for a woman president.

But not Elizabeth Dole, who’s probably known as much for being the spouse of the celebrated spokesman for erectile dysfunction cures.

Ms. Dole’s presumed candidacy isn’t being greeted with universal joy, especially among female news commentators.

Syndicated newspaper columnist Debra Saunders, wrote an "I don’t want Elizabeth Dole" piece with devastating disdain.

Another news woman, New York Times reporter Melinda Henneberger, posed brutal questions about Ms. Dole’s abilities and temperament. When she asked one of Ms. Dole’s advisers, Bob Davis, about her politics, he seemed baffled. "That’s an excellent question. I’ll have to defer on that."

So, with women looking askance at Elizabeth Dole’s ambitions, male cynics surely can’t be accused of merely being sexist pigs.

Weary as it is with Bill Clinton’s juvenile antics, the nation craves for a hands-on chief executive who doesn’t invite Saturday Night Live ridicule.

If the GOP wants a woman with serious political gifts and engaging personal traits, then none’s better than New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

One of Ms. Dole’s major turnoffs is her Oprah-style, chatty, walk-around announcement with an audience of shills.

She seems more like a bubbly Mary Kay cosmetics sales manager, not a serious candidate for president. Would a President Dole stroll the aisles of the United Nations or Congress during a State of the Union address and chat her way through a serious topic on international terrorism?

Alarm bells surely went off when Ms. Dole said through that plastic grin that one asset is that she’s not a politician, and expected people to believe her.

Come, come.

Since marrying Bob Dole 23 years ago, Ms. Dole grew into a political celebrity in the world’s most political enclave, Washington, as wife of a powerful member of an exclusive political body, the U.S. Senate.

She was Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Transportation, and George Bush’s Secretary of Labor – both political appointments.

She landed her job running the American Red Cross because of her political connections, and thereafter used her husband’s political connections for entrée to pockets of fat cats for much-needed funds for the Red Cross.

And then she was a major political adviser in husband Bob’s doomed attempts to become president.

Aside from cynically peddling a myth that she’s just a Plain Jane candidate, Ms. Dole’s ambitions might be scuttled by her scripted, icicle-cold campaign tactics.

In an Arizona appearance last week, Ms. Dole received poor reviews.

News reporters complained Ms. Dole’s handlers kept them at a distance, and led them like sheep three at a time into a home to view Ms. Dole chatting with invited guests.

Reporters also noted that guests were required to write questions for Ms. Dole on 4-by-6-inch cards, which she first reviewed, then chatted with guests about topics she picked.

Ms. Dole’s Southern belle persona also is skin deep.

Beneath that cheery aplomb lies an iceberg.

Correspondent Leslie Stahl of "60 Minutes" slipped while interviewing Ms. Dole and referred to her childhood name, Liddy. The Dole warmth abruptly vanished, and Ms. Stahl felt an icy stare of disapproval.

Wonder how she’ll react when an upstart reporter asks whether househusband Bob still uses Viagra.


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