John Edwards and the Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants

How many male politicians do you think are burning their little black books and expunging e-mails today, as another of their brotherhood bites the dust from his own lack of zipper control?

We have way too much information about John Edwards and his self-described narcissism. Clearly, like any good lawyer, John Edwards can look us straight in the eye and lie like a rug, as he did initially about his affair with Rielle Hunter.

But then sex, lies, and politics go together like peanut butter, jelly, and bread in America. And sex scandals are the one aspect of government that consistently works across geography and party lines. After all John McCain has admitted to affairs himself. There’s no partisanship in bed, except for short-lived tactics where the sway of sex can be used to bring one’s opponent down.

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When I was an adolescent growing up in wild West Texas back in the Stone Age 1950’s, I matured early, as they used to say. It wasn’t unusual for the boys to make public jokes about my physique. All in good humor of course. They probably thought it was a compliment. Commentary about breast size, what was under your skirt, or how you might fare in a wet t-shirt contest was just the way things were: that era’s version of cowboy chic. A woman had to grin and bear it if a man objectified her this way or she’d risk losing her friends, her job, her popularity at school. The term “sexual harassment” hadn’t been coined, let alone become the subject of laws to prevent the various abusive behaviors that fall into its rubric.

But, thanks to the courageous action of women and men who had the good sense to recognize such abuse of power for what it is, there are laws now to protect people from that kind of humiliation.

Laws that apparently don’t faze one man running for president of the United States. John McCain’s disrespect for women was captured by this video. I was in pain watching Cindy McCain. She looked like she’d swallowed a lemon when at a South Dakota biker rally, Senator(!) McCain suggested that Cindy enter the notoriously raunchy and frequently topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. Instead of swallowing and laughing like I did in my pre-consciousness-raised youth, she should have called him on it and walked off the stage. I’ll bet she would have been cheered.

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Bite Your Tongue When It Comes to Politics? Hmmm.

Are you in the same boat?

My friend Ruth Nemzoff, Resident Scholar at Brandeis University Women’s Studies, has written a new book that totally resonates with me as a parent and/or step-parent of six adult children, five of whom have spouses (one an almost ex-spouse, further complicating things) as well. The book is called Don’t Bite your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children. Great title, isn’t it?

Here’s just one of the helpful tidbits in the book, as summarized by Ruth, and believe it or not, it relates directly to Heartfeldt Politics:

It is summer and many families are vacationing together. The Republican and Democratic conventions are about to begin. But families aren’t talking politics. No, politics is often off limits. It is not a “safe” topic like the weather or the latest tennis match. It could lead to disagreements, and no one wants the unpleasantness of a fight. But when families don’t talk politics, they miss an opportunity to learn about each others’ lives and understand the other’s point of view. Instead, adult children wonder how their parents could hold such Neanderthal views. Liberal parents wonder how they raised such conservative children, or vice versa. No one really connects. Part of the problem is vocabulary. One generation’s description is another generation’s slur. We would all benefit from ignoring vocabulary and instead probe for on the hopes and experiences behind the words.

Many of us avoid politics because we fear conflagrations. However, but if we are to create close relationships we families often need to talk about difficult topics without flaring up. Listening with interest can help; so can asking questions. If we in families can’t talk about what matters to us, how can we as a nation?

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Why Hillary Will Lead More Women To Partake in Politics

Like Kristen said in her post at Girl With Pen, “Now That The Dust Has Settled (Sort Of)”, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president is still fascinating to ponder. I was recently asked to write an article on the topic for the ILF Digest, the journal of a think tank I’ve been a fellow of (I find this terminology amusing, but have never come up with an acceptable alternative—can you?) for some years. It won’t be published for a few weeks but I’d like to share an excerpt here because takes up where Kristen’s questions were leading:

Despite many problems with sexism in the culture and media that made themselves self-evident during Hillary Clinton’s campaign, there are even more reasons to be optimistic that Clinton’s presidential run will be a net plus in motivating women to enter politics. I predict a sea change in women’s participation in politics up and down the ticket and in non-elective political roles as well, for these reasons:

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Women, Ambition, and Barrier Breaking

In my previous post suggesting an “Obama for Women” agenda, I suggested Barack Obama incorporate an initiative to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first introduced in 1923 and still hasn’t been ratified into the Constitution. John has posted a couple of times to say that he sees giving equality to women under the law as imposing one morality on all. Further, he’s pointed out that women are 51% of the population, so we should act like the majority we are and know our own power.

Though his first point is ludicrous, the second raises some questions worth considering. I began to ask some of them in an article I wrote for Elle magazine’s upcoming September edition (time out for self-promotion: check newsstands the first week in August). In my research, I found that political doors are now open for women, but women aren’t walking through them, let alone racing through them toward parity in elected office as I’d like to see. So when my friend and WomenGirlsLadies panel colleague Deborah Siegel asked me to guest post on her Girl With Pen blog while she’s off getting married, I decided to ask some tough questions which I will cross post here on Heartfeldt. To wit, and I look forward to your thoughts as to the why and what’s to be done about it:

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If Bush Decides Contraception is Abortion, it Must Be True, Right?

Why would anybody be surprised that the Bush administration plans to propose new federal regulations allowing health care providers to run roughshod over established scientific and medical principles, even when they are doing it with your taxpayer money?

After all, Bush’s first official act after taking office was to issue an executive order reinstating the global gag rule, which prevents international family planning programs receiving U. S. Funding from even uttering the word abortion. Why would anybody be surprised that an administration willing to breach medical ethics by preventing doctors from giving patients full information about their health care options is also willing in its waning days to go the second mile for its zealous anti-choice base and redefine medical ethics to suit their ideology? Even to redefine important forms of contraception as abortion?

The right has made sexual matters unspeakable while the left and center have made it a central tenet to keep these matters private. No wonder that even the public discussion of reproductive issues so often gets giggles and Bush’s minions get a free ride as they go about their merry way to steamroller science with their ideology.

Here’s some of the text of the proposed regulations, explained by Cristina Page’s excellent analysis on RHRealityCheck:

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Here’s the Op-Ed Version of My Last 3 Posts


Read my op ed pasted in below “What Obama needs to do to attract women’s votes” in the Chicago Sun Times, One of Obama’s hometown papers. If you concur, send the link to Sen. Obama via this feedback form from his campaign website to make your voice heard.

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In the first post on “Message to Obama: Change Your View to Obama for Women“, I made clear that I’ll vote for Obama, but the fervor with which I and many other women work for his election will be determined by his actions going forward. As one former Clinton activist said, “women aren’t marginal; we’re the key”. John Kerry took women’s votes for granted, and won only 51% of women’s votes in 2004. That’s several points too low to create a gender gap capable of propelling any Democratic presidential candidate to victory.

Since I wrote that post, Obama’s tidy double digit lead over John McCain evaporated to a measly 3%, a statistical dead heat. This shift was brought about in no small part by Obama’s clumsy attempts to tack to the presumed center on core issues like wiretapping and abortion ostensibly to broaden his base, but instead turning off the passionately progressive grassroots groundswell that brought him to where he is. And remember–Republicans vote for their candidate come hell or high water while Democrats argue the issues, and that’s how we all too often lose elections.

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Explanatory note: While the debate continues over at my previous post about Obama for Women, and I still wouldn’t vote for McCain under any circumstance, I’ve had to take a step back as I realized just how seriously damaging Obama’s comments about abortion and sex education could be. This situation is all the more reason he must give the sexism speech as I have suggested. He needs to do more than merely “clarify” his position on these issues; he needs to take a much bigger look at his own thinking about women’s rights and rightful place in the world. Here goes:

I was planning to attend Barack Obama’s big fundraising reception in New York Wednesday night and make the maximum contribution to his campaign, but I have torn up the invitation.

My decision isn’t about the money, though the thought of writing a check for $4600 takes my breath away. It seemed that important to do my part to prevent the 100% anti-choice John McCain’s election and a de facto third Bush term.

I supported Hillary Clinton in the primary because I believe she’s the most capable of meeting the enormous challenges the next president will face undoing the damage to women’s rights, health, and justice caused by Bush. Still, I’ve admired Obama since I met him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Later, in Washington after he was elected to the Senate, I sensed he was genuine in his commitment to women’s equality. So, despite my still-raw feelings about Hillary’s concession, I was prepared to go forward this week and commit full support to Obama.

Then the danger signals started.

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Unity symbols abound on the Democratic side of the presidential campaign these days. Barack Obama writes a personal check to help retire Hillary Clinton’s campaign debt; the two appear together, smiling, in Unity NH. He phones Bill. Fundraising events coming up in NY will find them together raising money for both Obama’s campaign and to pay Clinton’s debt.

Week before last, I attended a breakfast where boldface New York Clinton supporters were invited by Women for Obama to bridge their candidate preference chasm. Perfect giant strawberries and mini-muffins remained untouched on their silver platters in the dining room, while former Random House scion Bob Bernstein’s elegant Upper East Side living room fairly burst with highly caffeinated women. Gloria Steinem, iconic Hillary endorser who had already publicly thrown her support to Barack, urged us in her ever-optimistic way to support Obama in the “interest of our best interests.”

It was a tough and impassioned group, three groups actually. Some were quite ready to support Obama because, as someone said, “the alternative is unthinkable”. Others, too bruised or bitter to do otherwise, urged Hillary for vice-president. I count myself among those strong Clinton supporters who know Obama needs not just our votes but also our enthusiasm for victory. This meeting didn’t get me there, and since then the candidate himself hasn’t helped his own cause.

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