Belfast Telegraph

Being a woman is no reason to put Hillary Clinton in White House

By Mary kenny

Should we support women in political ambition? We certainly should support women who wish to be politically active: but that doesn't necessarily mean that we should all support all women.

Most feminists loathed Margaret Thatcher both in life and in death, some claiming she wasn't "truly a woman" because she was "right-wing" – as if history and politics weren't littered with "right-wing" heroines, from Emmeline Pankhurst, who ditched feminist activities in 1914 to urge military support for the Great War, to the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel today.

With political women, it surely depends on their policies, their capabilities and in some cases, their party allegiances. In France, Marine le Pen has proved herself a skilful political leader, but does that justify voting for her anti-immigration National Front?

And what of Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic Presidential candidate for 2016? Hillary (it's easier to call her "Hillary" than just "Clinton", which can suggest confusion with her husband, Bill) has returned to the political battlefield with a series of speeches which are regarded as the first steps in her forthcoming presidential campaign.

She has not yet confirmed she will run, but a fundraising campaign group 'Ready for Hillary' has begun organising supporters.

In Iowa, a key state – which she lost to Barack Obama in 2008 – Democratic activists have codenamed a programme, 'Madame President'. Hillary is obviously a very capable person, and has been all her life, from her high-achieving schooldays to her deft performance as a New York senator, showing adroit political skills in reconciling those opposed to her and bringing a lawyer's proficiency to getting legislation through.

I saw her in action in China, and observed her sure touch of authority and a certain confident courage, too; against state department advice, she publicly reprimanded the Chinese government for carrying out forced abortions.

So, are we about to see the election of the first woman as president of the United States? Possibly. Yet this is a judgment to be made according to her abilities and her politics, and not because it's time for a woman in the Oval Office.

The volatile world in which we live is no place for gesture politics: wise stewardship is a key quality for the person who'll be the effective leader of the free world.

Hillary is highly experienced. But where she may be vulnerable is where so many American politicians have shown flawed judgment in the past – on foreign affairs. She has a high-minded vision of human rights and liberal democracy, rooted in her family background in the United Methodist church.

She was in favour of the invasion of Iraq, of the toppling of General Gaddafi, and of the 'Arab Spring', because she believed that the Western mission should be to bring democracy and human rights to these societies – and also because she thought it would serve American and western security.

She believes in America's role of empowering women, advancing civilian power, and, as she has recently announced, championing universal gay rights.

She also apparently directed the CIA to gather biometric and other personal details on foreign diplomats, including those of American and United Nations allies.

Hillary Clinton should be supported if she is the best person for a desperately important job – not because she is a female who greatly benefited from a powerful political marriage.

But as she gets back into the political fray, we'll have the opportunity to see the measure of her political sagacity and leadership.

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