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Michealene Cristini Risley Headshot

A Road Trip to Texas, and Questions to Ponder in 2008

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This is a critical week for the democratic presidential nomination. I am very nervous about the end results. Last Friday, I sent out an email to some of my friends that went something like this "Okay girls, how about a road trip to Texas?" (Think Thelma and Louise with a little bit of Brad Pitt sprinkled in.) "I bring a camera, we drive, we laugh and we help Hillary SURGE to victory. " C'mon," I said. "This is a once in a lifetime Opportunity."

One of my friends emailed back and said "Sorry, I would love to go, but I am supporting, Obama." I said that's okay. If you can drive all the way to TEXAS with a car full of Senator Clinton supporters and not change your mind, then we promise to drop you off at Senator Obama headquarters. She quickly responded, "Are you going to drop me off dead or alive? " (giggle)

Another friend replied, "Thanks for thinking of me. I hope you'll still be my friend when you find out I'm a Republican."

Of course, I will. And to me, their responses are at the very heart and soul of a Democratic society. CHOICE. As we get closer to the election each of us will have our own definition of what makes a good president and who we think is most qualified for that post. As we move towards the finish line for the Democratic nomination, I have a couple of questions for us to ponder together?

Question #1: What is it about a woman in power that strikes with a pointed stake at the very heart of terror for some people?

Oh I know that I am going to get bombarded with comments. Perhaps right now you are aching to send me a little love note, but don't. Valentines Day is over. Just take a moment and read the next few paragraphs before you respond. Please.

There are so many people, men and women uncomfortable with a female in power. No matter what you think of Senator Hillary Clinton personally she has dedicated her life to public service. Period. Why are so many discussions about her focused on her "Personality?" The ice queen, the Feminist, the thick-ankled "Wo-man. What? She has taken on issues that no one else has dared to touch-because she passionately cares about this country. Who cares how warm she comes across, and how nurturing she is and frankly all of us have bad hair days. Do we use the same analysis for male candidates? Can you imagine, a conversation around the water cool discussing, how "bitchy" President Bush seemed at the last national address? Or when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, "he didn't seem nurturing enough". You'd be laughed right back to your cubicle.

Many people talk about her failed health care plans when she was the first lady. No one talks about how she had the courage to take health care on, when no one else dared to.

She has taken many issues and brought them into the forefront of national debate with courage and tenacity. This would be a critical part of any definition of Commander-in-Chief. How can we solve a problem if we cannot create awareness? Do we continue to fan ourselves with the feathers of an ostrich nation? It is obvious; the next president is going to have to quickly deal with the economy, the wars, the pollution. There are serious issues to leap into and resolve. We have our global reputation in tatters. There is the potential of a looming recession at home. Why do people want this job?

The worse part of the argument against Hillary is the woman is not electable because her husband had an affair. The Republicans are going to go after Bill in the press. (They already have.) The anti-Clinton groups will say that Bill is such a liability that we can't hire this w-o-m-a-n. Her ambition is so enormous that she stayed with her husband so that she could run for further office? Is the American Public truly that stupid?

Frankly the woman has had the blasted courage to stay with him. It takes far more courage to stay when your partner has an affair then leave. And every detail of his dalliance was broadcast around the globe. The state of marriage in this country is abysmal, so why is her resilience and courage denigrated? She forgave him and moved on. What a tough, strong woman.

The article written by Stanley Fish for the New York Times "all you need is Hate" right on target.

He compares the Hillary hating as "The closely analogy is to anti-Semitism." He makes a very strong argument that so much of the anti-Hillary negativity comes from nowhere. She couldn't possibly be all those things.

Hillary is an amazing candidate for president of the United States or any job to represent our country. Her candidacy brings a great deal of knowledge, experience and intellect to the job. Being a woman has not much to do with it, although so many see it as an impediment. I prefer to look at being a woman as an asset-particularly at a time in our history that a lot of healing needs to happen. Hillary is risk-taker. She knows and understands the repercussion of her actions. So why do we focus on the size of her ankles?

What makes me so angry are groups like Roger Stones Hillary-Hating 527 "Citizens United Not timid." There is nothing timid about the acronym for Senator Clinton. The acronym for this group is a discriminatory word. A word that all people should be angry about. It's like the word nigger. I don't see anyone calling Senator Obama a nigger. (Nor should they) Why should it be anyone different for Senator Clinton? Don't these people have children that look up to them? If so, they should be embarrassed. If not, they should still be embarrassed for showing their maturity level, and to me it's pretty close to pre-kindergarten.

Question #2-What experience does Senator Obama have?

I am all for Senator Obama as president too, as long as there is the word VICE in front of it. I do see his charisma, his honest and direct approach but I am not willing to PROJECT ALL OF MY HOPES onto someone (man woman or animal frankly) without a track record. Our country is at a pivotal point in history and I am not about to get all dreamy eyed about the promise of Hope. Reality, people, I have seen many people project their hope on a candidate who was going to "save them" from another attack on our country. We screamed, "save us" to President Bush and look where all that hope was squandered.

Is the whole country acting out a first crush? I hope not. I have read the Emperor's New Clothes and I am scared that we are writing the sequel.

When Senator Obama's campaign began to get some initial momentum, it was through a scantily clad young girl dancing around in a bikini. Where was his staff or him to talk about how inappropriate that was for his campaign? Or any campaign. Look around in the media, we use the female body to sell everything from yogurt to automobile parts and no one seems to even acknowledge this. Or acknowledge what it does to our society as a whole.

Senator Obama will make a great president someday. I just don't want to go into premature labor. After the last debate, The View, showed some outtakes from debate-watchers that were brought together after the event. All these Obama supporters could not rattle off a single issue that he legislated. Scary. Remember the saying that came from Jim Jones and Jonestown, "Don't drink the Kool-aid?" Is it too late? I can see this great big red wagon stuffed with supporters. What if the wagon is heading over the cliff and no one has bothered to ask?

I am fearful we have a bit of the same type of enthusiastic hysteria about Senator Obama. He is handsome, charismatic and a great orator. Can we just allow him to gather some more experience before he swivels the chair in the oval office?

Question #3: Why do Women and Children's issues get relegated to the back of the bus?

Frankly, it is time for a woman. We have way too many issues that have long been labeled woman's concerns. Last Monday, I spoke and moderated a panel at the United Nations.

On the role and responsibility of men in stopping violence against women. Most people are oblivious to the crisis we have on this issue. It certainly doesn't make it to the top ten lists. Imagine how much the rape an abuse of women in this country affects our Gross National Product, our economic outlook, our health care costs and job placement efforts. We haven't even begun to understand how much this issue is costing our country and the world. We are too busy fighting over oil.

Around the world, 1 out of 3 women will be victimized in her lifetime. This includes, rape, assault, molestation, acid burnings, dowry deaths and spousal abuse. Isn't that a horrific statistic? Yet, it seems as travel along in our daily lives with our proverbial head in the sand. If the United States had an epidemic of measles or Avian Flu, every family in America would be donating time and resources to stop the spread of the disease. Why is this issue any different?

I am voting for Senator Clinton not only because she will tackle the economy, put us back on track and deal with Iraq; but because she will focus on issues that affect women and children, she will focus on global issues whether they affect our country or not and she will lead with one foot after the other. With this particular candidate swinging around in the main chair in the oval office, I feel a sense of hope. If Senator Clinton loses, I wonder "Will I ever see a woman as president" in my lifetime?" The sense of hope vanishes from my heart when I answer that question.

On a final note, whether you vote for Senator Clinton or not, use your mind and let your voice be heard. If you hear people disparage a candidate because of their body parts, speak up too. Let's not forget... if it wasn't for our mothers, none of us would be here. That includes you.