Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- Will women vote for Hillary Clinton only because she's a woman?

That question keeps getting bounced around and I've recently revised my answer from "no" to "yes."

That is, yes, women will vote for Clinton because she's a woman --if men target her as a woman.

Translation: Gentlemen, if you don't want another Clinton in the White House, do not say unkind things about her persona, demeanor, appearance -- even if bull's-eye true. Not even in your own kitchen with your own wife.

Women have radar for anti-woman sentiments -- and all guys have them to some degree. Blame Mom, if you haven't already. And no one has benefited more from being a victim than the candidate formerly known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The truth is, Clinton might not be a senator from New York if not for her victimization as first spouse. How soon we forget the circumstances of her rise to power. It may be arguable that Clinton is a good-enough senator -- that's not the point -- but it is (BEG ITAL)in(END ITAL)arguable that she won the office in 2000 because women rallied around her.

Overall, women voted for Clinton over Republican Rep. Rick Lazio 60 percent to 39 percent. In upstate New York, typically a Republican stronghold, women voted for Clinton 55 percent to 43 percent.

And that rally had as much to do with Clinton the Victim as Clinton the Candidate. Throughout their White House years, the worse Bill behaved, the better Hillary looked. All women, without exception, could relate to her position and could admire her classy handling of the situation.

Polls during the campaign indicated that women identified with Clinton's struggles and "saw some of themselves in her," according to Clinton pollster Mark Penn.

Today we have a different Hillary Clinton. Now a consummate politician in her own right, Clinton has a record and a position (or two or three) on national issues that transcend her domestic life. Criticism of her policies isn't just appropriate, but necessary.

But she should lose the presidency for legitimate reasons, not because men find her unappealing.

When Clinton's campaign recently played the victim card following a debate in which the other top Democratic candidates "piled on," they misspent her gender equity. The men weren't piling on because she's a woman, but because she's the leading candidate, as Clinton subsequently acknowledged.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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