Suzanne Fields

Some feminists who can imagine Hillary as a Nixon look-alike are terrified that if she's elected the first woman president it could set back their revolution for decades. It's one thing to be as competent as a man, quite another to be as corrupt as a man. Tough is OK. Devious is not. Comparisons can hurt. So can mixed metaphors. The Nixon link is the flip side of Hillary's faux folksy domestic images conjured in Iowa when she told women to support her clean-up of Washington by bringing their mops, brooms, brushes and vacuum cleaners to the rally. Too cute by more than half.

Domestic cliches worked only a little better when she said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," adding with intentional irony, "And I'm very much at home in the kitchen."

We've come a long way from asking a woman candidate to field feminine questions, as Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984, had to do. No one cares about Hillary's recipes because we figure she doesn't have any. Nor do we see women imitating Hillary's hairdo or style, as they did Geraldine Ferraro's. In this election, character issues will count for much more than "gender" images, either feminist or feminine.

What hurts Hillary on the extreme left of her party, however, could turn out to be what other voters could like about her -- standing firm on her vote for the war in Iraq as "a sincere vote based on the information available to me." She doesn't back it up with support of a fledgling democracy, as many conservatives do, but she understands how that will play better in the election campaign, when the goofy left will be pushed aside.

Giuliani got it right. Nobody's perfect. The question is whose imperfections make the candidate most vulnerable -- and least valuable -- for the highest office in the land.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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