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May 20, 2008

Negative Ladies

Roy Meachum

Much has been made in recent politics about gender, nationally and locally. The chase for the Democratic presidential nomination has been reduced to the candidates' personal plumbing. For the thrill of seeing a woman elected, Hillary Clinton's supporters are prepared to use any weapons at hand.


That's the good news from this election year: except for patches in the nation, voters put first the man and his ideas and not his African-American blood. Mr. and Mrs. Clinton's thumping down the race card had little effect. The former first lady's women legions are naturally disappointed. They wanted to see one of their own in the White House.


The blame should not be laid entirely on Mrs. Clinton; she was practicing politics "as usual." Under that system voters expected to see rivals go for each other's jugular. Twisting the truth and lying were long accepted as tools of the game. As of today, Barack Obama enjoys endorsements from a growing majority of super delegates, her last hope for overturning the popular sentiment.


Being a "strong" woman has nothing to do with her rejection by a system that once seemed rigged in her favor. States and uncommitted delegates, by a significant margin, simply did not like what they saw in appraising her. A very similar situation prevails in the Sixth Congressional District race.


Jennifer Dougherty held my endorsement when she first stood for the Frederick mayor's office. By the time she ran successfully, I knew too many things about her personality; I supported the incumbent. By the first year's end, she had done more than enough to justify apprehension. By the term's end, she was turned out by her fellow Democrats in a remarkable demonstration: she was the first sitting mayor, at least in modern times, to lose a primary.


Now Democrat Dougherty has offered herself to replace Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican. She brings to the congressional race a negative caste. Her vitriolic approach made her City Hall tenure a near-disaster and caused voters to send her home, at first chance. That's not how the former mayor and her backers see it, of course.


Ms. Dougherty fostered feuds with President Pro Tem Bill Hall and Alderman David Lenhart. There were differences naturally since both gentlemen belonged to the GOP, but she elevated what might have been a partisan argument into all-out war. Her performance forced Mr. Hall to flee the dais several times. Her lack of apparent logic rendered Mr. Lenhart speechless on more than one occasion. In attempting to defend themselves from verbal attacks, they found themselves facing charges of male chauvinism. Unfairly.


The city's first female mayor managed to gather under her banner many women who felt slighted by generations of male supremacy, in custom and the law. She asserted that every word and every action by Mr. Lenhart and Mr. Hall were influenced by their sex; she claimed to be their victim.


In fact, four years with Jennifer Dougherty caused both gentlemen to throw in the towel on any hopes of continuing in public service. Mr. Lenhart removed his family to Georgia where they were safe from the innuendo and smears that marked their last days in Frederick. As for Mr. Hall, he's still about Market Street, spotted occasionally singing at some charity event. Both make absolutely clear Ms. Dougherty drove them not to seek re-election.


She now tries to implement the same tactics on Representative Bartlett. At the recent Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, she sought to regale the Democrats assembled for their annual celebration with a boatload of half-truths and lies. She dragged out the canard that he had promised to serve only two terms, without saying he made the promise based on shrinking the federal budget. It had diminished by about half when his third congressional election rolled around. The condition satisfied, he put his record before voters again.


Some eight times Dr. Bartlett has been sent to Capitol Hill. Far from the do-nothing official that Ms. Dougherty wants to portray him, his service to constituents continues to grow with his seniority. I know of several examples.


A Frederick News-Post front page story Thursday reported Western Maryland's congressman has weighed in heavily on the matter of tax easement to encourage alternate energy sources. Most readers may find the subject blah. But I – and every other ex-serviceman who went to college on the G.I. bill – can but cheer that Dr. Bartlett has sponsored a very similar measure for Middle East veterans.


Jennifer Dougherty and others have raised a mighty ruckus about the war, claiming he was a principal fomenter. Before the invasion, he argued that deploying troops to the Iraq mess would do little good. Eventually he went along because he said going against an issue the White House declared crucial could bring possible retaliation that would hurt the Sixth District. Not him. He was right.


Ms. Dougherty and Mrs. Clinton have drawn admiration for resiliency and strength; they deserve the cheers. But both ladies are entirely too egocentric to hide behind gender as the chief reason for their failures.


On the local scene, ex-Congresswoman Beverly Byron enjoyed voters' backing for years; they kept returning her to Congress. Commissioners’ President Jan Gardner and the city's present president pro tem, Marcia Hall, have proven that winning at the polls has very little to do with gender. Ms. Dougherty should get a life.


As for Mrs. Clinton, news organizations with greater resources than have said emphatically and repeatedly Barack Obama simply cannot lose his party's nomination. Her reactions to the reality have appeared as petulant, childish and downright boring. She should settle down as the senator from New York, a position she gained by ignoring her husband's tricks with a very young White House intern.


Considering ex-President Bill Clinton's well-publicized history of repeated adultery, Hillary Clinton's claim of ignorance on that score rates as hardly a recommendation for the most sensitive and important office in the world.

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