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Good Is Good: Is It Time For a Woman President?

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Tom Matlack is the former CFO of the Providence Journal and is the founder of The Good Men Project, a non-profit charitable corporation based in Rhode Island and dedicated to helping organizations that provide educational, social, financial, and legal support to men and boys at risk.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been trying to duck the whole Presidential election, and specially the arms’ race of negative campaigning.  I live in Massachusetts so other than Obama’s connection to Harvard Law School and Mitt’s to the state health care system that cannot be named, we are unlikely to get the ads unless someone decides New Hampshire is worth the effort.

But like the rest of the free world it’s hard to avoid Ryan and Medicare, tax returns, the environment, the deficit, and Supreme Court sponsored super PAC trench warfare. Out of the corner of my eye I see enough to make myself sick to my stomach.

If we can all agree that the system is broken—really broken—then why does watching the Presidential race feel like some kind of train wreck?

Before I say something that I am sure I am going to regret, but I am going to say anyhow, let me just make one thing clear. I’m the guy standing up on a soapbox repeating again and again about how despite what you may read about Charlie Sheen and Tiger Woods, there are in fact good men in this country and on this planet. I’ve interviewed scores of them, from a Sing Sing inmate who turned his life around to a combat journalist risking his life to shoot images depicting the truth of our wars abroad.

The issue isn’t a lack of good men, it’s that our best men are running from politics. Heck, more than a few are leaving the country. A good friend has moved to New Zealand to build a bunker because he is so worried about the state of our country.

So how about us guys step aside and let the women take over for an election cycle or two? See if they can’t sort out some of this mess we’ve gotten ourselves in.

I’m not talking about Sara Palin or Nancy Pelosi. I’m thinking Hilary Clinton, or better yet, a modern day Shirley Chisholm.

I remember sitting on a homemade foam rubber couch with my dad, an English professor and political activist, watching Chisholm on Meet the Press just after she had announced her Presidential candidacy in 1972.  The problems then seemed just as big as the problems now: Vietnam, Watergate, Munich Olympics, ERA, inflation, and emergence of OPEC.

Yet Chisholm didn’t back down. She made clear that these were solvable problems as long as one didn’t attack them with hidden motives. I was impressed and inspired by her words so turned to my dad, who had gone to Mississippi during the summer of 1964 and been a leader of the anti-war movement, to ask if she had a chance. “I don’t think so but maybe one day,” was his response.

I voted for Obama and probably will again. I happened to be in California during the Democratic primary four years ago and walked down to the polls with my college roommate, who intended for vote for Clinton, lobbying him to change his mind (not that it much mattered since in the Democratic primary California delegates are elected based on some archaic system which rewards past voting by county and his was a Clinton stronghold) . I was moved to tears by our collective willingness to elect the first African American to the White House. But maybe that just isn’t enough.

My enduring memory of the last four years are the still shots of our President waiting nervously to hear whether or not a team of elite warriors had succeeded in killing Osama Bin Laden coupled with the images taken by my friend Michael Kamber on the ground in Iraq and then Afghanistan.

I am for massive deficit reduction, completely restructuring Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. I’m for focusing on education first and foremost, for actually providing the 2 million men currently in prison a way out of trouble, and for protecting the environment.

But we never get to these issues in any meaningful way. There’s a certain machismo with which our leaders frame the question of our collective future, whether military strength or tax policy or how to finally deal with ballooning entitlements. Mitt the corporate raider, Paul Ryan the consummate deficit hawk, and Barack the peace-maker who doubled down in Afghanistan all remind me a heck of a lot more of a Bud Light commercial than Dove for Men.

Maybe gender has nothing to do with our national political failings. Maybe we’ve built up an edifice of patronage and denial so strong that even a woman wouldn’t be able to break through the mess.

But could we do worse than we are now?

For more of Tom's works, as well as other pieces on related topics, go to The Good Men Project Magazine online, here.


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