A good idea that could backfire.jpg

A good idea that could backfire

By: MIKE JOHNSON

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Mike Johnson is a free-lance journalist who worked in the Algarve for more than 20 years. He now lives in Plymouth in the UK and comments on world topics which fascinate him.

A FRIEND gave me a book some years ago entitled, ‘Women on Top’. It was not about the chances of members of the fairer sex reaching top jobs, but a manual about women taking the lead in sexual matters.

Some 20 years later, a similarly titled book could be written, but this time about their superiority to men in matters academic.

It is now a fact that girls in Britain are well ahead of boys in school subjects – from the early days of learning to read, right up to A level standard. They excel in subjects thought previously to be male dominated, such as physics and economics. According to a recent report, the only subjects where boys reversed the trend were German and French.

You might think that this would mean more women would now be landing the top jobs in industry and commerce, but this is not the case. Probably due to the male-dominated selection processes, they are still lagging behind in this respect. Some time ago, I mused that it was possible for women to hold the presidency of three major world powers – France, Pakistan and the United States.

Failure

All three candidates failed for one reason or another. Segolene Royal was beaten by Nicolas Sarkozy  for the French presidency in 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan and Hilary Clinton failed to gain the Democratic nomination in the forthcoming US election. Another woman, however, has hit the headlines, as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the US election in November 2008.

Sarah Palin was apparently not the first choice of Senator John McCain to be his running mate. Cynics suggest that, following Ms Clinton’s defeat by Barak Obama, he switched horses, as it were, in an effort to capture the massive female floating vote. After the initial shock of the announcement, and the media frenzy that followed, there are now signs that this seemingly good idea could backfire.

Ms Palin, at 44, is a former local beauty queen in her native town of Walasa and runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest in 1984. She was said to be fiercely competitive at high school and eloped with, and married Todd Palin, who is from Eskimo heritage and a local TV sports presenter. They have five children, named Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. Trig was born in April 2008 suffering from Down’s syndrome and Ms Palin returned to work three days after the birth.

As far as her political career is concerned, she was elected mayor of Wasilla, which has a population of some 9,000, at the age of 32. She became Alaska’s first woman Governor in December 2006, despite missing so many campaign appearances that she became known locally as ‘No Show Sarah’.

However, she has many firm political convictions. She is fervently anti-abortion and opposes same-sex marriage. She supports the extension of oil drilling in Alaska which, given the present fuel crisis, is a popular cause. Less attractively, she is also a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and hunts moose – enjoying eating ‘moose-burgers’. She also has the hide of a grizzly bear draped over the sofa in her home.

So, given all this, has Senator McCain chosen wisely? He is said to have only met Ms Palin for the first time in February 2008, and remember that, considering his age (72), she is only ‘a heart beat from the presidency’, if he is elected. Barak Obama is widely criticised for his inexperience in world affairs, but Ms Palin could be dealing with the likes of Russia’s Vladimir Putin or President Hu of China, should anything befall President McCain. Senator Obama’s choice of running mate, the 65-year old senior Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, looks, on the face of it, the safer pair of hands.

Acceptance speech

Ms Palin smartly paid tribute to Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech and the Republicans obviously hope that votes which would have gone to Hillary will now come her way – even persuading Democrat supporters to switch allegiance with the prospect of having a woman – any woman – in the White House. The other side of the coin is that other voters may turn away from her for the same reason.

There are signs that the initial euphoria that greeted Senator Obama’s selection is beginning to fade somewhat. His big speech at the Democratic convention was thought to be high on substance but short on emotion. One observer said, “there were no goose bumps”. There is still much campaigning to be done before the November elections and many minds to be made up. These may well turn against a small-state governor with less than two years experience of high office.

Meanwhile, what of the Clintons? They are undoubtedly still licking their wounds and Hillary’s next chance, in 2012, is a long way away. They may still have some part to play in how the dice fall in 2008.