Time for a first lady: Kerry, you’re up

Kerry could bridge the political gender gap by choosing a qualified female running mate, winning the November election and then honorably resigning.

All the ladies in the House say, “Yeeah!” (Only 59 of 435 members respond.)

All the ladies in the Senate say, “Heeey!” (Only 14 of 100 members respond.)

Tough room? Hardly. Those meager responses to my Latifah-inspired hip-hop calls constitute 100 percent of the females currently in Congress – approximately 13.6 percent of the collective legislative body.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has the chance to inject our national political scene with its first-ever dose of female executive power. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., is itching for that vice-presidential nod and the chance to set himself up for another run at the big chair a few years from now – that was kind of his plan all along – but Kerry must foil his plans. There are larger stakes on the table. Besides, both of them are named John – kind of weird, if you ask me.

In the year of “Anyone but Bush,” the window is open for a mad dash at history. Kerry, do the right thing. Run with one of the many qualified female leaders in our country, and with her, break down a barrier that should have collapsed before Saddam Hussein’s statue and the Berlin Wall.

It seems ridiculous to even advocate for something that should have developed years ago as a result of pragmatic voting and the many successes of female leaders in this and other nations. Until it happens for the first time, electing a female to the White House as the vice president or the chief is a glaring chasm in U.S. history that Kerry could bridge by choosing one of the following four leaders as his running mate, winning the election with her in November, then honorably resigning as president in February 2005 and letting his vice president take over (sorry, I just don’t find him all that inspiring). Seriously, here is the list in no particular order:

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.: Star power, pure and simple. She is intelligent, respected, somewhat undistinguished as a senator and represents a lot of potential electoral votes. Problem: lots of baggage with Bill back in the White House. Clinton might run for the presidency herself in 2008 should the Democrats lose in November, and that might keep her out of this race.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: Feinstein has the best resume of these four. She serves on both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, working closely on homeland security and terrorist issues. She can talk tough, but also seems willing to reach compromises with diverse groups to achieve successful results. Feinstein’s Jewish heritage would help kick down two doors to the executive office in one shot. Problem: She is from California – both a blessing (electoral votes) and a curse (the current state of California’s economy). It is an easily surmountable issue.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kan.: Not only is Sebelius a woman, she is the first Democrat elected to an open seat in Kansas since 1936. Pragmatic and centrist, she is not a great Democrat but works hard on children’s issues. She is not experienced in international affairs, but as a novice, she would probably do less damage than the current international amateur inhabiting the Oval Office. Problem: elected governor in 2002 and might not be willing to leave Kansas. Her personal charm and charisma would make Kerry seem even more wooden and remote.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: Curveball coming. There is talk of Bush choosing a new running mate for this year’s election, and Rice sits at the top of the list. While she is very conservative regarding international affairs, she describes herself as “mildly pro-choice” and tends to lean further to the left than most of Bush’s buddies on domestic issues and the economy. Problem: She would run with Bush.

While casting my vote for Bush this year is almost unconscionable, if Rice runs with him and Kerry makes a lackluster choice for running mate (i.e. Edwards), the absurd would become the probable. Perhaps I would dismantle my own ideological constructs just this once to help knock down a larger and more important construct that has kept women and blacks out of the executive office for far too long. Rice could trigger a series of ripples reaching much further into the future than 2008.

Aaron North welcomes comments at [email protected]