Pitch for Obama is greeted with a curveball

The Baltimore Sun

A young man with a mop of curly, light-brown hair ambled up my driveway as I sweated over my gardens one Saturday morning. He was covered with stickers, like a toddler who'd behaved at the dentist's office.

As he got closer I could see through the sweat in my eyes that the stickers said "Obama." Another sticker on his shirt said his name was "Lars." When he asked if he could have a few minutes of my time, he was as earnest as any of Bobby Kennedy's young army might have been.

Lars asked if I had been thinking about the 2008 election and if I would like to learn more about his candidate. Poor kid. He had no way of knowing that he'd stumbled upon a professional opinionator. I am sure he had a speech all prepared, but what he got was mine.

I told him that I thought it was pretty amazing that somebody like me -- who grew up in a time when women didn't have their own credit and blacks couldn't sit where whites ate lunch -- would find herself choosing between a black man and a woman for president.

I told him that the country was so tired of President Bush and his war that whoever the Democrats nominate will likely be the next president, whether it's a senator or the guy who drives the neighborhood ice-cream truck.

I told him that I had been thinking a lot about Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and I hadn't made a choice. "He's a rookie," I said. "And she scares me."

I told him that there was something about Hillary that sent shivers through me. "I think it is her ambition. Her absolutely naked ambition. It is almost otherworldly."

The men are ambitious, too, don't get me wrong. But on them, it looks more like presumption. Like entitlement. Like ego. But Hillary puts me in mind of the female cyborg in Terminator 3. She just keeps coming, and the look on her face never changes.

There is an assumption, I said, that Hillary is our candidate, the candidate for women, for working women, for mothers of children. That she has the sisterhood vote locked up. But I want something more than that, I said. I want a choice.

There are a bunch of men to choose from, but we only have this one woman, and there isn't much about her the rest of us can identify with. She is scary smart, scary controlled and controlling, and scary ambitious.

Young Lars wanted to talk to me about Obama, but what he got was a lecture on the complexities of politics in a post-feminist world. Here was a woman who wasn't happy with a female candidate for president. She wanted at least a couple of female candidates for president.

"A lot of us voted for Bill because of Hillary," I said. "It wasn't just the 'two-for-the-price-of-one' thing. It was more complicated than that. We thought we were seeing a partnership of equals, not just a candidate with a smart wife.

"Now we are wondering if he was the dummy on her knee. You know?"

I don't think he did. I looked at Lars and guessed that he might have been a toddler during Bill Clinton's first term. But he'd found a politician to follow, to believe in, and I had blunted his enthusiasm with my own angst.

"I like your garden," he said, looking around us. "My mom gardens. She would love this."

I blushed -- it might have been my blood pressure or the heat -- and said thank you.


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