The Presidential contenders have been chosen; Republican nominee John McCain will face off against Democratic nominee Barack Obama in the November election. This week, I had the honor of speaking with former U.S. Representative Susan Molinari on why she’s decided to back Senator McCain, what role she feels women will play in the next election, and why she believes Senator McCain is the right choice for women -- who will make up more than half of the voting population in the fall.
Rep. Susan Molinari served three terms in the House of Representatives, but before then served on the New York City Council. Since leaving the House, she’s worked as a journalist with CBS, and worked within the Republican Party, shaping policy and representing women’s interests at the highest levels. In 1996, Rep. Molinari had the honor of delivering a keynote address at the Republican National Convention, and earlier this year, served as a senior advisor for Rudy Giuliani's Presidential campaign.
Although some Republicans have been slow to throw their support behind their nominee, Rep. Molinari is strong in her conviction that John McCain is the right man for the job – for many of the reasons her fellow Republicans have shied away. “John McCain has qualities that may make some Republicans reticent, but he has always been straightforward in his support for the war on terror, he has always been committed to helping small businesses. He does what he thinks is in the best interests of the country, and not always in the best interests of himself politically.”
John McCain’s “maverick position” has often put him at the forefront of key issues. “He is at the lead of global climate change, he disagreed with the Donald Rumsfeld initially and supported the surge, and he was among the first to express concern over the treatment of detainees.” As a former New York Council member, Rep. Molinari understands the importance of a candidates willingness to do what’s best for his country, even if that means reaching across the aisle to the opposing party: “For my career in the New York Council, I was the only Republican for four years. I always worked with Democrats. You can have genuine disagreements, but if you approach your political opponents with respect, you do credit to the institution you serve.” John McCain, she believes, has exhibited this respect for his colleagues countless times, and it has served the United States well.
Rep. Molinari believes that it will be women who will make a difference in the coming election: “Women are the ‘secret element.’ Women made up over 54% of voters in the last election. For the first time, both parties are recognizing and reckoning with the female vote…a sleeping giant has awakened; women will be registering and voting in record numbers.” She believes that John McCain recognizes this: “His very first advisors were women – Carly Fiorina and [former eBay CEO] Meg Whitman…John McCain has a record of supporting small businesses. He has a dedication to balancing the budget, and a dedication to helping young women entrepreneurs by making the Bush tax breaks permanent.”
The War in Iraq is consistently the top issue on the minds of female voters, and Rep. Molinari believes that John McCain is better prepared to handle the coming challenges of that conflict than his opponent, Barack Obama. “Experience counts on this stage. Barack Obama still maintains that it is viable to meet with rouge leaders like those in Iran and North Korea – it says that very clearly on his website. There is naivete in Barack Obama’s potions and his idea of the role of a leader. John McCain has a realistic understanding of that role.
“We all want our men and women home as quickly as possible. John McCain has had conversations with General Petraeus and others, which Barack Obama has not had. He is cautious about our approach.”
She also believes that despite the declining number of women voting Republican over the last decade, the Republican Party is the party best equipped to serve the interests of American women: “You have to look at the totality of a political party. The Republican Party believes that government should be accountable to its people. Republican candidates are committed to tax cuts to spur economic growth, and they have a strong commitment to national defense – a position they hold regardless of whether we are in a time of war. We need to keep our military and our national defense strong. We had to ramp up our military significantly following 9/11, and we’ve learned that we cannot afford to be ill prepared.”
Beyond just being excited about the number of women voters who will have their voices heard in this year’s election, Rep. Molinari is also very enthusiastic about another milestone for women: the first female Presidential candidate. “Hillary gave us someone to look up to,” she says. “There are still issues out there. The women’s movement has made it so that discrimination is a little more underground, but it’s still there. Hillary has inspired a whole generation to come forward.”
Rep. Molinari can certainly comment on the role of women in government. She was highly accomplished during her tenure in the House of Representatives, a service that she is immensely proud of: “The greatest honor – other than having kids – was to be able to stake out that ground. My last bill was the Breast Cancer Bill, which allowed people to add eight cents to the cost of a stamp to support breast cancer research. I worked closely with Bill Clinton dealing with Kosovo and the developing region in Yugoslavia. It was an amazing, amazing journey, knowing that you could do something that might save someone else’s life a day from now or ten years from now.”
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