Arianna's campaign diary

I knew when I ran for governor my critics would throw mud at me, but I never expected to be called a bad mother. What year is this, anyway?

Published August 22, 2003 10:40PM (EDT)

Up at 4:30 a.m. for a 6:30 interview in Burbank for Telemundo.

Going through the morning papers, I scan over the pictures of Arnold's team of economic advisors -- not a double X chromosome among them. In a state where there are tens of thousands of women in positions of power, including both U.S. senators, there was not even one woman who Arnold thought worthy of adding to the mix?

We need greater diversity, not more of the same old-boys club -- emphasis on the "boys" -- that got us into this mess in the first place.

It's not just a matter of gender. It's a matter of priorities. A woman governor, particularly one who is also a mother, would bring a whole different perspective to the problems facing California.

My priorities would be the priorities a mother has for her children: a high quality education; affordable and readily accessible healthcare; and a safe, clean world to live in. No mother in California should have to send her kids off to crumbling, decaying, rat-infested schools -- as hundreds of thousands of them currently do. No mother should have to sit in a hospital waiting room for 20 hours waiting for a doctor to see her sick child because she can't afford health insurance for herself and her kids -- but that's the case right now. And no mother should have to worry about whether her children will grow up in world choked with polluted air and water, which is why we need a sane energy policy that protects the environment, stresses fuel efficiency, and invests in clean and renewable energy.

In her book "Sex and Power," Susan Estrich looked at why women are unable to break the "glass ceiling" in business and politics. Maybe it's because every time they try to assert some power, the male-dominated political culture tries to cut them down.

Take the column Estrich wrote today, in which she launched an all-out attack on me on the grounds that my running for governor makes me a bad mother.

Leaving aside her completely inaccurate description of my relationship with my children -- based on nothing other than my former husband's one-note rants -- it was like reading a piece written in 1903, not 2003. Or even 1973. I guess we haven't come as long a way, baby, as we thought.

I assumed we were long past the argument over whether you could be a woman, a leader and a mother without having the powers that be shaking their heads and pulling out the slime.

This kind of dirty politics is one reason more than 13 million Californians didn't vote in the last election. People are sick and tired of campaigns as demolition derbies, with candidates -- and their designated hatchet men and women -- attacking each other until there is only one candidate left standing.

So politics is less and less about stepping forward with an agenda and will to lead and increasingly about avoiding the land mines laid out by political attack dogs. It's no wonder we keep getting candidates who are more and more wrinkle free, more and more foible free -- and far, far more idea free.

I knew when I got into this race that people would sling all kinds of mud at me -- although, I must say, I never expected that they would also turn back the cultural clock to the days of Ozzie and Harriet and label me a bad mother for running.

But there hasn't been a day when the mudslinging hasn't been eclipsed by the unique experience of life on the campaign trial, particularly the people you meet and the stories they tell. And let's not forget the subtle but sublime pleasures of operating on three hours of sleep a night. Quick, get me another latte.

By Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, the co-host of the National Public Radio program "Left, Right, and Center," and the author of 10 books. Her latest is "Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America."

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