Johanna Mendelson-Forman: The Presidenta


Will the real president please stand up? There in our midst was the real president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who charmed Washington Thursday as she made the rounds in this village. And the pretend president that we women all admire, actress Gina Davis, of the recently cancelled series, Commander-in-Chief! Side by side our dreams and the reality.

As one of the organizers of the “Celebration of Women’s Leadership” I was amazed to see how even the most serious power women can turn “groupie” when it comes to meeting the newest female leader in the Western Hemisphere. It was like the good old days. Women embracing women, sharing a vision and hope that this was our century! Ellie Smeal, former Congresswomen Patricia Schroeder, and even the more stolid face of Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick were seen in the crowd. And they came in droves, including Congresswomen, and the Senator from New York, Hilary Clinton, who noted in her talk to the women assembled at the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom that politics is hard work!

But the real buzz last night was the belief that the U.S. could indeed have a woman president, and that such a goal was less elusive than it sounds. The White House Project, whose mission is to encourage more women to seek elective office, took on the town when it chose to expand its mission to the international stage. I hope this is just the beginning. We need women leaders prepared to deal with the tough multilateral issues, the borderless issues of international diplomacy, and a Congress that sees beyond its own backyard to the global stage on which the U.S. holds court. The night of a thousand women was a great success, and apparently it filed a niche by bringing together so many women, Democrats and Republicans, justices and educators, business women and lobbyists, to once again make Washington come alive with hope. Women can and do rule. And Michelle Bachelet has led the way by her desire to meet the women of America as the important face of this nation.
But the spoiler in this first official visit was once again around our favorite U.S. whipping boy, the UN. Chile has noted its support for Venezuela to have a seat on the Security Council, a non-permanent seat with a two year term. Bush thinks this is a bad idea. Whatever your point of view on the merits and mine are mixed, it is the right of any sovereign state to vote in accordance with its own national interests. And with oil flowing from the northern Andes to Chile, it is clear that there is lots of hemispheric solidarity toward the wayward Venezuelan. Now the issue for the Presidenta is whether she can continue to stand up to President Bush, who is trying to bully the new leader into taking a stand against President Hugo Chavez’s government at the UN. If I were a betting woman, I would say that Chile will do what it wants, given its earlier decision just before the Iraq war to oppose a Security Council Resolution that would have permitted the use of force. Keep reading this column for updates.
Johanna Mendelson Forman is a Senior Associate at CSIS and co-chair of the Real Security Program of The White House Project.


3 comments on “Johanna Mendelson-Forman: The Presidenta

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  3. karen says:

    You GO Girl!! Thanks for the link to the White House Project. It’s only a matter of time before a woman becomes US President. We couldn’t screw things up any more than the men already have. In fact almost all of the world’s violence(wars, crimes, domestic) is due to men. Damned that testosterone! (and damned it too, cause we still love the good ones!)


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