David Letterman’s Next MoveJune 18, 2009
Thanks to the recent flap between David Letterman and Sarah Palin over the joke he made about one of her daughters, some moms and/or dads may be having second thoughts about making a run for office. To his credit, Letterman has apologized, but it’s unfortunate that he made the remarks in the first place. Children of public figures should be off limits, and it’s a shame that they aren’t. Both Chelsea Clinton and Meghan McCain, for example, have been subjected to media commentary about their appearance.
In the Palin case, Letterman’s apology has been accepted, but the buzz continues. Should Letterman lose his job? Now that he has extended the olive branch, is he off the hook with women?
I’m as interested as the next person in healthy debate; however, my bigger concern centers on how this situation will affect tomorrow’s candidates, especially women and girls. For some insight, I turned to Susannah Wellford Shakow, of Running Start, which encourages young women to think of themselves as political leaders. Despite making up 51 percent of the U.S. population, women account for less than 20 percent of governors and members of Congress. (Incidentally, AAUW, Running Start, and the American University Women and Politics Institute have joined forces on Campaign College, a pilot program to encourage college women to run for student government.)
In her conversations with politically leaning women who either have children or want to have children, Shakow says they must stress to their families that mom is working for the greater public good. “The more your children believe in what they do, the more impervious they are to the attacks of the media. It shields the family,” Shakow says.
Fortunately, we know women are preparing for a life in politics in spite of the mudslinging. Some of them have been featured in She’s Out There, a collection of essays from next generation of female political leaders. Perhaps that book should be required reading for David Letterman.