03/07/07 — Their own merit: Candidates should be decided on qualifications, nothing else

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Their own merit: Candidates should be decided on qualifications, nothing else

Democratic hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying a new tack to get attention to her campaign for her party’s nomination in the 2008 presidential election.

She is launching an Internet campaign to attract women voters to her cause of electing the first woman president.

Now, all we have to do is hope that most women are smarter than that.

Sen. Clinton is right to point out that it would be a historic first for a woman to win a major U.S. political party’s presidential nomination — just as it would be for a black man to be nominated.

The problem is that it is not enough of a reason to put a woman in the office — or a black man for that matter. And neither candidate should want it to be.

The next president should be the best person for the job — and in the Democrats’ case — the best nominee to do battle with the Republicans.

In other words, your gender or your race should not be a factor in your campaign or on Election Day — not if you are truly capable of doing the job.

Otherwise, we are insulting the cause of women and black men being able to compete on equal footing with their white male counterparts. And that does not set anyone ahead. If anything, it makes their causes weaker.

Hillary Clinton might be the best candidate for the presidency — or Barack Obama. But if we really are going to make progress, we need to elect them on their qualifications‚ with a blind eye to the historic significance of their candidacies.

There will be hurdles to overcome for both. There are minds to change and legitimacy to prove. Obama and Sen. Clinton will need to show us they are ready to take on such a momentous task. And neither should want us to elect them if we don’t think they are ready.

Is this nation ready for a woman or a black president? Well, that is not really the question. What is much more important to ask is if we are ready for this woman or this black president?

We will just have to wait and see. That answer will not come until the Democratic Convention and then on Election Day.

In the meantime, we can mark a little history. There are two diverse candidates offering their services to the American people. And it is a step forward that they are being considered legitimate contenders.

The trick now is to make sure they remain legitimate players on a level playing field — not asking for any favors and not needing any to succeed.

Published in Editorials on March 7, 2007 11:21 AM