Knew there would be an unseen feminine...


July 15, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR

NEW YORK -- I knew there would be an unseen feminine presencehaunting this convention. Gennifer Flowers. I was wrong. It's Anita Hill.

That was obvious right from the start on opening night. The women stole the show, and they did so by repeatedly referring scornfully to Clarence Thomas' nomination and, especially, to the Senate Judiciary Committee's treatment of Anita Hill.

Take Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who as introducer of women Senate candidates spent more time on the podium Monday than any other Democrat. (And she'll be back to nominate Sen. Albert Gore Jr.) She probably got more applause when she said she soon would not be the only Democratic woman in the Senate, but she got the most enthusiasm when she hit the Anita Hill button.

Same thing with the women she introduced. Lynn Yeackel of Pennsylvania got her biggest cheer when she pledged to oust Sen. Arlen Specter, who accused Anita Hill of perjury. Barbara Boxer used the "just didn't get it" line women adopted as a battle cry about men not understanding sexual harassment during the Thomas hearings. Jean Lloyd-Jones of Iowa got her best response when she criticized her opponent, Sen. Charles Grassley, for being a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and supporting the Thomas nomination.

Even the men who spoke Monday night were only able to arouse the delegates -- at least the women delegates -- when they referred to this issue. One-third keynoter Bill Bradley delivered one of his trademark boring, thoughtful speeches on issues, emphasizing race relations and urban crisis. What did the crowd scream at? This line: ". . . another Supreme Court justice who's not the best we could have, another male office holder who just doesn't get it." One-third keynoter Zell Miller gave the best of the keynotes, I thought, with lots of good one-liners about a variety of Democratic pet targets. But once again, he got the most heartfelt response when he said, NOT in reference to abortion, sexual harassment or judicial nominees, "Let's face facts: George Bush just doesn't get it."

Inevitably, feminists have a daily newspaper for conventioneers. It's being published by some New York women journalists who have been fighting this battle for a long time. Writer Jane O'Reilly dreamed it up. It's printed on pink paper. It's a saucy publication. For instance, one feature is called, "The Measure of Man," in which manhood is indicated by arrows whose length is related to support for abortion and other feminist issues. It's called -- you guessed it -- the Getting It Gazette.

Yesterday, Bill Clinton got a good reception when he spoke to the women's caucus of the convention. I thought he got his best reaction when he praised a senator who voted against Clarence Thomas.

So the theme continues. But it's not the only theme. His second-best line, which got almost as enthusiastic a response, came when he said he made less money than his wife.


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