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For Bella and every other girl in America

For Bella and every other girl in America

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Bella is 8 years old. A second-grader. And this year she and her classmates had to choose which famous person they wanted to become. She decided on being Hillary Clinton.

This column is dedicated to you, Bella. You must feel quite good you chose to be Hillary Clinton for your famous person. And, I believe, you must have tons of questions about how she has become a major party nominee and, if American voters are willing, president of the United States of America.

I'm going to imagine the questions on your mind, Bella, and answer them. Here goes:

Q: Is Hillary a nice person?

A: Yes. Here's what Peter Doau, a former staffer of Clinton's, said about her recently:

"On a Sunday morning 10 years ago, a week after I joined Hillary's team, there were reports of trouble in Lebanon (where I grew up). When my phone rang early that morning I wasn't sure what to expect. It wasn't a family member or a friend. It was Hillary Clinton, calling to make sure my relatives were OK. We spoke briefly and I hung up stunned at the empathy and compassion from someone I had met only a week before. In every encounter with Hillary since then, personal or professional, the same person who called me that morning shines through."

Q: Is she the opposite of Bernie Sanders?

A: Oh, no, honey. They are both people persons. They share a passion for change. Like Bernie, she believes in economic equality and that everybody should have the freedom to express their talents. Everyone should be able to go as far as their skills, hard work and talents will take them.

Q: Some of my classmates say Hillary is dishonest. That hurts my feelings. What do you say?

A: Bella, when you run for office, you will have to develop the hide of a rhinoceros. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and virtually every other leader this country has ever had have all faced similar accusations. It goes with the territory.

The best answer I know comes from Jill Abramson, who was the first female executive editor of The New York Times. She's a tough cookie who has investigated the Clintons over the years. Here's what she says:

"I would be 'dead rich' ... if I could bill for all the hours I've spent covering just about every 'scandal' that has enveloped the Clintons. As an editor, I've launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter, my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I'm not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.

"Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy."

Abramson also says, "Based on what I know about the emails, the idea of her being indicted or going to prison is nonsensical."

Q: It seems like campaigning is both awful and awfully hard. I suppose once you're elected that's when you have fun.

A: No, Bella. It's the opposite. Campaigns, run right, can be fun. They don't have to be filled with smears and insults to people's looks or race or gender. Once a campaign ends, the real work begins. As Carl Bernstein writes in "A Woman in Charge," the biggest difference between Hillary and others in politics is a "willingness to participate in the drudgery of government rather than simply direct policy from Olympian heights." Hillary knows issues inside and out, Bella. She rolls up her sleeves and works with legislators and citizens groups to hammer out agreements -- to make the best laws.

Q: What was Hillary like when she was a student?

A: She was a change-maker, Bella, and still is. She was an idealist, and still is. Just recently, someone found a recording of her commencement speech at Wellesley College, which then was an all-women's college. She was chosen to speak for everyone in her graduating class.

She could just as easily be speaking about today: "I would like to talk about reality," she said. About how our "perception of it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men's needs.

"There's a very strange conservative strain that goes through a lot of New Left, collegiate protests that I find very intriguing because it harkens back to a lot of the old virtues."

Q: Are we finally being fair to women, now that Hillary is the first woman to get a major party's nomination?

A: Let me quote Jess McIntosh, Bella. She works for Hillary. She says, "Having women in government isn't about 'fairness.' It's about making better laws."

Hillary has seen, and made, a lot of change. She got her start in politics reforming the nominating system in 1972. She's still looking at reform, saying we should look at, and have a conversation about, the role of unpledged superdelegates. By the way, Bella, I am a superdelegate.

But there is so much work, so much change, to bring about in so many areas, Bella. Women, in general, and especially women of color, are paid less than men for the same work. We're the only developed country in the world without paid family leave -- of any kind. Women's health access is still not secure, and women are still unrepresented in government.

Q: Is Hillary the best woman candidate who could have won the nomination?

A: Bella, she's not only the best female candidate, she's the best candidate. Period. As President Obama stated in his endorsement: She's one of the most qualified ever to run for the White House.

Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News, and a contributing columnist to Ms. Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine.


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