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Maybe there is no right man for the job

Add me to the list of those asking why Barbara Bush isn't running for president.

With her throaty, even voice, she is a wonderful speaker. When she appeared Friday at the Hyatt Regency, her speech included a couple of nice jokes, and the way she told them evidenced fine comic timing, always helpful in politics. After you hear her, you're left with the impression Barbara Bush is not easily fooled and will stick to her beliefs, maybe even if it is not to her political advantage. Neither does she care if you care that she is not a size eight.

These details speak to Mrs. Bush's character, but her candidacy offers several other advantages. If she ran, we would not have to endure endless questions about whether:

1. She avoided military service in Vietnam, like Bill Clinton.

2. She had plastic surgery, like David Duke.

3. She has a better sense of the lives of ordinary people than her husband _ whom Mrs. Bush on Friday called "my George."

But Mrs. Bush isn't the only woman deserving of nomination. Why not the other candidates' wives _ Shelley Buchanan on the Republican side or, among the Democrats, Nicola Tsongas, Ruth Harkin or Hillary Clinton?

(Personally, I would consider any other woman, period _ except that anti-woman, Phyllis Schlafly.)

A woman's candidacy would inject new realism into the campaign.

Doesn't it seem a tad strange that in all the rhetoric about the nation's looming economic demise, nobody talks about how it is when you're laid off and out looking for work, you still have to pay for day care?

Mighty peculiar, don't you think, that even though pundits holler that abortion is the political hot button of all time, nobody running for president talks much about what he would do if abortion becomes illegal, as it very likely will? Seek to change the law again? Boost government spending for families? Or nothing?

But among those who don't think that women's lives are worth worrying about, these are the arguments of pinhead intellectuals. So let's cut straight to the heart of this matter: A woman would just be better as president, period.

It is axiomatic among some women around the country _ who are weary of watching their male counterparts rise as smoothly as balloons to the top of their careers _ that women will be liberated the day they can be as mediocre as men and get away with it, just as men do.

If this axiom is true, it is possible that Hillary is smarter than Bill, Barbara is brighter than George, etc. And if this is the case, then it follows as night follows day that the Clinton campaign buttons have been misprinted, and so have the president's.

This political axiom even has a local corollary, and the corollary further illustrates my point about the political superiority of women.

Hillsborough County commissioners have gone off to jail, judges too. Prosecutors have been investigated, and are again, right at the moment. Whenever one of these seamy cases hits the papers, women politicians in Tampa quietly point out to each other how interesting it is that they're never the ones being carted off in handcuffs for playing loose with the public trust.

No, we're the decent sort.

I was reminded of just how decent when Mrs. Bush came to town. She got a welcome by Mayor Freedman. Coming two weeks before Super Tuesday, and in a region that backed the Republicans straight through the '80s, it was one strange welcome.

The mayor, a Democrat and supporter of Bill Clinton, gushed over Mrs. Bush.

"Tampa is delighted to have you with us," Freedman said. People in Tampa, she said, "would be delighted to have you back as frequently as you can."

Now, the Queen, er, the mayor, has come in for more than a few criticisms in this column. This isn't one of them.

She could have, in that moment with Barbara Bush, taken a friendly partisan swipe. She could have made some crack about primary day, March 10. She did none of those things. She never even mentioned the election.

But she did do the right thing.

Just like a woman.