The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd was in Georgia on election night brightening up the night watch over Newt Gingrich’s uneasiness. As is the usual case for communions with good girls and most especially with more than semidivine ones like Dowd, the talk drifted to the woes of woman as brought vividly back to mind by Benazir Bhutto’s defrocking as Pakistani prime minister.

The offenses that brought her low were not so much her own as those of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistani minister of investments and bearer of the honorific “Mr. 10 Percent” as certificate of repute for the inveteracies of his predation.

Since Adam tried to dodge the wrath of his Edenic landlord by pleading, “It was the woman bade me eat,” man’s was the law, and he could blame his trespasses on some daughter of Eve. In those days, many a statesman was ruined by a bad woman; in these, more and more stateswomen affirm their title to rule and as many of them are being ruined by bad men.

The author of Benazir Bhutto’s undoing was chosen for her by her parents, whose care availed her nothing but trouble. But ours is a culture of free will where women can pick their mates to fit their fancies and their carelessness can be punished with equally unpleasant consequences.

Watch an ill-starred sister seat herself in the saddle of power and you are apt to see some easy rider climb up and cleave himself to the horse’s rump behind her. On November 7, Congresswoman Enid Greene (R-Utah), her appointment with oblivion just eighty-eight days away, wept in a District of Columbia federal courtroom when Joseph Waldholtz, her former husband, stood up to be sentenced to thirty-seven months for the felonies of kiting checks, looting her campaign funds, and filing affidavits falsifying their source. He had, by no means incidentally, stung Enid Greene’s father for $1.8 million and reduced her to the shame that dared not speak its name as a candidate again.

If it is true, as Henry Kissinger once observed, that power is an aphrodisiac, its lusts appear to be roused to the utmost by the aromas of opportunity for parasitical profit. The ex-Mrs. Waldholtz’s attractions impress the head and eye as meager, although they are outsized in comparison with her Joe’s. But former District of Columbia Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and incumbent Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) are both creatures so fetching that each ought to have been safe in the hands of a decent man by the hour she arrived at her high destiny as goose worth being plucked by her ordained Mr. Wrong.

Sharon Pratt Kelly was elected mayor to redeem the sins of Marion Barry. She was scarcely at work on her purgations when the enhancement of her personal charms by her new sheen as vessel of potential profit lit up the cold eye of a Boston lawyer. She accepted the tender of his cheating heart, and submitted herself to his cunning. In short order he had her good name tarnished by suspicions that her husband had found richer chances to score off city contracts than observers had before imagined that Barry and friends could possibly have left behind. Now Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly is gone, and let us pray not abandoned, and Marion Barry is back, shriven to err again.

Senator Moseley-Braun’s encumbrance first made his presence manifest in small scandals attendant upon her campaign expenditures and is said to be contentedly leeching upon her still. Every revolution transforms winners too soon into victims, but who could have conceived that feminism’s would clear the way for quite so many representatives of the second oldest of professions, which is, of course, the procurer’s?

But still the ideal of equality shines to inspire us even when it is the equality of a road to Gehenna as open to the good woman propelled there by the bad man as it was once reserved for the good man pulled toward the pit by the bad woman. We are at last gender-free with the resources for ruin

Copyright å© 1996 Newsday, Inc.

This Issue

December 19, 1996