At 85, Phyllis Schlafly has still got game.
The anti-feminist founder of the conservative Eagle Forum -- who counts Barry Goldwater's 1964 White House run and the 1982 death of the Equal Rights Amendment as exquisite victories and the "internationalist" presidencies of George Bush 41 and 43 as "not helpful to the Republican party" -- hasn't mellowed one whit.
That she made abundantly clear Thursday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington.
Lord knows she still looks great, the poufy blonde hair perfectly lacquered, the fitted tweed jacket tricked out with her signature golden eagle brooch and tiny anti-abortion baby feet, her neck encircled by three stands of pearls and a chain from which dangled a cross of gold. (Also, for those into jewelry inventories, there were diamonds rings, a pair of gold flower earrings with pearl centers and probably a wristwatch, suggesting that however comfortable Schlafly is with an early 20th century notion of female comportment, she rejects the dicta of both Emily Post and Coco Chanel to remove at least one bauble before leaving home, or to limit the total to a brutally edited three.)
Preaching to the CPAC choir in her allotted seven minutes on the "Saving Freedom from the Enemies of our Values" panel, Schlafly warned about the futility of a Tea Party third party. Too expensive, too inefficient, and, in the end, pointless because every single one of those 435 House members and 100 Senators will end up aligning with the Republicans or Democrats. Although she's thrilled that the GOP now has "the most conservative platform ever," she insists she doesn't want to "expel" anyone from its not-so-big tent. (If you want to actually hear her sneer, listen as she utters the phrase "Rockefeller Republican.")
Too soon it was over, with too few Phyllisisms to take away. I needed some first-time face time with her, which turned out to be a nice round quarter hour with this champion of stay-at-home moms to whom feminist is a four-letter word. She herself has written or edited 20 books, earned a Washington University law degree, a Harvard master's in political science, spawned a potent political empire, and developed a fierce conviction that chivalry, like manly men, must never be allowed to die. I'm certain that when she ascends to Heaven, if indeed that is where she's headed, she'll expect St. Peter not just to hold open the Pearly Gates, but also to help her off with her coat.
So, I asked Mrs. Schlafly -- you don't really think she's ever called Ms. Schlafly? -- when might this country elect a woman president?
"I don't see it happening because I don't see one coming up the line in either party," she said. Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama because "people don't want to elect a feminist because they are not likeable. You have to be likeable to be elected." She paused a moment before musing that "the best route is probably being a governer," never mind that at this moment, "the pickings among [women] governors are very slim."
Ditto, apparently, among female ex-governors. "Sarah Palin is the total package. She's got a cute husband. She's got a lot of kids."
But is she ready to be president? "I don't think so."