The Rules According to Dee Dee Myers

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Dee Dee Myers thinks motherhood should count as diplomacy experience.

Dee Dee Myers, the first White House press secretary in Bill Clinton's administration, was also the first woman to hold that post. She has just published Why Women Should Rule the World — part political memoir, part reported rhetoric, part feminist manifesto. Myers spoke with TIME's Lisa Takeuchi Cullen about confronting Leon Panetta on her pay, why she won't endorse Hillary Clinton, and whether or not women rule her own household.

TIME: So, the thing is: there's a never-ending war in the Middle East. There's starvation and strife in Africa. There's authoritarian rule in Asia, corruption in South America, and a really poor crop of American Idol contestants this season. Why should women want to rule the world?

Myers: Because I think that women know that by bringing more women into all avenues of public life, we can solve some of those problems. I don't think women hold all the answers, but with their skills, their strengths, we can get to a better place. I don't think all or any of those problems get solved overnight. Especially American Idol.

TIME:First things first: should women rule the country? Moreover, should this woman — namely, your old boss's wife, Hillary Clinton — rule the country?

Myers:The book isn't an argument about Hillary Clinton at all. I'd be thrilled if she did win, though at this point it's unclear. It's not an argument for one woman to rule, but for more women in Congress, legislature, business, diplomacy, at every level of public life. Women have a lot of power in private life. There are many men who would say, Hey, women already rule my life. But with women, more is more. The more there are, the more the world gets used to seeing them. We change the culture. We begin to expand options and lead and manage. It creates options not just for women but for men as well. This isn't an argument about what's in our self interest; it's about what makes government work better, what makes business more efficient.

TIME:You've written a lot about why Hillary Clinton makes a good leader, in your book and elsewhere. Even your seven-year-old daughter, Kate, has endorsed her. But you haven't, have you?

Myers:No, I haven't, in order to maintain some pretense of objectivity for the book, although people will assume I'm for Hillary Clinton and that's in some ways inescapable. I think what I've been struck by in this campaign is that it's still more difficult for women to be taken seriously. Hillary has had to prove she was tough enough to be Commander in Chief. That's one reason her campaign made her 30 years of experience its foundation. Then again, if you're too tough, then people think you're too hard, you're not feminine enough. The B word comes up. It's a whole other set of obstacles. There's still a double standard.

I'll support whoever the Democratic nominee is. Of course, I voted in my primaries [in Washington, D.C.]. It could all be over very quickly. Whether or not Hillary's campaign is coming to an end, I hope we will have a conversation, looking back, on how it in some ways exposed obstacles. Maybe we thought we were further along. You can still say some things about women that are pretty shocking, and there's no penalty for saying it.

TIME:Will you have that conversation with her?

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