The Rules According to Dee Dee Myers

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Dee Dee Myers thinks motherhood should count as diplomacy experience.

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TIME:Do you think [current White House press secretary] Dana Perino got stiffed on salary?

Myers:She did not. Dana is my friend. I talk to her periodically. I always hoped and believed that what happened to me wouldn't happen again and I will say it hasn't.

TIME:So does she have the tools, the authority to do her job?

Myers:I don't work inside the Bush White House, and what with the presidential campaign going on I don't focus on it much. When I was there, a lot of men had overlapping responsibilities, and I know that's not true for her. I'm sure there are ways she struggles. She's only in her mid-30s herself. But many barriers were overcome. Bush has confidence in Dana, and it's a step forward.

I wish we were further along. When I was in college 25 years ago, I thought that by the time I reached this elderly station in my life, these problems would be solved. Well, they're not.

TIME:If women ruled the world, would there be war? You cite Bosnian prime minister Haris Silajdzic and Sally Field arguing otherwise, and you say in your book that as mothers we'd never let our sons go off and kill each other.

Myers:Plenty of mothers have sent sons and sometimes daughters to fight and die for a cause. I'm saying the threshold would be higher, the incentives to look for other options greater. I don't know if this is politically correct or not, but men are more violent. Men have a greater propensity for violence. You say, yeah, well, women get so grouchy. Okay, but they don't go invade another country because they're having a bad day.

TIME:As press secretary from 1992 to 1994, you got to miss the whopper of public relations snafus: the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Myers: There was not one minute I regretted not being there for that.

TIME:If women ruled the world, would the world see fewer sex scandals?

Myers:I don't know. Most sex scandals do involve a woman. There's probably less correlation between power and sex with powerful women.

TIME:As a woman, would it have been tough to defend [the President]?

Myers:Well, I did live through the Gennifer Flowers episode, so, yes, it is difficult. The outside world perceives you're lending your gender to the defense. Here's a woman saying she believes the president. It's a greater burden on a woman, but it was uncomfortable for everybody. It's just too bad when those issues take center stage.

TIME:Hillary Clinton made the point that it took Lyndon B. Johnson to implement some landmark civil rights laws. Looking back, will we credit, say, George W. Bush similarly, for appointing more women to senior and cabinet-level jobs than any of his predecessors?

Myers:I'm plenty willing to give George Bush credit for appointing women. Karen Hughes, Condoleeza Rice, Dana Perino...I applaud the president for that, and I'm not quick to applaud him on a lot of fronts. I'm not sure Hillary's argument had great legs anyway. More women is good for women, whether it's Republican or Democratic, not because it makes political sense, but because it makes government better. You shudder to think what his government would have looked like without women.

TIME:You're married to Vanity Fair correspondent Todd Purdum and you have two children, a son and a daughter. Do women rule your household?

Myers:Well, my daughter can be a bossy little person. We hold our own. We all try to share.

TIME:You talk about a confidence gap between men and women that begins very young. In the book you write of berating yourself for not pushing President Clinton strongly enough to make a statement following the disaster in Waco, Texas. You quote Lois Wyse, who wrote, “Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” As a working mother, how do you help your young daughter close that gap?

Myers:It's something I'm very conscious of. I try to help her recognize her accomplishments and be proud of them...that what she does is just as significant. I try not to overpraise her for things that didn't take much effort, but when she puts forward her best effort, that's the most she should require of herself.

Shirley Tilghman, the president of Princeton, told me of two freshmen. Each had won the Westinghouse [now Intel] Science prize. The woman said, Gosh, I was so surprised. The young man said, I knew my project was great — I always knew I'd win. One thinks he deserves to win; the other is surprised. That was by the time they were freshmen in college. So, yes, it does start young. We all need to be aware of it and work to enhance girls.

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