Nov 14, 2018, Stu Spencer & Harry Schaffner — RealClear Politics

The time is now, America.  We have had enough of the past few years to say we need to go in a new direction.

Ronald Reagan spoke to all of us in saying that “it is morning in America.”  Now, it is twilight in America.  Our light from the sun has crossed over us and we are in the gloaming.  The time is now, America, to take a new direction.  The light will return.  A new day will dawn.

The time is now to put behind us any notion that this great nation is a colored map, with some states red and others blue.  Colored pencils are for kindergarten.  Our great nation cannot be reduced to colored pencils.  The time is now, America.

We are one people: Americans.  No nation in the history of this world has ever done what we have done in the past.  No nation in history has the ability and the opportunity to do what we can do in the future.  The time is now, America.

We can no longer afford to think of ourselves only as Republicans or Democrats.  We are Americans.  We are a nation built on the premise of freedom for all.  We are not going to allow ourselves to be led by fear.  We are not going to be led by lies and inflammatory language.  We are no longer going to see ourselves as divided by states, regions, religion, gender or ethnicity.  We are America and our time is now, as it has never been before.

We have led the world to advances in science, engineering, education for all; a country that respects every person’s religion and heritage, and every person’s color.  We have lost our way a bit, but we are here to lead us through the short night ahead and into a new morning in America.

We will not be defined as the leader of the 20th century, but not the 21st century.  No.  We have led with our heads high and the awe and respect of the world and we will continue and resume our unique way as Americans.  We have freedom and freedom will always win out.  Hate is not part of our DNA.  Hate is for fools, for the shallow.  Freedom is for winners, and we Americans are winners.  We are, as the very name of our country has proudly said for almost two and a half centuries, the United States of America.

The largest political party in America is not the Republicans or the Democrats.  The largest political party is the voters who did not cast ballots and the Americans who have yet to register as voters.  Those folks are the largest political party in our nation.  And we Republicans will show them that this is their America and that our time is now.  We will show them that the Republican Party is their party.  We must include them and get them to know we hear their voices and their disconnection and apathy.  We understand that no party has appealed to them to participate in the great issues of our time.  We will appeal to them with truth, not fear.  We will appeal to them with no eye for color or ethnicity, no eye for religious preference or gender.  No eye to their private lives defining them.

The world may have changed.  Many nations now have a raised standard of living, excellent health care and a growing middle class.  We have led them and we will resume our role.  We have not changed.  We have been the envy of the world and we will be the envy of the world in the future as well.  We have done that with our great history, our Constitution, our rule of law and our education.  Most of all we have led by showing that freedom will always win out; that truth will always win out and that there is no place for fear and division.

As Republicans we are not going to reach across the aisle, we are going to forget there is an aisle.  Let’s listen to the other sides.  Let’s understand their views and proposals.  And most of all let’s put away the language of division and work together for our young and our seniors.  Everything is not political polarity.  All language need not intentionally inflame or belittle anyone.  A gentler America will be a much wiser America.  We are not name-callers.  We do not need to make fun of people or belittle them to feel bigger.  We do not want to create false fears and empty hopes.  Fear has no home in America.

Let us go together as Republicans into the night that is falling upon us.  Let us light up the night with our good sense.  Let’s help each other through the night, not as citizens of a red state or a blue state, but as Americans.  The Republican Party has in our history, and will in our future, lead the way into the new dawn and once again it will be Morning in America.  The time is now, America.  God bless the United States of America.


Nov 3, 2018, Tamsin McMahon — The Globe and Mail

Democrats are on a mission to flip middle-class enclaves from red to blue – and women are the key, both as organizers and as voters. But some female millennials are helping the GOP fight back. The Globe and Mail reports from two regions to watch

California: Behind the ‘orange curtain,’ women plan for change

Eileen Padberg was a loyal Republican for 53 years.

She joined the party out of high school, set up a Young Republicans association in Anaheim, Calif., and became a prominent California political consultant, managing dozens of campaigns, including Clint Eastwood’s run for mayor of Carmel.

She clung fiercely to her Republican identity – even as she chafed against the party’s embrace of social conservatism. She published a book about the two years she spent in Iraq teaching local women how to compete for work on U.S.-sponsored reconstruction contracts. Pro-choice, she fought to remove the issue of abortion from the Republican platform – but lost.

Over the years, she watched as her political friends left the party and urged her to do the same. She believed Republicans would return to the roots that had attracted her to the party: small government, personal responsibility, a strong national defence.

But this fall, as Republican lawmakers in Congress picked apart a California university professor’s accusations of sexual assault, Ms. Padberg, a sexual-assault survivor herself, finally decided she’d had enough. She dumped her party affiliation and registered as an independent.

“The words that I was hearing from those old white guys were just insulting,” she said. “I couldn’t do it any more.”

She believes she is not alone, that many women like her have been turned off by the Republican Party under President Donald Trump – and that their anger will be a potent force in Tuesday’s midterm elections. “I’ve been holding on by a thin thread for a long time,” she said. “And I suspect that if I went that way, there are a lot of women who did.”

Ms. Padberg, 74, lives in the city of Laguna Niguel, in Orange County, a network of subdivisions, office buildings, theme parks and shopping malls that sprawls down the California coast south of Los Angeles. Places like this have become the battleground in American politics: suburban and traditionally conservative, populated by affluent white voters and an influx of immigrants attracted by good schools, safe neighbourhoods and decent jobs.

In California, moving to Orange County has long been described as going behind the “orange curtain,” the line where the state’s blue politics become red. But Orange County has been gradually turning purple: Demographic and economic shifts have transformed white, middle-class neighbourhoods whose fortunes were tied to the defence industry into a diverse mix of knowledge-economy professionals and service workers.

Two years ago, voters here backed Hillary Clinton by almost five percentage points, the first time the county has supported a Democratic presidential nominee in 80 years. Ms. Clinton’s win here has thrust Orange County into the forefront of the Democratic Party’s efforts to capture the House of Representatives this fall – the first time in years that California has been so central to national politics. The party has poured manpower and money into flipping the region’s four Republican-held congressional seats. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have both come to town.

Central to that push will be Orange County’s female voters. In a region where white women were long counted on as reliable Republican voters, the 2016 election has brought Democratic women out of the shadows.

“For many of us, our politics was something we kept close to the breast,” said Lorellen Green, a physician and former professional dancer. “It took something sort of cataclysmic like this for us to start saying, ‘I’m a Democrat.’”

The energy among women on the left has inspired a flurry of grassroots efforts to get Democratic voters to the polls and to start building the kind of ground game that Orange County Republicans have steadily constructed over decades.

After the 2016 election, Joanna Weiss, 46, a corporate attorney who is now a stay-at-home mom, started keeping track of all her female friends grieving Ms. Clinton’s loss on social media. When she got to 35 names, she invited the women to her home. “We’ll drink a lot of wine, write letters to Congress and maybe we’ll form a political action committee,” she told them.

More than 20 women showed up. Soon the meetings grew too large for her house. Eventually, Ms. Weiss formed Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE), which she describes as a support system for progressive women in Orange County.

The group now has about 700 members and has created its own Super PAC, an independent political committee that can spend unlimited amounts on advertising as long as it doesn’t co-ordinate directly with parties or candidates. It has raised more than US$200,000, according to public records, including US$75,000 from an April fundraiser hosted by comedian Chelsea Handler.

On a breezy night in October, more than 60 people attended a WAVE ballot party – an information session about candidates and ballot measures – in upscale Newport Beach.

Linda Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from neighbouring Los Angeles County who was invited to kick off the party, pointed to a man in the audience who had raised his hand to ask her a question.

“Every time I talk to a group of people, we open it for a Q&A – and women never ask the first question. And I’m tired of that,” she said. “I am not going to answer this man’s question.”

The man lowered his hand. The room, filled mostly with women, broke into applause.

Across town, another group of women gathered at Ms. Green’s home for the inaugural meeting of the Women’s Activist Book Club. The women were members of Imagine Action OC, a grassroots group that has also hosted ballot parties, fundraisers and candidate meet-and-greets. “I see this as part of being a good mom,” said Faye Hezar, one of the group’s organizers and a commercial property manager who moved to California from Iran. “I don’t want my children and my grandchildren to live in a country like this.”

Both Democrats and Republicans caution that Ms. Clinton’s victory here in 2016 may be less a sign that the county’s politics are moving leftward than an indication that many of the region’s moderately conservative voters did not take to Mr. Trump.

Renette Crone was among those early Trump skeptics. Her choice for the Republican nominee was Marco Rubio. But over time she has come to appreciate how the President’s unorthodox style has confounded his political opponents both at home and abroad.

“He does make us cringe,” said Ms. Crone, who has put her interior design business in the affluent waterfront community of Corona Del Mar on hold so she can co-ordinate midterm efforts for the Newport Harbor Republican Women’s Club. “You just have to shrug it off and say: We don’t get our spiritual guidance from Donald Trump.”

She concedes that women are galvanized on the left but believes Republicans remain the establishment party in Orange County. Her group primarily targets fiscally conservative women with messages about Republican tax cuts, rather than expounding on the future of Roe vs. Wade. “We don’t need to go to battle on social issues,” she said. “We’re all about keeping it in the mainstream.”

Where a blue wave may run aground in Orange County is among moderate conservative voters who feel alienated by Mr. Trump’s rhetoric but have reservations about the far-left elements of the Democratic Party.

Voters like Lisa Bauer. A retired human resources manager for the county government, Ms. Bauer, 58, is a long-time Republican. She supported Ms. Clinton in 2016 but also backed her local Republican congresswoman, Mimi Walters. Since then, she has felt increasingly put off by Mr. Trump, whom she describes as “particularly insulting to women,” and by Ms. Walters, whose office has not responded to any of her requests.

This year, she has offered to volunteer for Ms. Walter’s Democratic opponent, law professor Katie Porter. But she has registered to vote as an independent, worrying that the Democrats sometimes push their progressive policies too far. She points to a proposed bill in the state legislature – vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown – that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to serve on local city councils and school boards.

Those positions should be reserved for U.S. citizens, she said. “That’s what gives the Democrats a bad name.”

Orange County’s Democratic candidates have tried to appeal to moderate voters by flashing their conservative bona fides.

Harley Rouda, a real-estate developer challenging veteran Republican Dana Rohrabacher, and lottery winner Gil Cisneros, who is running for a seat vacated by Republican Ed Royce, openly talk about being former Republicans.

In a hotly contested race in a neighbouring, Republican-controlled suburban swath of Los Angeles County, ads for Democrat Katie Hill feature her father, a police officer and Republican voter, and describe how she grew up around guns.

Sheila Bigelow, 64, has volunteered on Ms. Hill’s campaign as a way to “make it up to the universe” for voting for Mr. Trump.

A NASA employee who works at nearby Edwards Air Force Base, she wasn’t bothered by his comments about grabbing women – but changed her mind when he attacked Meryl Streep on Twitter.

“I said: Wait a minute. He’s going to be president in the next few days. Why is he going after the greatest actress of our generation?” she said. “It’s just gotten worse and worse and worse.”

She is skeptical, however, that there are enough voters who feel that way in this long, dry stretch of Southern California. “I disagree with practically everything that Trump has to say, but on this thing I think he’s right: There may not be a blue wave.”

Ms. Padberg views things differently. A veteran of more than 100 Republican political campaigns, many of them supporting female candidates and women’s issues, she sees changes coming.

“I think women finally got it. We finally said: We’re done here. And I think it shows up in this election. Not just in Orange County, but across the country.”


Oct 20, 2018 — Los Angeles Times

To the editor: Columnist Virginia Heffernan talks a lot about the men who have moved on from the Republican Party. I think the real story is the number of women who have left the party.


The Opinion piece by Virginia Heffernan, Farewell to the Grand Old Part, October 14, 2018, talks a lot about the men who have moved on from the Republican Party. I think the real story is the number of women that have reregistered to No Party Preference or even Democrat.

I have been a registered Republican for more than 53 years. I am an active feminist but have hung on to my registration in the party of individual rights and liberties, personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, a strong national defense and fiscal responsibility. I hung on to my party registration although I didn’t always vote a straight GOP ticket. I hung on until I couldn’t.

My Republican credentials would hold up to anyone. I founded the Anaheim Young Republicans and was a delegate to the National Young Republican Convention. I was the youngest delegate to the 1968 Republican National Convention. I attended several Republican national conventions and advocated for women’s rights, the Equal Rights Amendment and to take abortion out of the party platform. In 1987, I was the regional political director for George H.W. Bush’s campaign for president. I organized the California delegation to the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans.

It was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings that put me over the edge. When I heard the words coming from the Republican leadership and the president, that fine thread holding me to the GOP finally broke. I couldn’t believe the disrespect for women I was hearing.

I am not alone. Surely there are thousands of women across America who gave up on the Republican Party. The GOP died years ago, but it finally got buried with the Kavanaugh hearings.

Eileen E. Padberg, Laguna Niguel


To the editor: Heffernan’s column really hit home. I joined the Republican Party when Barry Goldwater told me he would keep government out of our pockets and out of our bedrooms.

Then Republicans decided they needed the religious right — never mind that science now came from scripture and intolerance became a new family value.

Then Republicans decided they needed lots of money, so along came Citizens United — never mind that candidates were now owned by special interests.

Then Republicans decided it was worth sacrificing progress to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president — never mind that gridlock became the new norm.

Now Republicans have thrown away any moral compass or fiscal conservatism to keep a man in office who is unfit to be there — never mind that they were humiliated into sycophancy.

Republicans: It’s time to abandon ship. There has to be something better than this.

Judy Cabrera, Glendale



Sep 9, 2016 — Richard Nixson Foundation

Strategic planning and corporate communications consulting expert Eileen Padberg visited the Nixon Library on September 8, 2016 for an evening lecture recounting her vivid experiences working with Iraqi women and living in a war zone.

When Padberg had the opportunity to go to Iraq in June 2004, she didn’t hesitate. She put her successful consulting business of 35 years on hold and embarked on a journey to Iraq with the single focus of helping the Iraqi women participate in the nation’s economic recovery.

During her 22 month stay in Iraq, Padberg established 500 American contracts with Iraqi women-owned businesses and provided training in leadership, management and budget and finance. By the end of her tour in March 2006, she had helped train more than 1,900 mid- and senior-level women in the Iraqi government.

Eileen Padberg is a consultant to an international organization that works with emerging democracies, traveling worldwide to provide political training in countries such as the former Soviet Union, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.


E-Book Link

Oct 22, 2010, Tracy Wood — Voice of OC

The biggest challenge facing the super-sized field of 14 candidates running for two city council seats in Anaheim is simply making sure voters remember their name.

Lawn signs are plastered everywhere by candidates who can afford them, and some even have the resources to send out at least one mailer.

But in a city with 350,000 residents and no signature issue to rally voters, many of those seeking to join the five-member council are riding the top national campaign issue, vowing to create jobs. Yet they offer few specifics on how they could accomplish that from a city council dais.

Another recurrent theme is support for additional police and firefighters.

But as veteran Orange County political consultant Eileen Padberg observed, when a field of candidates is that large, a candidate’s biggest political assets are name recognition and where that name appears on the ballot.

That means, she said, the advantage lies with “whoever’s done the most mail.”

And, she warns, “if you’ve done a lot of negative mail, I don’t think it’s going to work this year.”

Negative mail happens in every campaign, but Padberg said voters appear exceptionally turned off by it this year.

Mailers are expensive, costing $25,000 to $30,000 each, at least in Anaheim, according to several candidates.

Two contenders who can afford that and more are Gail Eastman and Kris Murray. Both are backed by the Chamber of Commerce and Save Our Anaheim Resort, a coalition of interests in the area around Disneyland.

Eastman, a former city planning commissioner who lives in the city’s historic district, has raised $24,265.00 so far this year of her own.

But the Chamber of Commerce also expects to spend roughly $90,000 supporting Eastman, Murray and mayoral candidate Tom Tait, said chamber President Todd Ament. Murray serves on the chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.

In addition to her backing from the Chamber, Murray’s campaign reports that it raised $83,687.88 so far this year with another $1,000 coming in this week from outgoing Mayor Curt Pringle.

Murray is a founding member of S.O.A.R., has served on the Anaheim Public Utilities Board and Metropolitan Water District and works for the Orange County Transportation Authority, where, as executive director of government relations, she oversees the work of the agency’s lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington.

John Leos, a deputy juvenile corrections officer for the county probation department, is the council candidate endorsed by the Anaheim Municipal Employees Association and the Orange County Employees Association, said OCEA labor relations representative Tim Steed.

Leos’ campaign has reported raising $27,650 this year, and Steed said labor will also send mailers on his behalf.

Political newcomer Bill Dalati, through his insurance agency, lent his campaign $75,000. In his statement to voters, he says through his insurance work he has helped 70 small businesses get started in Anaheim.

The city of Anaheim has posted the full list of council candidates and their campaign finance statements online.


Apr 22, 2008, Gail Matsunaga — California State University Fullerton

In 2004, Eileen Padberg jumped at the opportunity to travel to Iraq, with the focus of helping Iraqi women participate in whatever economic recovery democracy promised.

On April 23, she will recount her journey — a six-month commitment that stretched to 22 months — during her presentation “A Civilian’s View of Life in Iraq and the Way Forward for Iraqi Women” as part of Cal State Fullerton’s Women & Philanthropy speakers series.

The 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. talk will be held at Alta Vista Country, 777 E. Alta Vista St., Placentia. Tickets are $25 per person and may be ordered by calling 278-4732.

President of her own consulting firm, Padberg has served as a political consultant and strategist to elected officials at all levels of government, including managing the 1986 mayoral campaign for Clint Eastwood and serving as the regional political director for George Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign for California, Hawaii and Nevada.

She is a consultant to an international organization that works with emerging democracies, and traveled worldwide to provide political training for countries such as the former Soviet Union, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.

As a community activist, Padberg has been recognized for her work with women, encouraging them to participate as elected officials and providing training programs to run and win political campaigns.

Cal State Fullerton’s Women & Philanthropy network is an organization that brings together successful women leaders who value CSUF’s educational mission and its effect on our communities. Its members are educated on the impact of philanthropy, presented with programs on professional and social topics, and have the opportunity to meet other dynamic and interesting women.


Oct 29, 2007, Lois Evezich — The Orange County Register

Once in a while a person appears in the public eye with a background so unique that the story must be told. Eileen Padberg is such a person, a woman with a vision that leaps over our country’s boundaries and makes a difference in a country that’s at war. Here is how this Laguna Niguel resident is changing lives of women in Iraq.

Q. How did you get involved with women’s projects here in the U.S. and in Iraq?

A. I have been an advocate for women most of my adult life, working with women to help them get elected to public office and out-front on significant public policy issues. I believed from the beginning that unless women had a stake in the economy, democracy would fail. I wrote the plan for Iraqi women with that in mind. As a known advocate for women, I was asked to write a plan that would be submitted as part of an overall proposal (in response to a Request for Proposal for a contractor that was bidding on the water reconstruction project). The early Pentagon contracts had a two sentence description that requested that any plan include the Iraqi women in the reconstruction process. It was assumed since I had done extensive training to help women run for public office, that I would know what was needed to meet the objective.

Q. What was the reaction of women in Iraq when they were presented with this opportunity?

A. The reaction was terrific. The Iraqi women were so excited that a woman from America would help them to succeed. My plan provided opportunities for Iraqi women by creating a job bank, career development training programs (Leadership/Management; Budget & Finance; English; Computer, Train-the-Trainer etc.) for women in government jobs and seminars to help Iraqi women owned businesses understand how to bid and win U.S. reconstruction contracts. The U.S. was providing $18.4 billion in reconstruction monies and I felt that this was a great way for women to build or expand their businesses by winning a few of these contracts.

Q. Did Iraqi women encounter resistance from Iraqi men when you organized leadership seminars?

A. No, not at all. Actually there was more resistance from our own U.S. contractors who did not understand that Iraqi women needed to work and to build their businesses and that they had the capabilities of doing almost anything. Women are 62% of the population – men have been killed in the many wars that Saddam had initiated – women have to feed their families.

Obviously the insurgents did not want women to succeed and because of that it made our seminars difficult to organize and dangerous for the women to attend. Iraqi women did not care about the danger, they wanted help from us.

Q. What did you do about the language barrier?

A. I recruited an Iraqi American young woman to go with me to Iraq. Her family had fled Iraq in 1991 and went back when the U.S. declared war. In addition to that, Iraqi women spoke pretty good English. Sometimes they had a hard time understanding English, but they did speak it.

Q. How did you prepare for your 22-month stay in Iraq?

A. I originally agreed to go for 6 months and ended up staying 22 months. The most important thing was to read as much as I could about Iraq and the women. In addition, I had to close down my successful consulting business. I met with each of my clients and explained that I was going to Iraq and that I had someone that I was recommending to replace me.

Q. What cultural differences did you have to learn about, such as shaking hands, women covering their hair, etc?

A. There were no cultural differences that I had to overcome. Iraqi women are just like us. They want a better life for their kids. They dress like us and they are very smart and clever. They greet each other just as women friends here greet each other – with a hug. Iraqi women had always had their own businesses (Mohammed’s wife was a business woman). It wasn’t until the insurgency had gotten really bad late in 2005 and 2006 that they started having to wear scarves over their hair for protection. Iraqi women are highly educated; there are more women engineers in Iraq than anywhere else in the Middle East. Iraq was the Paris of the Middle East. Women had the right to vote, the right to run for political office, the right to drive, the right to own property. They had work place harassment laws and even 5 years of maternity benefits! Iraqi women are very different than women in other parts of the Middle East.

Q. What were your thoughts, as a non-military person, when you were near the war zone?

A. It was quite stressful. I lived in the Green Zone, but traveled all over Iraq. The sound of gunfire and bombs and helicopters 24/7. I carried no gun. However, when I left the Green Zone I had a security convoy of a minimum of three SUV’s. I traveled throughout Iraq doing seminars for Iraqi women-owned businesses. My living arrangements were terrible – from Laguna Niguel to a high school classroom that I had to share with 4 other women.

We worked 11 hours a day, 6 ½ days a week. Our meals were taken in the mess hall – chicken, fish, meat all looked the same and tasted the same. There were rigid hours in which we could eat. At one point there was a $300,000 award for the head of an American woman. So you were always on guard. I had to wear a bullet proof vest that weighed almost 30 lbs; a bullet proof helmet that weighed 9 lbs – and in the summer it got to be 140 degrees!

Q. Did you work well with American men in Iraq? Military or contractors?

A. I think I worked well with American men, although I was always pushing them to hire Iraqi women; to understand that Iraqi women were capable and accomplished and able to do any engineering job or construction job. I had to push them very hard to include Iraqi women owned businesses in the list of bidders. I worked with contractors and military man – as well as Iraqi men.

Q. What do you see as the future of the American presence in Iraq?

A. I want to say right away that had we provided a “surge” of military 2 years ago, we would not be in the position that we are in today. The violence has gotten so bad that it is difficult to control it, however, it is working – unfortunately, it was too little and too late. Had we reviewed and readjusted our strategy 2 years ago we could have stabilized Iraq. Iraq is very secular – non-religious. Shiites and Sunni’s get along – before the February 2005 Iranian caused bombing of the Mosque in Samarra. Had we kept our commitment to the women of Iraq to help them seek freedom, we would have been way ahead. Had we not put thousands of Iraqis out of work and imported thousands of 3rd world country workers to do jobs that Iraqis could have done, we would have maintained the support and gratitude of the Iraqi people. Had we invested in the economy – we imported every piece of paper, every vegetable, every screw, hammer or pencils – instead of investing in the economy of Iraq; we would not be in this position today. I don’t know what the end is like for Iraq, but I do know that the Iraqis didn’t ask us to come to Iraq and it is our responsibility to clean up our mess and then leave. We are paying a lot of Congressmen a lot of money to solve problems – they have spent the last 3 years debating whether two men could live together instead of doing the job that they are way overpaid to do. It is way too simple to scream “stop funding the war” and “bring our troops home.” The Iraqis want peace – and sooner or later they will attain their dream.

Q. How can Iraqi women keep their foothold in construction, business, other professional areas that may seem new to them and to Iraqi men?

A. Though my program was such a small piece of the entire effort, we were responsible for training approximately 350 women owned businesses on how to bid and win contracts – resulting in a minimum of 500 substantial contracts for women owned businesses being awarded by our government – those contracts will go on and the women that have been successful in those contracts will continue to win more contracts. In addition, our program provided career development training programs for over 1,900 mid and senior level women in government. The majority of the Iraqi men did not oppose Iraqi women working. It is only the very religious that Don’t want women to be equal – much like here.


Mar 15, 2007, Eileen E. Padberg  — SF Gate

The latest effort by the Bush administration to revise its strategy in Iraq to “empower the Iraqi women … in the hopes that they would encourage their men to fight the insurgency” is fascinating, considering it is too little, too late.

A deep belief in opportunity for women led me to Iraq, where I spent 22 months helping Iraqi women get jobs, start new businesses and undergo career training. I felt that debating why we went to Iraq was for others; I could do my part by providing the Iraqi women with a level playing field. That was my area of expertise.

Yet, the Bush administration failed to understand how important it was to include the Iraqi women in their fledgling democracy, to protect their rights and to help them achieve financial independence. Every day, my work was like pushing a rock uphill — because our own people could not see the incredible benefits of providing equal opportunities for women.

When the United States committed $18.4 billion to Iraq for reconstruction efforts, I believed that an opportunity existed for women-owned businesses to land U.S. reconstruction contracts — contracts for any and everything, from painting buildings to rebuilding schools. But serious effort was required — not just to provide jobs — but to create real opportunities that could help Iraqi women, who made up two-thirds of the population, obtain a stake in the economy. What I found, however, was that providing Iraqi women opportunities was low on the list of priorities for our U.S. contractors as well as our State Department. Most of the people who went to Iraq had little knowledge of Iraq. They didn’t understand that under Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, Iraqi women had some degree of equality. They were encouraged to get an education, allowed to work, to drive and to vote. Many had their own small businesses.

The erosion of their rights began when Hussein, who was losing favor as a result of failed wars and increased poverty, expanded his coalition to include religious leaders. In addition, 30 years of U.S. sanctions were particularly hard on the women, plunging them into poverty.

So, the day the statute of Hussein was pulled from its pedestal in Baghdad, women all over Iraq were meeting in small groups to determine how they were going to win back and protect their constitutional rights.

Yet, the future was foretold when only three were assigned roles in the Coalition Provisional Authority. Even with that setback, the Iraqi women didn’t give up: They demanded 40 percent representation in their Parliament, but without the support of the provisional authority, the women ended up negotiating down to 25 percent representation — still better than our Congress, where women hold 17 percent of the seats.

Despite the pronouncements from Washington that Iraqi women were a priority, the State Department and the U.S. contractors it hired failed miserably to recruit “women-owned businesses” in Iraq or even to engage Iraqi women professionals.

From the beginning, the Iraqi women faced major hurdles. Not only did they face the “good old boy” system in Iraq — not necessarily of Arab culture, but of American contractors — with contracts going to those men who had built their businesses in the provisional authority days. Iraqi women didn’t have the financial backing needed to meet the start-up requirements, nor did they have U.S. partners.

Within six months, we developed a list of approximately 350 women-owned businesses that were capable of bidding on contracts. This list was distributed every other month to anyone in Iraq who had any authority to award contracts. It bore fruit: By the end of March 2006, approximately 500 substantial contracts were awarded to women-owned businesses. However, the effort to get the State Department to set aside 5 percent of the U.S. contracts for Iraqi women-owned businesses (just as we do in the United States) stalled for 1 1/2 years, without support from either the State Department or female members of Congress.

Another big problem for those Iraqi women in government jobs — generally in the ministries that provided water and power — was a lack of training that would enable them to advance in their careers. Many had been in the same jobs for 25 years, with no hope of promotion. We provided training in leadership, management, budget and finance, as well as a series of “train-the-trainer” seminars. We had trained more than 1,900 mid- and senior-level women in the Iraqi government as of March 2006. This part of the program continues through this month.

I left Baghdad in March 2006 with a great sense of accomplishment, but also with a deep sense of disappointment in our own disrespect for the Iraqis, particularly for the Iraqi women. Now, I wonder, will we use what we learned in Iraq or will we continue to make the same mistakes?

What the Iraqi women really needed was opportunity, and — oh boy — did we fail them there. In failing them, we failed ourselves. I truly believe if we had kept our commitment to the Iraqi women, we would not be in the situation we are in today. Had we provided the Iraqi women with opportunities three years ago, Iraqi women would have stood up and said, “that’s enough.”

But we missed that opportunity.


Nov 1, 2006 — Converse College

Eileen Padberg has been in Iraq for two years to help the women of that country succeed in business. On Nov. 6 at 7 p.m., she will share her experiences during an open forum at Converse College. Her presentation is free and open to the public, is entitled “Women Without Borders: Iraqi Women’s Stake in Democracy” and will be held in Barnet Room of the Montgomery Student Center. For more information, call (864) 596-9101.

Padberg has been a political consultant and corporate strategist based in Orange County, CA for 35 years. Her Iraqi adventure began when a friend and colleague called and suggested that she help write a plan to involve Iraqi women in the reconstruction process. “The proposal was part of the bigger proposal of managing the water sector reconstruction funds,” said Padberg. Then she was asked if she would be interested in going to Iraq to implement the program. “I had great clients. I had just bought a huge new house and I had just moved my office into my house. I don’t know what I was thinking. For whatever reason, I was at a point in my life where I needed a new challenge. I had been

working on behalf of equality for women for years so I really thought that this would be the ultimate challenge, and it was. I believe so strongly that unless we can help the Iraqi women get a stake in the economy, democracy there won’t have a chance.”

Padberg worked 72 hours a week; she walked home at night with two armed escorts and a bulletproof vest. In interviews via e-mail, the 60-year-old Padberg makes this observation: “When we travel, we travel by C-130 or by Black Hawk helicopters. I am so amazed that, not only do all those people ­ the military escorts ­ put their lives on the line for me, but on the helicopter there are always these very young soldiers stationed at the doors…protecting us from someone on the ground who doesn’t even know me, but who wants to kill me. It is incredible.”

Padberg recruited women to attend, for example, engineering training seminars. She and an Iraqi American helped women business owners learn the aspects of the bidding process. From one construction conference in November in Baghdad, two women won contracts. As of early February, four women-owned businesses had earned significant contracts and more than a dozen women had landed career-building jobs.

According to Padberg, the good news is that Iraqi women have had the opportunity to be well-educated, though there have been setbacks including the Iran-Iraq war which left th

ousands of families without husbands and fathers, U.S. sanctions and now war. “Women had to look for jobs, not careers,” said Padberg. However, many women now work for the government which oversees the nation’s utilities. Some 30% of the Ministry of Municipality and Public Works are women; some 10% of the employees of the Ministry of Water Resources are women. It was a starting point, in part to move those women already employed up the ladder, with some going into supervisory roles, explained Padberg.