August 26, 2007

"If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent, it makes the husband look like a wimp."

So said Richard Nixon. He said that in 1992 -- I don't think "wimp" was a Nixon Era word -- when he was watching Hillary Clinton fighting for Bill.

These days, we're seeing a lot of the political wives, especially Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama, but the issue isn't so much whether they are making their husband look wimpy, it's how they are being used, because they are women, to attack the female candidate. Supposedly, they can say things that might seem sexist coming from a man. But there's certainly something sexist about thinking Hillary belongs in a debate with the women! If Elizabeth and Michelle want to be such active debaters, let's see them have an argument with Bill.

17 comments:

Jeremy said...

A debate between the democratic candidates' spouses would be like those 90-second Mike Tyson KOs back in the day. Considering how snarky Edwards and Obama have been, though, I'd love to see Clinton steamroll them. But I'm sure that would somehow be seen as sexist, since the non-male spouses are not Rhodes scholars and former two-term presidents. NOT THAT THEY COULDN'T HAVE BEEN, THE LAZY TWITS.

George said...

How about the line in the front page story of today's NYT about children on the campaign trail?

John Edwards' son won't behave for reporters (or something), so his father says something like, "Son, do we have to go in the back of the bus and have a conversation?"

What a jerk.

His kids are on the permanent campaign trail with him, as well, because Edwards says (in the jump) something like he just has to have them with him all the time.

Just like Ike during World War II.

AllenS said...

If Elizabeth and Michelle were to debate Bill, neither would be wearing a blue dress, I'll bet.

Cigars and a blue dress, always bring Bill Clinton to mind. No?

EnigmatiCore said...

The whole political spouse as political operative is an interesting phenomenon.

However, it is not the safe haven that it might first appear. A spouse can become a pretty big liability, as Teresa showed.

Cedarford said...

Nixon was right on the American public perceiving nepotic influence as making the spouse or other bestower of nepotic favors look like a wimp if the person comes on strong.
Omitted from Nixon's remark is that the person given prominence through family ties is silly and inept, it makes the patron look corrupt.
The American people have a deep dislike for power gained and exterted on them only through family connections or cronyism.

It has been well-rooted out in publicly traded companies, and ID'd as a main reason why privately owned compnies tube - nepotics may not be the best person, and knowing they have more clout and a better promotion track with the boss tends to destroy morale of competent subordinates.

Unfortunately, nepotism & cronyism flourishes in State & Fed government and in the private sector that relies on Gov't connections for lobbying, legal, contract work.

I think in Presidential campaigns, it plays out as well with the public, as a CEO introducing his MBA wife as his "#1 Advisor and spokesperson for me in the firms business" at Board Meetings and in front of employees.
And it gets worse when the spouse, and it doesn't have to be a female one - asserts the right to nepotic power based on how many degrees they have, how intelligent and articulate they are and how they would have risen to positions of high power and won all the elections or promotions themselves if they hadn't chosen other priorities.

The public does want a CEO or politican's spouse or best friend crony to champion the person in the arena, to give others a better sense of the person in power - but not to step in the arena and claim that wealth of granted positions of patronage, power, and policy-setting are their due from their private relationship with the CEO or Pol.

AllenS said...

I'm having second thoughts on my comment above. What if there was a debate between the three and both Elizabeth and Michelle wore a blue dress, and they both gave Bill a cigar at the beginning of the debate? What shade of red would Bill turn?

Zeb Quinn said...

I don't think "wimp" was a Nixon Era word

Wimp has been around for a long time.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I don't think "wimp" was a Nixon Era word

Well we know it was around 6 years later.

# 56 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
# 56 said...

"A debate between the democratic candidates' spouses would be like those 90-second Mike Tyson KOs back in the day. Considering how snarky Edwards and Obama have been, though, I'd love to see Clinton steamroll them."
He could roll them, but would he? Debates happen in real time, and both these women throw wild punches. It is as easy to envision a Clinton walkover as another episode of Clinton/Matthews Meltdown. He smart but vulnerable to rage, no chance Hillary lets the dog loose for this debate.

MadisonMan said...

What if there was a debate between the three and both Elizabeth and Michelle wore a blue dress, and they both gave Bill a cigar at the beginning of the debate?

I expect Bill would fix them with a withering glare, and ask them if they expected their husbands to point out personal peccadilloes of world leaders they meet. And as the ladies stutter, he'd ask how they thought that would help.

LoafingOaf said...

These days, we're seeing a lot of the political wives, especially Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama, but the issue isn't so much whether they are making their husband look wimpy, it's how they are being used, because they are women, to attack the female candidate. Supposedly, they can say things that might seem sexist coming from a man. But there's certainly something sexist about thinking Hillary belongs in a debate with the women! If Elizabeth and Michelle want to be such active debaters, let's see them have an argument with Bill.

Let me get this straight. Some columnist stretches to read an "attack" on Hillary in a sentence from this portion of a Michelle Obama speech:

That one of the most important things that we need to know about the next President of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House. So, so we''ve adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he's traveling around, I do day trips. That means I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, I get them off, I go and do trips, I'm home before bedtime. So the girls know that I was gone somewhere, but they don't care. They just know that I was at home to tuck them in at night, and it keeps them grounded, and, and children, the children in our country have to know that they come first. And our girls do and that's why we're doing this. We're in this race for not just our children, but all of our children.

Drudge runs with it, to manufacture a controversy.

Althouse posts about it as if only a fool would not be 100% confident Michelle Obama meant that portion of her speech to be a swipe at Hillary Clinton.

And now Althouse says there's something sexist about Michelle Obama being used for these supposedly obvious and intentional attacks Hillary.

What intended attacks on Hillary? The ones that didn't exist until you chose to buy into a manufactured controversy involving reading things into a sentence of a speech taken out of context?

Laughable.

With that said, I suppose it's true that if you're in a campaign against a Clinton and you mention morality, ethics, honesty, family values, character, or anything of the kind, it can be taken as an attack on the Clintons, a crooked, dishonest, immoral couple we can't seem to get rid of.

Joe said...

Wimp appears to have been first used in the 1920s (probably as a result of Wimpy of Popeye fame), but then vanished for a while to resurface in the 1960s. I recall hearing it in the 70s.

* * * *

I think it's a generally bad idea for a candidate to use their spouse in a high profile way. It not only creates the impression that the candidate is a "wimp", but greatly increases the danger of the spouse "going off script" and saying something that will come back to haunt the candidate later. In the very worse case, the spouse can make promises that the candidate simply will not be able to keep as president. (Hillary arguably did this in 1992, though I suspect that case was more a compromise with Bill for her humiliating herself on TV--I don't like the woman, but I did feel bad for her for that piece of theater.)

BTW, I find it very telling that Hillary is keeping Bill in the closet. I'm quite sure her campaign will use him in a very targeted way, like with the add to the far left, but is smart enough to know that he could quickly become a liability, though in his case I think it's largely because he's more likable and centrist than Hillary.

hdhouse said...

Frankly I think Michelle would be the better president ... and Bill would still be a better president than Hillary...

but there is something interesting to note that both candidates married well and married "up" in a manner of speaking and it says a lot for them, frankly speaking, that candidates of such caliber who are running in both parties, by in large, have spouses who are every bit their equal in a lot of ways...

if Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Edwards ran on a ticket I'd vote for them....As GK says in Prairie...were all the women are strong, all the men good looking and all the children above average.

LoafingOaf said...

and Bill would still be a better president than Hillary...

Which isn't saying much.

I'm not sure if Hillary would be better or worse than Bill; I'm just sure we can do better than anyone with the Clinton name. If Hillary wins, we don't know if terror sleeper cells would be knocking down skyscrapers in our major cities months after she was president, so I can't say for sure she'd be worse than Bill.

but there is something interesting to note that both candidates married well and married "up" in a manner of speaking and it says a lot for them, frankly speaking, that candidates of such caliber who are running in both parties, by in large, have spouses who are every bit their equal in a lot of ways...

Yeah, it's interesting. She married a guy who'd help her become powerful while he was using women as sperm receptacles whom his and her attack dogs in the Bimbo Eruptions Office referred to as "trailer trash". This does say a lot about the power-hungry Senator of NY, but is it good?

if Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Edwards ran on a ticket I'd vote for them....

Wow, it's pretty easy to win your vote. Now either Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Edwards should be the most powerful person in the world. Based on what? Their new celebrity as politicians' wives? You'll vote for anyone.

hdhouse said...

Laughing Oaf:

Brains and grit, standing for something, having a moral compass that is apparent and particularly not about the desire to be president. they don't want to be. read the "Washington" thread above and think about that.

A long time ago I was in the finals for an orchestra conductor job, the board being dead even in the vote and was growing contentious. They appointed a fellow to act as a consultant/advisor to essentially make the decision. He was a pretty good musician but nothing super special so both of us candidates were a little put off by this turn of events. So this rascal calls his "report" meeting, everyone is there, and he gets the board to vote, beforehand, to accept his recommendation otherwise he would be embarrassed that his advice would be rejected...which they do. He stands up, swear to God, and says that after consideration of the candidates they are "dead even" and appointing either will cause long term friction so I will take the job for 2 years "interim" and then we can re-evaluate.

Get it?

# 56 said...

"Brains and grit, standing for something, having a moral compass that is apparent and particularly not about the desire to be president."
That makes them special? I agree, these qualities are in short supply in DC. But it seems very "West Wing" and that's not reality.
If those are the qualifying factors, how about Coburn?