Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

The First Lady, er, Spouse, needs to make a difference

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Originally published on on Thu, 02/21/2008 – 11:12am

A president has a lot of power and influence, but the power (normally) is limited in nature. Unlike the past images of First Ladies (they have been all ladies so far) where being a hostess for White House parties was a major selling point, First Ladies have had a stage to focus on issues important to them.

Let’s face it — there are a lot of issues that have been severely neglected, and could use a national spotlight. And the First Lady, er, Spouse can have a lot of influence, if they want to take advantage.

But as a society, we have reached the point where having a First Lady — yes, Laura, I’m talking to you — that doesn’t do anything with that platform is a detriment to our country, and dare I say, unpatriotic.

In the modern era — defined by me as Gerald Ford to the present — only two First Ladies have dropped the ball, and both had the last name of Bush.

Barbara Bush is known more for her gaffes about Katrina refugees in the Astrodome than anything she did as First Lady. And Laura Bush’s main thrust is “Reading is good,” even if she doesn’t say it loud or proud or anything. You could argue that if she taught George, she could teach anybody, but we haven’t seen proof of that.

Rosalyn Carter did wonderful things for mental health. Betty Ford was a pioneer in helping people get treatment for addictions. Hillary Clinton was a great role model on a number of issues — health care, children’s immunizations, and public awareness of health issues – and her pioneer status of serving as a U.S. Senator while being First Lady (for about 17 days).

Let’s not leave out Tipper Gore, who as the spouse of the Vice President, also did a lot for mental health. She would have made a great, positive First Lady (despite the PMRC crap from the 1980s).

Then there’s Nancy Reagan, who made “contributions” to the anti-drug campaign. Her “Just Say No” campaign’s public appearances are cringing, and in this classic TV episode of “Diff’rent Strokes“, legendarily cringing. But at least, Nancy tried to do something.

The good news is that we will have a First Spouse in 2009 who will do more to help the world. Bill Clinton would be an incredible world ambassador, at minimum. Michelle Obama clearly isn’t afraid to speak up, a helpful tool when she speaks up for a good cause. Obama could focus on smoking, after all, she got her husband to give up smoking. And for the first time since Jimmy Carter, we would have pre-teens in the White House, so the issues that mothers of young children deal with (there are a lot of those) could also shine. And to be fair, Cindy McCain’s work with Operation Smile to help kids with cleft palates should be commended.

In another nod to Tipper Gore, you don’t have to be the First Lady to speak up. She established the role of the spouse of the Vice President to be an influence, something where Lynne Cheney has been silent.

If Obama gets the nod, and he picks a woman to be the vice president nominee, that husband would also be in the pioneer shoes, and perhaps, among other things, share how enlightened men can be in that partnership called marriage. Obviously, if Clinton gets the nod, Bill Clinton will try on the pioneer shoes himself and do a great job.

Laura Bush has had a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in this country, perhaps to even introduce some of the “compassion” missing from her husband. And she has completely failed. Regardless of which party wins in November, that role needs to be filled by someone who wants to make a difference.

Written by democracysoup

February 21, 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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