Why First Ladies Are Unneccesary


Why do we expect the president’s spouse to still act like our little princess?

by Keli Goff

The daughters and wives of 2016’s presidential aspirants are already having a rough time. Melania Trump, Columba Bush, Chelsea Clinton, and Ivanka Trump have all been subjects of recent profiles, not all of them particularly flattering. Chelsea Clinton, for example, has been called “entitled” while Melania Trump is referred to as a “trophy wife.”

The profiles explored what role these women will play on the campaign trail and—should their loved ones be elected—in the White House. (There is already speculation that Chelsea Clinton would step in to fill a traditional “First Lady” role in a Hillary Clinton presidency.) But here’s a rash thought: Why should these women play any role in campaigns and why should we be expect them to?

As America faces the prospect of possibly electing its first woman president, now seems as good a time as any to ask a question: Is it time to do away with the traditional First Spouse role in the White House?

Most people would find it inappropriate, in the year 2015, to explicitly tell any woman that she is expected to spend most of her life supporting her husband’s career goals full-time. Yet we continue to do that for the spouses of politicians who seek the presidency.

When Howard Dean sought the presidency in 2004, there were endless questions about the absence of his wife on the trail. One columnist referred to his wife, Judith Steinberg, an accomplished physician in her own right, as “a ghost” in her husband’s political career. Former First Lady Laura Bush opened a number of her early campaign speeches by noting that when her husband entered politics he promised her she’d never have to give a speech. After a pause she’d then say, “So much for political promises.”

Despite the humor, profiles made it clear that Mrs. Bush was a private person who was not enthusiastic about her husband entering the family business, specifically because of the disruption and invasion of privacy it would bring to their family’s life.

And she is not the only Bush spouse to have such reservations. Columba Bush, the wife of current presidential candidate Jeb, is notoriously averse to politics and the press. It has been widely reported that the former Florida governor needed time for his wife to come around in supporting his presidential aspirations before he launched his campaign.

With every profile written about Columba Bush, someone who has not sought the limelight and actively shuns it, I have found myself asking, why a candidate’s spouse can’t simply opt out. Why can’t two people say, “We fell in love, I fell into politics. My wife didn’t, so leave her alone.”

But of course the thinking goes that, in America at least, if I elect a person president, I’m electing his spouse by default to represent our country as well. Therefore we should have just as much right to scrutinize him or her, or their kids, just as we do the candidate.

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast