First Spouses: Rules of Engagement.

After wading through dozens of news stories and blog posts comparing and contrasting potential first ladies Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, after watching countless commentators contemplate which woman will be a major boost (or major downer) to her husband’s campaign I decided I HAD to write about this topic. While pondering what pearls of wisdom I’d offer in this space, I heard a pundit on one of the cable news networks lament that journalists aren’t sure how to handle news coverage of the potential first spouses because there are no “rules of engagement.”

 

This, my friends, is where I come in. Instead of treating you to yet another by-the-numbers comparison of McCain and Obama -- everything from their public statements and wardrobe choices, to careers and parenting -- I’ve decided to help my fellow journalists out instead. If they’re so confused about how they should cover Michelle and Cindy – even though the spouses of presidential candidates have “no impact whatsoever” on the outcome of an election – I’m here to lend a hand. You media people want to know what kinds of stories and angles you should pursue? I’ve created a list of story suggestions to guide your first spouse candidate coverage.

 

But before I proceed, let’s be honest for a moment. We know that the media are only paying so much attention to these women because a) It’s summer and there’s not much else to write about because the conventions don’t start until late August and the election is over four months away b) Michelle and Cindy are easy prey because they can’t lash back at the media lest they seem like whiners c) Everybody loves to trash women’s clothing and d) Who doesn’t like to pit two women against one another? Even though the news media’s own polls indicate that “the popularity of presidential candidates’ spouses does not drive vote preferences” that’s no reason to put the kibosh on the Cindy versus Michelle stories, is there?

 

So, in the spirit of good will, here are a few of my humble suggestions for stories that are sure to garner attention in the lazy days of summer: