Meredith O'Brien Says Candidate's Wives Can't Win.
“With all due respect, what you would choose to do is relevant only once: when you choose how to spend your remaining days. I made my choice; because of our lives it was a public choice, but the choice doesn’t belong to the public, it belongs to me. And with all due respect, you have no idea what the quality or amount of the time I spend with my children is . . . You don’t get to say I am a terrible mother because you think you wouldn’t make my choice in my situation.”
Michelle Obama – attorney, mother and outspoken spouse of another presidential candidate who ranks second in many polls for the Democratic nomination – was the subject of similar condemnation earlier this year when she announced that she was going to scale back her work in order to help her husband Barack campaign. However the attacks on Michelle Obama weren’t over her maternal judgment, they were over her level of commitment to feminism and whether jettisoning her full-time career to become a “professional wife and hostess,” as one critic said, was a retro, 1950s-ish move that will set back the cause of professional women.
Given the recent attacks on Edwards, I have to stand by the point I made in a column in June: No matter what a presidential candidate’s spouse does in the area of work and family life (let’s leave Hillary Clinton’s husband out of this argument for now), she’s going to get slammed.
No matter what.
The article that started this recent round of criticism was, ironically, headlined, “In 2008 Race, Little Ones Go With Daddy.” [Emphasis added.] While it mentioned other candidates’ families, it pit the Edwards and Obama families against one another when it came to how they handle having their young children on the campaign trail. “Emma Claire and Jack Edwards, 9 and 7, were on their umpteenth campaign trip earlier this month, this time through small towns where their father was decrying rural poverty and the power of lobbyists,” the piece began. “The two children barely listened. They scampered away as fast as their parents would allow, to vending machines and arcade games and swimming expeditions . . . and they treated an interviewer the way politicians surely wish they could at times, refusing at first to remove their iPod earphones for a discussion of life on the trail.”
Later in the article – which said “all of the candidates use their children to charm voters” -- the Obama children, ages 9 and 6, were described as being kept from their dad (who they see “one day a week most of the time, twice if they are lucky”) and being hauled around on seven campaign trips during the summer, but the article noted that the girls will go back to Chicago to settle into the school year. “Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama represent the poles of the debate,” the article asserted, “Mr. Edwards has upended his children’s lives for the campaign while Mr. Obama is determined to keep his daughters rooted at home with their routines in tact – while the others fall somewhere in between.”