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Posts Tagged ‘First Ladies’

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, HNN, 1-28-12

Toward the end of Thursday night’s debate in Florida, which viewers were told repeatedly would be high stakes and very serious, CNN’s moderator Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates to assess their wives as potential First Ladies. Blitzer’s question was valid and relevant.  For decades now, Americans have seen a presidential candidate’s life partner as a window into the soul of the man or woman seeking to lead us. Furthermore, experience shows that controversial First Ladies like Hillary Clinton in the first years of the Clinton administration can distract from the president’s agenda, while popular First Ladies like Hillary Clinton in the later Clinton years can be helpful advocates and effective buffers for their spouses. Unfortunately, Blitzer conveyed the impression that the topic was trivial, a fleeting, entertaining diversion from the weighty affairs of state at hand.

Blitzer bracketed the discussion by saying: we “want to get right back to the rest of the debate, but first, on a lighter subject, I want to ask each of these gentlemen why they think their wife would make a great first lady.” Without mentioning her first name, Carol, Ron Paul described her as wife, mother, grandmother, and “the author of a very famous cookbook, ‘The Ron Paul Cookbook.’”

Mitt Romney echoed Blitzer’s breeziness by first saying, in response to Paul’s quick list, “I’ve got to take a little bit more time, a little more seriousness.” Catching himself, not wanting to show disrespect to Paul on this issue, Romney said to Paul: “nothing wrong with what you said—I’m sorry.” Mitt Romney then described his wife Ann, “My wife,” in fuller terms as “a mom” but also “a real champion and a fighter,” battling her own health ailments and helping young women “in troubled situations.”

Newt Gingrich actually mentioned his wife Callista’s name and described her “artistic flair” and media savvy. Reflecting the now-classic divide between working women and stay-at-home-moms, Newt Gingrich described Callista’s work achievements but had no family tidbits to tout. The former Speaker actually was the most gentlemanly by hailing all spouses involved as “terrific.”

Rick Santorum spoke most movingly, describing his wife Karen as “my hero.” Rick Santorum described his wife both as “a mother to our seven children,” and as a nurse, a lawyer, an author, but someone who “walked away” from her profession “and walked into something that she felt called to do, which was to be a mom and to be a wife.”

In truth, each answer could have invited rich follow-ups, raising discussions of gender roles, of family dilemmas, of core values. The candidates could have discussed what it means to be a First Lady as well as the symbolic importance of the President as head of state. But the token moment had passed.

“Very nice,” Wolf Blitzer said. “All right, let’s get back to the debate….”

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OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, 7-10-11

Betty Ford, who died on Friday at the age of 93, in the 1970s was the most controversial First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.  During Gerald Ford’s brief presidency, from August 1974 through January, 1977, his wife Betty retrofitted the odd role she inherited to suit the modern media sensibility. Peddling the Ford marriage as a “normal” partnership struggling with the challenges of raising a modern family, Betty Ford inserted herself at the flashpoint of the country’s social upheavals.  In so doing, she became an iconic American figure even though she may have cost her husband the Presidency in 1976.

Mrs. Ford’s acknowledgment that she had breast cancer and a mastectomy in September 1974 was heroic. As thousands of women rushed to get mammograms, the legend of Betty Ford the candid political wife was born. After enduring years of neglect while Gerry Ford politicked, sometimes left at home with the four children for over 250 days in a year, Betty Ford loved the attention.

Most reporters welcomed this refreshing, “normal,” First Lady.  They tired of “Plastic Pat” Nixon, a selfless spouse who, they sneered, traveled with a hairdresser and an embalmer. Betty Ford brought controversy, fun, and a shot at the front page.

Most reporters, therefore, overlooked the fact that Betty Ford spent much of her husband’s tenure dazed by tranquilizers and alcohol. Her oldest son Michael would describe a typical evening in the White House study: “my dad will work in his chair” and “my mother will sit in her chair and she’ll read or maybe she’ll watch TV or she’ll just kind of reflect on things.”  Barbara Walters recognized that “reflection” as the “zombie”-like state of a substance abuser exhausted by her efforts to maintain appearances.

When Betty Ford was active, she was too active. On “Sixty Minutes” in August 1975, she speculated that “all” four of her children had “probably tried marijuana,” and confessed that she “wouldn’t be surprised” if her eighteen-year-old daughter Susan had “an affair”—quaint language for premarital sex. More than thirty-thousand letters bombarded the White House, with 23,308 “con” letters, 10,512 “pro.”  Betty Ford had provoked a nationwide symposium on sexual morality.

Mrs. Ford’s fans championed her as a new kind of First Lady, candid and “hip.”  Most approving letters wished she were running for president or her husband were a Democrat — implying she earned their love not their votes. At best, Betty Ford neutralized some hostility to her husband, but few liberals were willing to cross party lines to support a president they disliked just because they liked his wife.

Mrs. Ford’s detractors, on the other hand, abandoned the President. “We think this error is much more serious than anything that President Nixon did,” a Southerner wrote. “Your statements on ’60 Minutes’ cost your husband my vote,” one woman added. “Until now I thought we had someone in the White House who thought along the same lines that I did.”

Nearly two weeks after the broadcast, Gerald Ford was still trying to clarify the “misunderstanding.” His popularity had dropped from 55.3 percent to 38.8 percent. The President said that “Betty meant we’re deeply concerned about the moral standards” in the family. Feminists snapped that husbands should not speak for their wives.

At a critical moment, when the conservative former governor of California Ronald Reagan was contemplating a direct challenge to an incumbent president of his own party, Betty Ford alienated President Ford’s right flank. Within a month Nancy Reagan criticized “the new morality” for young people. Mrs. Reagan’s talk had the desired effect, garnering headlines that “MRS. REAGAN, MRS. FORD DISAGREE ON SEX.”

The “60 Minutes” controversy helped encourage Reagan’s run, which crippled President Ford during the 1976 election against Jimmy Carter—the only presidents to lose re-election campaigns in the last fifty years first faced serious challenges for the nomination.  Gerald Ford initially speculated that his wife’s remarks would cost him ten million votes—but quickly doubled that estimate. Ultimately, Carter won by less than two million votes out of eighty million cast. Despite the polls and the media adulation, Betty Ford cost Gerald Ford the presidency.

Mrs. Ford showed that in the modern era, First Ladies often do more harm than good, electorally. As a lightning rod for criticism, she personified one aspect of her husband’s character that some feared, in this case, that he was too soft. As with the Carters, the Reagans, and the Clintons, the stronger the wife appeared, the more popular she became, the weaker the husband seemed.

The political damage Betty Ford caused reveals the difficult balancing act facing First Couples. Reporters and voters often have conflicting needs. Popularity does not always translate into political success. In America’s mass-media popular-culture-drenched age, presidents and their wives cannot afford to alienate either their journalistic mouthpieces or their voting constituents.

A little more than a year after the Fords left the White House, the family staged the intervention that ultimately led to Betty Ford drying out, then establishing what became the “Betty Ford Center” in 1982. As with the breast cancer, Betty Ford’s frankness was pathbreaking and timely—Americans were ready for such openness. Her emergence as the iconic figure of America’s 12-step culture boosted her standing with the American public. Few remembered the backlash against her in the 1970s, the political harm she caused her husband. In fact, many assumed that she entered treatment during the Ford presidency, simply clumping all her candid moments into one appealing package.

As a result, for decades she was one of America’s most admired women. And, while it is difficult to prove, the adulation Betty Ford enjoyed in the post-presidential years probably did Gerald Ford a world of good. When he died in 2006, most of his most controversial moves, including his pardon of Richard Nixon, were hailed. Thus, while the evidence suggests that Betty Ford’s candor harmed Gerald Ford’s electoral chances, the evidence also suggests that, in the long run the Betty Ford legend enhanced Gerald Ford’s historical reputation.

Betty Ford was one, bold, sassy, classy lady, who successfully forded the huge divide between the traditional culture into which she was born and the modern, let-it-all-hang-out-culture she helped spawn. She will be missed.

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Primary job for spouses of G20 leaders: Do no harm

First ladies, Michelle Obama, left, Carla Bruni of France, right,  chat as they pose during the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009.

Though prominent wives have advocated for political initiatives at home, they’ve stayed away from the microphones at international summits

Globe & Mail, 6-24-10

“Their basic job is not to do damage,” Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, says.

Mr. Troy cites a memo written by U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972, where he considered bringing his wife on a state visit.

“If Pat comes to China, she’s coming as a prop,” Mr. Nixon wrote.

Not a lot has changed since then, Prof. Troy says…

Summits can be a haven for the lonely other halves of presidents and prime ministers, Prof. Troy says.

“If you’re feeling frustrated or if you’re feeling bored, this is an opportunity to share concerns, to find people who are likeminded in the zone of confidence and comfort. If you do have a cause, this is an opportunity to find people who have shared interest and the same power,” he says…

Prof. Troy says Ms. Obama may not get to speak up about her position on the McChrystal affair, but she can recruit support among other spouses for her less-controversial childhood obesity initiative. The stipulation, though, is “it has to be done within all the protocols and pageantry of the summit.”

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On the Gores’ breakup, the Clintons’ survival, and the marital toll of a lost election

Presidential expert Gil Troy in conversation with Kate Fillion

by Kate Fillion, Macleans, Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:00am

Yoray Liberman/Getty Images

A professor of history at McGill and a visiting scholar affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, Gil Troy is the author of several books on the U.S. presidency, including an examination of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as first lady and Mr. and Mrs. President, a study of presidential marriages in the modern era.

Q: Why are people shocked that Al and Tipper Gore are separating?
A: People want to believe in marriage, and the Gore marriage was part of the national furniture. Starting in the mid-1980s, with Tipper’s involvement in the movement promoting warning labels for records [with explicit and violent lyrics], the Gores set themselves up as an iconic couple representing family values—significantly, from the left. They were saying, “Republicans do not have a mono­poly on faith, flag and family.” Especially during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Gores emerged as the counter to the Clintons’ famously dysfunctional marriage, culminating in 2000 at the Democratic National Convention with the famous smooch.

Q: What do you make of that kiss?
A:
Al Gore’s line was, “I wasn’t trying to send a message to the American people, I was trying to send a message to Tipper.” But it was very much a message to the American people. Everybody was joking about how wooden he was, and the issue on the table was: is he a full-blown personality or a Gore-bot? That prolonged kiss was the easiest, most dramatic way to respond. It got people talking, and telegraphed a disdain for Bill Clinton’s behaviour while reinforcing this narrative that the Gores were the Democrats who would not embarrass you.

Q: Well, Tipper looked pretty alarmed.
A:
Here you are on national television, glaring lights, blaring music—it’s not necessarily the most romantic of settings.

Q: In this cynical age, why would people fall for such obvious political stagecraft?
A:
Canadians do this less, but all of us in modern, celebrity-oriented democracies tend to project onto our leaders some dimensions of our lives and dilemmas. In general, Americans are torn between wanting to progress and still wanting something old-fashioned. That’s how Al and Tipper Gore became the soothing background music in this cacopho­nous age: see, there are some couples and families that still work. Marriage, whether you’re getting married in Vegas with an Elvis impersonator or in front of 400 people in the most traditional Catholic ceremony, is a leap of faith. To have totems is reassuring, and the Gores set themselves up as totems.

Q: Why did they continue doing that, with the publication of Joined at the Heart, even after Tipper ruled out her own Senate run in 2002?
A:
It makes sense in modern American celebrity culture to cash in on your identity, and the central signifier of the Gores’ lives was their togetherness. It was very much a baby-boomer togetherness, not an Ozzie and Harriet we-never-fight togetherness. It was, “We’re different: he’s a bit of a stiff, and I’ve had some emotional ups and downs.” They’ve always competed with the Clintons in the popular imagination as contrasting symbols of their generation. The Gores were preaching “it’s hip to be square” while the Clintons seemed buffeted by the turbulence of the sexual revolution, which is one of the baby boomers’ signature cultural contributions. It’s the irony of ironies that the Clintons are still together while the Gores are splitting, because, of course, divorce is an iconic baby-boomer act.

Q: Why has the Clintons’ marriage endured?
A:
I think it has to do with the bar of history. When you become president, in the same way that your family is suddenly the first family and you don’t just work in an office but in the Oval Office, you become extremely aware of the fact that there’s going to be a presidential library, there’s monumentalism about the whole experience, and I think it becomes that much harder to divorce. Especially with the Clintons, where people were constantly saying, “The marriage is a sham,” there’s hesitation to give their enemies any satisfaction. Plus, there’s a bond there.

Q: It’s not just a political alliance?
A:
I was never part of that school of thought. Their commitment to Chelsea kept them together; they very rarely rolled her out as a political prop, they protected her to an extraordinary degree. And throughout all the ups and downs, Bill Clinton always made it clear Hillary was the smartest woman he’d ever met and had a kind of discipline he lacked, and she often talked about his tremendous people skills, which she lacked. They worked together, they fed off each other and built off each other. Those are parts of the recipe that make for a marriage.

Q: Why does campaigning put such a strain on a marriage?
A:
It’s a combination of the hellishness of being apart and the hellishness when you’re together. The hellishness of being apart is Betty Ford counting that when Gerald Ford was House minority leader, he was away from home 256 days in a year so she was on call 24 hours, seven days a week for their kids. Even when the couple is together, there’s a certain apartness; the drug of public adulation makes it difficult [for the candidate] to come down. It’s not a whole heck of a lot of fun being in a room where all eyes are on your spouse, you’re the prop, and your mandate is a variation of the Hippocratic oath: do no harm. And this guy that you married 25 years ago when you were just students, there are ego issues—and simply the insanity of the campaign trail, the late nights, the jumping from hotel to motel. But the White House is a surprisingly healing place for a marriage.

Q: How?
A:
The couple is finally living above the store, as they say. There’s less travel, they’re entertaining more, so she’s no longer just a prop. Also, you’re in this glamorous mansion with servants galore—there’s a fairy-tale nature to the existence. The other thing that heals presidential marriages, and probably to some extent vice-presidential ones, is that it’s hard when you’re president to get straight advice, especially if it’s critical. Even some of your closest friends clam up. Nancy Reagan reported that during the Iran-Contra scandal, she asked Robert Strauss, a Democrat and one of the wise men of Washington, to explain to her husband how serious the issue was. But as soon as Strauss sat down he got all “Mr. President” and couldn’t deliver the message. So she had to do it. Presidents love the adulation, but also understand the need to be grounded, and the spouse is often the conduit to reality. It’s a key bond.

Q: So if you go through the hell of campaigning and then lose, like Gore, you don’t get that healing opportunity?
A:
It was a devastating public blow. Al Gore was raised for the presidency, and they came so close to getting the White House.

Q: Was it crushing for her, too, after decades as the Good Wife?
A:
Absolutely. The job of first lady is alluring because you do have a certain kind of power, you can make a difference in people’s lives. You bring a lot of political capital to the table as the spouse, through the entertaining, through creating the narrative. We don’t really know what goes on even in our best friends’ marriages, so we don’t know to what extent did she blame him for the loss in 2000? Did she think he could’ve campaigned more effectively? We have no idea.

Q: Would she have grounds for blaming him?
A:
It wasn’t just that forces beyond Al Gore’s control stole the election. Al Gore lost it. Two things were going on: the press was very hard on him, and his campaign was a nightmare—poorly planned, poorly run. There were all kinds of ridiculous things that came out, like he was thinking of dressing more in brown, because it’s an earth colour. How did we even hear about that? There was competition among Gore’s campaign staff, and also a failure to lead on his part. Part of the reason he didn’t run in 2004 is that a lot of his fundraisers just wouldn’t work with him again.

Q: What is it like to have to leave your home, Washington, after a loss like that?
A:
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter wrote very powerfully about how devastating it was to be repudiated by the American people [in 1980], especially after they had such an amazing run in 1976, and to come home to Plains and think, “Now what?” There’s also the comedown, which the Gores would’ve experienced after eight years of having staff at their beck and call. It’s not just that you’re not in the White House but that all these goodies you’ve become accustomed to disappear. Harry Truman talked about coming home after his time in the White House and having to drag his own luggage, though he was the kind of person who enjoyed it. But few of us enjoy going backwards.

Q: Has any other losing candidate for the presidency reinvented himself as Gore did?
A:
No. He hit the celebrity trifecta: bestselling book, Nobel prize, Academy Award. He’s had political impact, cultural impact, international impact—which takes us back to why their separation is generating water-cooler conversations. The Gores remained in the popular mind; they didn’t fade away. But maybe, like Pat Nixon, Tipper had had enough. Once they left the White House, Pat Nixon said, “You can do what you want, but I’ve paid my dues and I’m not going to be a public woman anymore, no more speeches.”

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Devoted, smart and forcefully clear about her role, Michelle Obama could be the most successful first lady in decades

As Washington preps for a transition team, there is one person of whom there is no doubt. Throughout the raucous American election season, Michelle Obama – Barack’s professed “best friend” and “partner” in his journey – has been both completely present, a tireless fighter and campaigner, and yet, at the same time extremely, forcefully clear about the role she wants to play in this administration.

If her campaigning strategy is any indication, we may be in store for one of the most successful first ladies in decades, one who uses this terrible and amazing office to the fullest extent of its abilities, without losing herself in its twisted mores.

She learned her lesson early – after the blow up over her purported anti-Americanism – a twisting of the words that she had never been more “proud” to be an American – Michelle Obama toed the party line. She kept her public face perfect, from her fashion choices (smartly, and quietly, wearing low-dollar off-the-rack frocks for big ticket events, like her appearance on the View and on late night television), to her carefully worded cheerleading for her husband – announcing she would not comment on his choice of vice-president, for example, in a pointed nod to more activist first ladies before her, saying she was actually pleased it wasn’t her place, nor her desire, to be a part of such thing.

As she wrote for the Times today (a piece that originally ran in some form before the outcome of Tuesday’s vote was decided, in US News &World Report), “mom” is the title she holds most dear. In that message to Americans and the rest of the world, this ultra-educated (Princeton, Harvard) careerist, super mom laid the ground work for what her tenure as first lady will look like. She will be the guardian, first and foremost, of her own family. (These are the youngest kids in that stately mansion in decades – Chelsea was a bit older, Amy Carter was eight, but the comparison people will surely make most will be the Kennedy kids).

But woe to those who interpret that to mean she will go quietly into that good night, tucking the kids into bed as Barack handles the matters of state. No. If these early statements are a good indication, she will extrapolate her family guardian role into one that positions her to be a champion for mothers and families across America – and perhaps, at some point, around the world. She’s already made an outreach to military families, noting their struggles, and in so doing she helps smooth over any anxieties military families might have about this anti-war president understanding their needs.

But such a multi-faceted message that seems, at face value, so simple, exposes just how difficult this job really is. Having not yet picked out the drapes for the private quarters, or – much more importantly – decided which school her children will attend upon arrival in Washington (a dicey, potentially politically explosive decision in and of itself given the Clinton’s bashing for sending Chelsea to the tony Sidwell Friends school rather than a DC public school), Michelle Obama is already being criticised – for the dress she wore on election night – and wooed: Vogue, reportedly wants her for the cover. The role of the first lady is an uncomfortable one.

In the post-feminist era, a first lady has come to be expected to be all things to all people – smart and well educated, but also satisfied with her ceremonial position and encouraged not to speak up. Laura Bush pulled the role back to one that was far quieter than her predecessor, Hillary Clinton, even as she gave gravitas to her once-wild husband. But while feminists might have cheered Hillary’s role as adviser, there was always something terribly uncomfortable about her unelected position, a sense of dissatisfaction and condescension that swirled around her from the marriage itself, to her snappish retort that she wouldn’t be a “Tammy Wynette” that was simply standing by her man, or a woman who baked cookies all day.

Back in July Gil Troy, author of, most recently Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents told me: “The problem of the first lady is that there are all these unspoken assumptions and unmarked landmines, and if you start feeling too empowered as a modern voice and deviate from the script, you risk landing on political-cultural landmines.”

You have to go all the way back to Lady Bird Johnson to find a first lady that was happy in her position, who used the office to advance environmentalism for the first time in America, who braved a whistle-stop tour of the roiling, racist southern states alone when her husband feared to. And yet even Lady Bird had to tolerate the infidelities of her husband.

Michelle Obama is the perfect modern hybrid. Smart, beautiful, fiercely devoted to her children and her husband, her very presence adds to the sense of class and dignity this campaign – and this administration – has projected from the outset. And the one quality we hear about her again and again? She’s real. It’s a quality that’s perhaps the most difficult to maintain in this job, and the one that will keep her most sane.

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By Gil Troy, HNN, 10-24-08

Where is Michelle Obama? Since the Democratic nominee’s wife delivered her warm, charming, effective address at the Democratic National Convention, she has remained remarkably low profile. The Obama campaign has used her sparingly and – to the Democrats’ good fortune – she has triggered no controversy. This quiet is a remarkable contrast to the tumult that surrounded her during Barack Obama’s primary campaign. It reflects some of the particular dynamics surrounding the Obama partnership in private and in public. But Michelle Obama’s demeanor also reflects the broader strategy in the Democratic campaign this fall. If Barack Obama wins on November 4, it will feel more like a victory by default than a sweeping mandate for change.

When Barack Obama first emerged as a serious presidential contender, his wife Michelle had an important, if reluctant, role in the narrative. For a politician who was triggering near messianic fervor, she was the reality check, proof that he put his socks on one foot at a time, like the rest of us mortals. It was a role she seemed to relish – and took a little too far. Her comments about her “stinky, snorey” husband in the marital bed triggered collective shouts of “TMI” – too much information. They were far too reminiscent of both Clintons at their worst, combining Hillary Clinton’s occasional flashes of anger about her husband’s tomcatting with Bill Clinton’s willingness to answer the undignified question posed to him as president, “Do you wear boxers or briefs?” Still, Mrs. Obama did what candidate spouses have done for decades. She helped humanize her husband. Michelle Obama filled out the profile of Barack Obama as a regular guy with two adorable children and a smart, capable, if occasionally neglected wife.

As the primary campaign heated up and became a two-person struggle pitting Barack Obama against Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama’s role expanded. Bill Clinton’s controversial involvement in his wife’s race helped shine the spotlight on Barack Obama’s spouse. Michelle Obama’s now infamous comment that her husband’s rise made her proud to be an American for the first time in her life hurt the Obama effort. Although Mrs. Obama’s gaffe was less destructive than Mr. Clinton’s egocentric, race-baiting antics, the comment played into the Clinton narrative that the Obamas were unpatriotic, supercilious, elitists, privileged Ivy League types bashing America while enjoying her bounty. Well aware of how much Hillary Clinton’s frankness detracted from Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992, the Obama campaign sought to reposition and then silence Mrs. Obama.

The effort has largely succeeded. In her convention tour de force, Michelle Obama used her life story to normalize her husband’s biography. Her stories of local Chicago girl made good helped tailor Barack Obama’s less conventional biography to fit the more classic contours of the American dream. Her delivery was as good as her content, and she came across as warm, supportive, accomplished but not threatening – not an easy task given the many racist and sexist stereotypes she must overcome.

Since then, it has been relatively quiet on the Obama home front. Barack Obama did one round of interviews with his daughters, which he immediately regretted. Michelle Obama has dutifully accompanied her husband when necessary, but even Cindy McCain has generated more national attention. More broadly, the Sarah Palin phenomenon has been the distaff story of this campaign. It seems that Americans – or journalists – have a limited quota of attention they will pay to women during a campaign, and both potential First Ladies seem to have had less scrutiny than usual, partially because of all the Palin controversies.

Michelle Obama’s passivity is also a reflection of the relatively subdued campaign Barack Obama has run — to his great benefit. In many ways, since the convention, he has shifted gears. The flamboyant, exciting, “yes we can” candidate of last spring has become the calm, unruffled, cool customer of today. Since the financial meltdown, Obama has – publicly – taken the lead by default. He has let John McCain stumble more than anything else. At the same, Obama has run a brilliant ground game, raising money prodigiously, and organizing his ground troops. The upside is that it just may win him the presidency, as people’s perceptions of his maturity and readiness to be chief executive have grown. The downside is that he is smoothly gliding his way toward the White House rather than taking it by storm. If he wins, he will need to work harder during the transition to shape – or even retroactively create – a mandate.

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The first lady tightrope walk

Unlike earlier presidential spouses, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain must emphasise both career and family to avoid criticism

Excerpted from The Guardian, July 15, 2008

….”Unfortunately for first ladies, the game is often more about un-favourability than favourability,” Gil Troy, a historian at McGill University and the author of Leading from the Centre: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, told me. “They rarely deliver votes, but they have much more of a track record of alienating voters or losing voters. So the first lady’s mission is to follow the political version of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.”….

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