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Guest column | Jim Aylward

Presidential election means we're choosing first lady, too

Barbara Bush has said Ann Romney would make a wonderful first lady. Indeed she would. However, Mrs. Romney has a problem with her husband. She had to keep correcting him whenever he says something off the cuff and ends up with both feet in his mouth.

Sports? He admitted some of his friends are team owners.

Employment? He said he likes to fire people.

He called his wife the heavyweight in the family. I'm sure he meant that lovingly, but well, you can see where that can end up going.

Before suspending his presidential campaign, Rick Santorum was frequently pictured with his wife, Karen, four paces behind him and always to his right. She stood there lovingly and nodded. A lot. Apparently everything he said was nod-worthy.

Well, almost everything. The "what a snob'' phrase about college graduates didn't cut it. Santorum himself is a college graduate — Penn State Class of 1980. He has a master's in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from Dickinson School of Law.

So, it would follow, naturally, that he is a snob.

Santorum admitted his wife had a little talk with him and he was good enough to say he was wrong. She may stand behind him and nod, but she has guts.

Callista Gingrich is the third wife of serial husband, Newt. She stands right next to him, not in the background. She doesn't nod. She demands attention. They wrote a children's book together. She is as important as he is. Sometimes she takes the microphone and speaks.

Newt should stand back four paces and nod.

Carol Paul, wife of Ron, is not easy to spot. When you do see her, she looks like she'd rather be elsewhere. She doesn't nod. She doesn't correct (as far as we know). She doesn't co-write his material.

"He takes care of the country. I take care of the kids,'' she said early in the campaign.

In the Republican potential first lady lineup, she is the Bess Truman of the bunch.

Being a first lady is not easy. Some ignored it and others turned it into a career. The initial first lady I can recall is Eleanor Roosevelt. She decided not to bake cookies and walk quietly behind her husband, Instead, she wrote a newspaper column called "My Day.'' She took on causes. It made her, in the eyes of the Republican Party, "that woman in the White House.''

Jacqueline Kennedy was a star. Her husband, President John F. Kennedy, introduced himself to the French press by saying, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.''

Pat Nixon was cool, alone and quiet. Betty Ford was honest, admitting her addictions and getting help. It led to the Betty Ford clinic. She also raised public awareness of breast cancer when she revealed her own fight against the disease and radical mastectomy just weeks after becoming first lady. She was a charmer and very much her own self.

Nancy Reagan guided her Ronnie and protected him. She created and popularized "Just say no!'' as a campaign to curb illegal drug use. Hillary Rodham Clinton was first lady and struggled with the job and a lengthy, unsuccessful attempt to get national health care through Congress. As secretary of state, she now gets accolades.

Current first lady Michelle Obama has put her focus on poverty and childhood obesity, but she also is a fashion icon and a star in her own right.

You could say today that President Obama is the man who accompanies her just about anywhere.

Jim Aylward of New Port Richey was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City.

Presidential election means we're choosing first lady, too 04/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 5:24pm]
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