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A Times Editorial

Spouses are not free from scrutiny

Barack Obama has warned Republicans to "lay off my wife.'' The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was reacting to a video posted on YouTube by the Tennessee Republican Party last week that he says misinterpreted a remark made by his wife Michelle that "for the first time in my adult life I'm proud of my country.''

In a Monday interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Obama called the video "low class'' and added that "most American people would think that as well.''

It's understandable that Obama would want to protect his wife from the slimy side of politics. However, we assume he is not suggesting that his spouse should not be accountable for what she says on the campaign trail. After all, she is one of her husband's closest advisers and most energetic surrogate campaigners. Anything she says in a public forum is subject to legitimate scrutiny.

As we recall, the Obama campaign did not lay off Hillary Clinton's spouse when Bill Clinton said some newsworthy things about its candidate. The news media didn't cut the former president any slack, either. He probably wonders why the press has paid so little attention to Michelle Obama's controversial comments.

Context is important, and most fair-minded voters probably are comfortable with Michelle Obama's explanation of her statement about being proud of her country for "the first time.'' She said she was referring to her pride in the millions of new voters who are participating in the 2008 primary election, many of them motivated by her husband's historic candidacy.

Meanwhile, Obama should get over the idea that his wife needs him to shield her from criticism, or that she should not be held responsible for what she says and does on the campaign trail.

Spouses are not free from scrutiny 05/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 5:04pm]
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