Elizabeth Edwards: The Toughest Job in Politics

Could YOU do it? The job of Spouse is one of the toughest in politics.

By Kerri Miller

Check it out: MORE’s first guide to political spouses.

Can you tell what year we published this? Hint: Before Spitzer, before Edwards. How do their stories sound today?  
 It’s one tough job. And today’s political spouses have to reinvent it on a daily basis, staying on top of every issue — political, ethical, sartorial — all in the glare of YouTube. Better be discreet (but not distant). Down-to-earth (but never less than elegant). And raise lots of cash. Here, what some significant others in this year’s presidential race have said.
The spouse | Michelle Obama, 43
Day job | Vice president, community and external affairs, University of Chicago Hospitals, on reduced schedule
The candidate | Senator Barack Obama (D.-Ill.), 45
How she sees Obama-mania
"I have some difficulty reconciling the images I have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon: amazing orator, Harvard Law Review editor — or whatever it was — law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive… For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his 5-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.’‘
Source: Men’s Vogue, "Dining for Dollars" by Hudson Morgan, May/June 2007
On the balance of power
"He’s one of the few men I’ve met who is not intimidated by strong women. He relishes the fact that I’m not impressed by him."’
Source: The Chicago Tribune, "Making of a Candidate: Barack’s Rock" by Christi Parsons, Bruce Japsen, and Bob Secter, April 22, 2007
How she cheers him on
In an excerpt from Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope he writes, "...Finally it was just Michelle and me sitting backstage and watching the broadcast, that I started to feel just a tad bit nervous. I mentioned to Michelle that my stomach was feeling a little grumbly. She hugged me tight, looked into my eyes, and said, "Just don’t screw it up, buddy!’‘"
Source: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, copyright 2006

Ann Romney
The spouse | Ann Romney, 58
Day job | Board member, New England Chapter, Multiple Sclerosis Society
The candidate | Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R.), 60
Early reaction to being a political spouse, when Romney ran for governor
"I was not onboard with that … Yeah, I think this time is different, because when the governor’s race came, it was, we had just finished the most extraordinary experience at the Salt Lake Winter games, the Winter Olympics, and it was such a high, and everyone was pulling the wagon the same direction. We were all so thrilled, it was great, the world was there, they were successful, it was just this euphoric feeling, and I did not want to step immediately into something that is so negative, with the campaign, after that. I wanted to take a breath, I wanted to enjoy what we’d done.’‘
Source: ABC News, "Conversation with Ann Romney" by Kate Snow, Feb. 14, 2007
What the pundits called her
In an interview for ABC News on February 14, 2007, with Kate Snow, Snow said, "The columnists weren’t very kind to you; maybe you didn’t read it, but in 1994, some of them called you a Stepford wife. They weren’t very kind about it…." Romney said, "Well, you know, those, those things happen, and that’s why I don’t like the print media as much, um, and they’re able to characterize things I think in ways that you don’t like."
Source: ABC News, "Conversation with Ann Romney," by Kate Snow, Feb. 14, 2007
Her one-liner, when asked what distinguishes her husband, a Mormon, from other GOP candidates:
"He’s had only one wife.’‘
Source: The Washington Post, "Romney Brothers Dish on Dad," by Jose Antonio Vargas, June 9, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards
The spouse | Elizabeth Edwards, 58
Day job | Former bankruptcy lawyer
The candidate | Former Senator John Edwards (D.-N.C.), 54
Why he’s the candidate, not her
"I was president of my junior class, so I got it all out of my system.’‘
Source: The New York Times Magazine, "Running Mate" interview with Deborah Solomon, Sept. 5, 2004
Why her cancer hasn’t ended the campaign
"You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying. That seems to be your only two choices. If I had given up everything that my life was about, I — first of all, I’d let cancer win before it needed to. And I just basically start dying. I don’t want to do that. I want to live. And I want to do the work that I — I want next year to look like last year, and the year after that and the year after that. And the only way to do that is to say, ‘I’m going to keep on with my life.’‘’
Source: 60 Minutes, John & Elizabeth Edwards interview with Katie Couric, March 25, 2007

Cindy McCain
The spouse | Cindy McCain, 53
Day job | Chairperson of her family’s bottling company
The candidate | Senator John McCain (R.-Ariz.), 70
How she deals with questions about her husband’s age
"I would challenge anybody to keep up with him … He hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, with our son … Age is not a factor here.’‘
Source: FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, April 2, 2007
Whether she likes the whole idea of campaigning
"I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. There are — I’ll freely admit there are portions of it I don’t like, and that’s when it turns — it turns to the down side. But for the most part, I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always been by my husband’s side through all of the races that we’ve been in and it’s fun. It’s really, really fun.’‘
Source: CNN Larry King Live, April 25, 2007

Judith Nathan Giuliani
The spouse | Judith Nathan Giuliani, 52
Day job | Former nurse and drug company executive
The candidate | Former GOP mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, 63
If she’ll sit in on policy meetings as first lady, as Giuliani suggested
"... If he asks me to, yes, and certainly, in the areas of health care.’‘
Source: ABC’s 20/20, March 30, 2007 interview with Barbara Walters
Was he as surprised as the media to learn that she’d been married not once, but twice before?
"Rudy and I have always known everything about each other … I have just recently begun — I think they call it in the political world — being ‘rolled out publicly.’ ... and when I was asked, we discussed it. That was my decision.’‘
Source: ABC’s 20/20, March 30, 2007 interview with Barbara Walters

Bill Clinton
The spouse | Bill Clinton, 60
Day job | Founder of his philanthropic organization
The candidate | Senator Hillary Clinton, 59 (D.-N.Y.)
On his role if Hillary is elected
"I think, in general, former presidents should do whatever the current president asks them to do, if they can do it in good conscience, anybody. If President Bush asked me to do something, if I can do it in good conscience, I would do it. You know, his father and I did the Katrina work, the tsunami work. And I have done two or three other things for [George W. Bush]. You know, I love [Hillary] very much. And I think she would be a great president. And all presidents need help. They need all the help they can get. And we’re going to have a lot of challenges. So if she asked me to do something, whatever it was, I would probably do it. But I — I hope I won’t have to give up the work I do now entirely. I’d like to continue my foundation work around the world. But I want to be there for her. She — if the America people select her, I’m going to do everything I can to be there for her.’‘
Source: CNN Larry King Live interview, April 19, 2007
On the transparency of marriage
"After being married for nearly 30 years and observing my friends’ experiences with separations, reconciliations, and divorces, I’ve learned that marriage, with all its magic and misery, its contentments and disappointments, remains a mystery, not easy for those in it to understand and largely inaccessible to outsiders."
Source: Bill Clinton, My Life, copyright 2004
Originally published on MORE.com, June 2007.

First Published Mon, 2009-04-06 18:03

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