Adjusting Expectations

I’ve seen a few first ladies, the elegant Jackie Kennedy, the outgoing Ladybird Johnson, the long-suffering Pat Nixon, Betty Ford who survived being outed for alcoholism and became a spokeswoman for recovery, Rosalyn Carter, her husband’s partner in philanthropy, Nancy Reagan always perfectly turned out, Barbara Bush with her pearls, Hillary Clinton, the first viable female presidential candidate, and Laura Bush, woman of mystery.

While it’s true that they are all white, they bring to the role of first lady a fair amount of individuality–dare I say diversity?

So what am I to make of these two headlines on Reuters News on Yahoo? One woman seems to be tailor-made for the job,

Cindy McCain fits the role of first lady

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With her elegant clothes and perfectly coiffed blond hair, Cindy McCain looks the part of a U.S. first lady.
She is also well prepared for the role.

Heiress to a fortune estimated at more than $100 million and chairwoman of one of the largest privately held companies in Arizona, McCain has traveled overseas extensively with different philanthropic organizations, visiting Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Angola, India, Vietnam and other countries.

The other seems to have some rough edges…

Michelle Obama softens image for first lady role

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Michelle Obama will bring the skills of a corporate lawyer to the White House if her husband wins the U.S. presidency, but she says her priority will be her role as “mom-in-chief” to the couple’s daughters.
Democrat Barack Obama faces Republican John McCain in Tuesday’s election. If the first-term Illinois senator wins, he will become the first black U.S. president and his wife the first black first lady.

I saw Michelle Obama speak at CCRI, and she was lacking nothing in the elegant clothes and hair department. She did get out on the campaign trail early, long before Cindy McCain began appearing at rallies and speaking, which created more opportunities for ‘gotcha’. And yes, she’s black. I noticed that right away.

What is a first lady supposed to look like? I see Cindy McCain in the Nancy Reagan mold, slender, perfectly made up, standing by her man. I see Michelle Obama in the Jackie Kennedy mold, energetic, accomplished, a mother to young children. Both of them are experienced travelers, used to a public life. So why does one ‘fit the role’ while the other needs to be sanded down before she gets into the groove? What does ‘All American’ look like? Michelle, whatever you do, don’t dye your hair blonde.

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11 responses

  1. The one thing that interests me about Michelle Obama is this:she makes over 300K as a ‘diversity corrdinator”for a Chicago hospital.given her Harvard Law degree and her experience since receiving it,that income wouldn’t appear unusual if she were employed at a major law firm.
    It does for her current job,which should probably pay $35,000 to $45,000 a year depending on the size of the institution.
    What was the quid pro quo?I lived in Chicago for 8 years,and any nice jobs a politician’s relatives get,are almost sure to involve some compromise of the politician in question.That’s just the way things are and have always been there.
    Cindy McCain needn’t apologize for inheriting money.I don’t know much about her,but she seems to be a reasonably decent person-she had a problem with prescription drugs.Okay.Betty Ford was a drunk.She was a good first lady.Mamie Eisenhower was a drunk also.And Kitty Dukakis drank Skinbracer(yech!!).
    We don’t elect first ladies.Name me the one President who didn’t have a first lady.(just a trivia moment here)

  2. well, I didn’t go there about Cindy McCain. But it’s striking that Reuters proclaims her the perfect first lady, while suggesting that Michelle Obama has to change some ‘rough edges’. Is there a particular ‘first lady’ look?

  3. I don’t think so.I just believe that for the most part first ladies aren’t that politically influential.I seriously doubt Ronald Reagan paid much attention to Nancy’s astrology beliefs.
    Hillary Clinton was the only first lady I can describe as a political activist mainly because of her health care restructure initiative.Bill Clinton also mentioned a “co-Presidency”.
    I don’t think either of the current potential first ladies are likely to have serious political influence on their husbands.
    Personal influence is altogether different-in almost sny good marriage the partners work changes on each other.I’m no bundle of joy,but I would be a much more disagreeable person without my wife.My friends call her “the Saint” for being married to me.Some friends I have :)).

  4. jeeze, joe, i didn’t go there about Nancy Reagan’s astrology either. although it’s funny that the religious right let it pass. awhile back the fashion magazines were pushing the ‘all american’ look. which makes me wonder. what does an American look like? what does a first lady look like?

  5. Reagan was so well-liked by Republicans that no one was going to bring up the astrology nonsense.I don’t think Reagan was really part of the religious right at all.Neither he nor Barry Goldwater ever brought up “faith”every other day.Both men seemed to keep their religion where every politician should-at home.
    Goldwater lost to Johnson,who was another man that never mentioned religion as I recall.
    Wearing religion on one’s sleeve as President is a non-starter for good government.I recall Clinton being counseled by Jesse Jackson after the Oval office shenanigans,all the while Jackson stepping out on the missus himself.Or Nixon,who was given to anti-Semitic paranoia on occasion(although he trusted Jews in his administration)being given spiritual advice by Rabbi Korff of Providence!That being when Billy Graham wasn’t patting his back.Or Joe Lieberman making us fairly sick with an overdose of whining at us about his faith-driven life.
    What DOES a first lady look like?Good question.Hopefully not like Gilbert Gotfried in drag.:)

  6. umm, What does a diversity coordinator do?

  7. It sounds like someone who tries to make it possible to have a workforce with representation from as many ethnic groups as possible and gender equality.It doesn’t sound like a $300K job.MAYBE as much as 50K if it was Chrysler or something.But a Chicago hospital?I don’t think so.

  8. I have just finished reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel, The American Wife, which is very much based on the life (internal and external) of Laura Bush.

    I recommend it…

  9. Joe.

    What about white female social workers?
    Are they subject to this concept?

  10. Jim-i’m just expalining what I think diversity coordinators do.I am not suggesting that it is a necessarily good thing to have people doing that job.Non-discrimination in hiring should eliminate the need for artificial constructs in the workforce.
    When I was growing up in NYC Blacks and any other nonwhites except Mohawk Indians couldn’t get into construction unions.Now that was a situation which demanded a change.James Farmer led a long non violent sit in campaign which eventually broke down those barriers-it was all going on right near where I lived.
    Today any qualified applicant stands an equal chance of being hired,so the need for diversity coordinators seems questionable at best.

  11. I think this thread probably has veered away from what Nancy’s original intent was.

    For me, Obama always seemed more Presidential than McCain. Always.

    Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama both have seemed to me like great potential first ladies. Cindy didn’t look ‘more’ the part than Michelle, in my opinion. They both supported their husbands and it seemed to me you could see the genuine affection the couples shared.

    Laura Bush is a wildly popular first lady but I’m fairly apathetic. I guess I never see first ladies as good, bad, or in the middle as they aren’t the ones we’re voting for and certainly not the people I’m judging.

    Why some publications would do so? I suppose in an attempt to make a mountain out of a molehill.

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