Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 11/7/2007 12:45:50 PM
“Please realize the magnitude of this event.” Maria Shriver’s voice is like an SOS pad being dragged across a cast iron skillet. Amplified ten thousand times.
This is a first in history, Shriver crows. It probably is a first, although the Reasonable Reporter is not inclined to spend a single moment confirming it. Five wives of presidential candidates from both major parties come together on a stage, in a cavernous meeting hall at something called a women’s conference.
As hostess of the televised event, Shriver, sometime journalist and current first lady of California, sits in a semi-circle with the women, and questions them about life with a presidential candidate.
Who supports you while you support him, Shriver asks the five participants. What dream did you put on hold so he could run for president? Realize the magnitude, indeed.
The event begs several questions. Why must perfectly straightforward material be packaged with a big pink bow for women, and why, when it is packaged for women, does it lose its punch? And why did two smart, strong, and politically savvy women, each of whom recently left her own powerful impression on Reno, seem less impressive as part of an Oprah-style televised tea party?
Standing alone onstage at the Pioneer Center in Reno, Michelle Obama’s mission was exactly the same mission undertaken at Shriver’s First Ladyfest – provide a window into the family life of Barack Obama. In Reno, she commanded the stage. She was smart, friendly, funny, and interesting.
As one of five, she was the most assertive. She seemed edgy and less relaxed than the others. Which suggested, just maybe, that she can be overbearing. Compared, that is, with the others, four women hell-bent on appearing ladylike.
Elizabeth Edwards stood alone in Reno, and did something unexpected. She extemporized. She wandered off the path a bit, responding to questions that caught her fancy. The Reasonable Reporter wondered at the time whether the campaign would continue to send her out on the road, since she clearly prefers thinking in real-time to following a script.
In the group, she remained thoughtful and original. Visually, she was the shortest, the plumpest and the least decked-out. Does this matter? Certainly not. But she must have suffered a moment of self-consciousness.
I feel like a Sesame Street character, she said. All these beautiful women and one doesn’t belong.
The mistake was saying it. She does belong. She’s not an unattractive woman. She’s accomplished and intelligent too. (The other participants, besides the striking Obama. were Ann Romney, Jeri Thompson and Cindy McCain. All tall and chic and coiffed within an inch of their lives.)
The high point: Edwards, explaining how she prepares her children for the possibility that Daddy might take some abuse during the campaign, or might lose the race. It’s not about the people, its about the ideas. It’s not so your name is after the word ‘president.’ It’s so you can promote your ideas to the nation.
Low point: The suggestion that women’s bodies “give out,” because women have so much responsibility. This, in the context of Romney’s multiple sclerosis, and Edwards’ breast cancer.
The moral of the story. Whenever possible, go solo, command the stage, and don’t apologize. The end. Hugs all around.