Posted tagged ‘Elizabeth Edwards’

What is this and why am I watching it?

November 7, 2007

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.

Campaign spouses in Reno: Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Edwards, and Mr. Clinton

August 21, 2007

Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 8/21/2007 4:29:11 PM

Michelle Obama carries herself like the late Diana, Princess of Wales, but with more self-confidence. Crisply outfitted, tall and graceful, with an inner-humility that shines through. Elizabeth Edwards comes across as a gracious southern mom who just happens to have a law degree, and a husband running for president. Then there’s the Democratic party’s rock star, former president Bill Clinton. His reputation as a crowd pleaser precedes him.

All campaign spouses. All lawyers, though none currently practices. Each got an enthusiastic reception in Reno. Obama during a weekday lunch-time appearance at the Pioneer Center. Edwards, launching her husband’s Reno office one hot Sunday morning in July. Clinton, drawing the faithful at a commute-hour Hillary rally at the convention center.

The two women, who have radically different stumping styles, offered generously personal views of themselves and their families, and a dose of opinion about the state of the nation. They were impressive in a way presidential campaign spouses never have been. Mrs. Obama, with her relaxed brand of personal power, and a presentation style on par with her husband’s. Mrs. Edwards, with such devotion to her husband’s quest that she chooses, even in her current medical circumstances, to spend her precious days helping him pursue it. Each with keen intelligence, and each earnestly pitching her candidate as the right leader for the time.

The former president is familiar. Perhaps he, in turn, experienced the audience of Democrats as familiar. So familiar that communication should be effortless, by virtue of pre-existing relationship.

Clinton touted his own presidency relative to the current one. He made a few points about the Bush administration, using anecdotes about people he knows. A couple of his thoughts were incomplete, a couple of segues perplexing. But the crowd cheered, and was generally pleased.

The speech lacked any mention of family. Perhaps that’s by design, given what the country already knows about the Clinton family life. Nonetheless, providing a window on family life is incumbent upon the campaign spouse. Clinton made the important points about Hillary the Senator, and Hillary the Arkansas first lady, and Hillary the health care expert. No glimpse of Hillary, Bill’s wife or Hillary, Chelsea’s mom. He addressed the nagging question about whether she can win in a general election. And he gave her a ringing endorsement.

The Reasonable Reporter is not in the habit of fact-checking political speeches, but one of Clinton’s assertions struck an odd note.

“My wife is the only senator from New York to ever serve on the armed service committee,” he said. “And I can’t tell you the number of military officers who have told me she’s the most knowledgeable person in the Senate, in either party, on military affairs.”

Had Clinton named any of those military officers, they could be asked. But he didn’t, and they can’t. It’s hard to imagine, though, that those officers aren’t acquainted with another Democratic member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Webb of Virginia.

Webb has served as Secretary of the Navy, and as counsel to the house committee on veteran affairs. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, as the Viet Nam war reached a crescendo. He chose marine service, and was first in his class at marine corps officer’s basic training school, according to his Senate bio. Webb worked as an instructor in tactics and weapons at marine corps officers candidate school. He’s been awarded a half dozen medals, including two purple hearts.

Then there’s the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee, Republican Senator John McCain. Need we waste space recounting McCain’s military history?

In all likelihood, Hillary Clinton has worked hard to achieve a good grasp of military affairs. One befitting an aspirant to the White House. But does her grasp outstrip that of Webb and McCain, or any of a number of other military veterans in the body?

This bit of hyperbole went presumably unnoticed, except in the fashion it was meant to be noticed. If Mrs. Clinton was already the Democratic nominee, however, such a statement would be probed for its source, and would be endlessly analyzed as a reckless statement at best, and for the hint disrespect it carries at worst.