Let The Spouses Debate!

[ Posted Monday, July 23rd, 2007 – 14:10 UTC ]

Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, an interesting idea was proposed: how about having a debate for the spouses of the presidential candidates? How about a Democratic spouses debate, and a Republican spouses debate?

Now, normally my motto is "I watch Fox News so you don't have to," but I have to admit the idea is an intriguing one. Spouses on the left and right have recently been making news sniping at each other anyways, so let's put them on a stage with each other and let the fur fly!

The idea intrigues me for two reasons -- first, I think it'd be great television and would actually get higher ratings than the candidate debates; and second, because the mainstream media would suddenly discover that Dennis Kucinich's wife is the hottest campaign spouse on the Democratic side.


Seriously, though, wouldn't it be a good idea to see the partners of the candidates speak? Now, I know we're not electing spouses to anything, but the question of "character" always plays a large part of how Americans elect their presidents. And one legitimate judge of a person's character is whom they choose to marry. I'm not saying such a debate would (or should) change anybody's vote, but it would certainly help define the candidates themselves in a very personal way.

The Republican debate would probably be more amusing, since they've already been duking it out in the press. Points would be awarded to the first one to utter the phrase "trophy wife" (since Mitt Romney's wife has already publicly done so, the smart bets would be on her). Of course, ex-wives would not be allowed to participate, since that could get as messy as a Jerry Springer show. After all, Republicans are all for "family values," and the "sanctity of marriage." For everyone but themselves, that is.

The Democratic debate would obviously be a race for second place, since Bill Clinton would wipe the floor with the entire field. Love him or hate him, you've got to admit Bill Clinton is one of the best politicians ever in the "debate" category. He would not only outshine everyone else, he would enjoy the hell out of himself while doing so.

But the second-place debate would indeed be interesting. Michelle Obama is a compelling part of Barack's public persona, and Elizabeth Edwards has already shown she's a tough scrapper. Of course, unlike the Republican side, Edwards didn't go for an ad hominem attack, but rather forcefully made her case that her husband was better than Hillary on a policy issue -- women's rights. But Edwards has shown she's not above throwing an elbow in the fracas. And (sexist remarks aside) Dennis Kucinich's wife is bright and driven on several causes herself, so she could be counted on to be just as staunch a supporter for progressive positions as her husband is -- which would endear her to many Democratic primary voters.

Maybe I'm wrong, but the more I think about it, the more I think: "that's a debate I would watch." And I bet I wouldn't be the only one.

But while fantasizing about debates that will likely never happen is fun, I have to close this article by addressing the reality of the best known campaign spouse, and how he's going to be handled. The big question is, of course, whether Hillary will let Bill "out of the box" (or, if you prefer, "off the leash") and let him do what he does best: campaign. She made big news just a few days ago by allowing Bill to (1) appear onstage with her, and (2) actually speak for five minutes (he introduced her). As I heard one pundit waggishly remark: "Bill must really want her to win -- he's never spoken for only five minutes about anything in his entire life!"

There are a lot of people who think that in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections, Gore and Kerry would have had a much better chance if they had let Bill Clinton actively campaign for them. But the decision for Hillary is much harder, as Bill is her hubby. It's kind of hard to take the "our campaign wants to distance itself from Bill Clinton" approach when they are husband and wife.

It's a tightrope Hillary Clinton is going to have to walk, though. Let Bill campaign and run the risk of being overshadowed by his charisma? Or send Bill to separate events where the comparison won't be as easily made? She's got to appear to be "her own woman" and decisive enough to be President, but at the same time, she can't just deny Bill's existence.

It will be interesting to see how she walks this tightrope in the upcoming months.


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant

4 Comments on “Let The Spouses Debate!”

  1. [1] 
    CDub wrote:

    That would be an interesting debate. I would certainly watch. What would be really interesting would be if such a debate actually swayed voters opinions about the various candidates.

    It's rather off topic, but the whole notion of a debate among family members reminds me of the one thing that stood out, to me, over Mitt Romney's performance in the debates. He kept repeating the phrase that he would fight to strengthen families. What? Strengthen families? How does that work, mandatory counseling? Mandatory bible camp? Mandatory Kama Sutra camp? He might just as well have said that he'd fight for brighter colors or larger refrigerators. But to be honest, if the most powerful man in the free world can cause a government intervention over my wifes meatloaf, he's got my vote.

  2. [2] 
    Michael Gass wrote:


    Correct me if I am wrong, but, the idea was brought up about Democratic spouses, yet, when it was suggested the Republican spouses do the same, that was considered "out of bounds".

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michael -

    I'd have to check the transcript, but I think what was "out of bounds" was Juan Williams calling one of the Republican wives a "trophy wife." I forget if it was Fred Thompson's wife or Giuliani's wife.

    The idea was kind of being batted around as a joke among everyone, which was why I wrote the article -- I thought it was actually a pretty good idea, and I still stand by my prediction that it would get higher ratings than the real debates.


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, sorry it took so long. Here's the quote:

    Juan Williams of National Public Radio: "Well, first. . . I think you should get Jeri Thompson in here, the trophy wife, right?"
    William Kristol of the Weekly Standard: "That's unfair."
    Williams: "Unfair, unfair, I know, but --"
    Kristol: "It is unfair."

    That's what was considered "out of bounds."


Comments for this article are closed.