Ann Romney last week. Michelle Obama this week. Talking about their remarkable husbands. Exemplary fathers both. Extraordinary sons. Exceptional friends. Earth-shattering partners. Excellent sons-in-law. Come on, now. Are we really going to learn about the soul of a political man through his political wife? Imagine if Jackie Kennedy, Hilary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt waltzed onto the podium at a Presidential Convention to extol their husbands’ virtues. And imagine us believing them.
I can’t remember if candidates’ wives have always made speeches at the nominating conventions, but it doesn’t matter. I actually don’t care that Obama dines with his “girls” every night, or if Romney plays touch football with his many sons. It’s grand if they do, but will any of that make them better decision makers or smarter negotiators?
I get it. The idea is to have these women shed “personal” light on the men in their lives so we come to know them as real men, just like those with whom you and I work and live. If only those were the pictures we really got.
Truth is we don’t need to know Presidential contenders as real men; we need to know them as real thought—and actions—leaders. We’d like them to dine with real families (maybe even ours) and listen—really listen—to their problems. We might even want them to visit bowling alleys when the leagues are competing, the ERs of city hospitals on especially busy nights and the classrooms in public schools; then spend a day at an exclusive boarding school, a couple of hours in the executive dining room of a hedge fund and an evening with a family on Park Avenue. We want them to absorb what’s really happening in our country today through the lives of real people like you and me, as well as through those who are absolutely nothing like you and me.
Sometimes, I feel as if politicians (and celebrities) actually live in photo albums, bouncing from one shot to another without really seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting or feeling anything around them. They smile for the camera and move on. Except of course, when they temporarily jump out of the album to have dinner with their “girls” or play touch football with their sons.