Comparing First Ladies

In one of his memoirs, Al Franken talks about meeting Barbara Bush while flying first class.  His encounter consisted of him being respectful but funny.  Her response was, “I’m done with you.”  She said it over and over again.  He thought she was kidding for the longest time, but then he talked to staffers from the White House during her tenure as First Lady.  They described her as “mean” and warned that nobody crossed her with impunity.  They described her son, the second President Bush, as just like her, “He’s her son.”

That made me wonder.  She was willing to present a benign image to the world and to use her power only while out of the public eye.  Was that a generational thing?  Or did she just want the chance to control the narrative?  The first President Bush has publicly disagreed with his son and “gently” taken him to task for his values, choices or behavior.  Barbara Bush does not believe any of her sons, and especially not George, should be corrected or criticized.  She finds things in context to explain or justify everything.  Guess the protective “motherly” image she projected was real … when it pertained to her family.

First Lady Hillary Clinton struggled against the old image.  She had a career before Bill became President Clinton, maintaining it while Bill was Governor of Arkansas.  She was ambitious for herself as well as Bill.  She was an example of “be all you can be” rather than disappearing into a role of First Lady.  She was a role model for her daughter.  Then, we had the sex scandals and she didn’t dump him.  Any other wife and mother would’ve been lauded for keeping her family together.  She was vilified instead.

Oh, no!  She’s ambitious.  She wants to lead.  She has opinions.  She thinks her ideas are better than many men’s ideas.  Oh, my!  She doesn’t spend enough time worrying about her appearance and her emotional thermostat.  She couldn’t even keep her husband happy.  She’s just a feminist feminist!!!  She’s in politics to regain the power she lost as a woman!!!

I heard way too many “man (and woman) on the street” interviews where, rather than disagreeing with her views, they criticized behaviors they found acceptable in the male candidates.  I heard too many people say they didn’t vote for her because they just didn’t “like” her.  She wasn’t the Democratic candidate I preferred, but that didn’t make me stupid enough to vote Republican with Trump as the candidate.  Now we are ALL suffering the consequences of those decisions.  I am just spiteful enough to hope they are suffering more.