The XX Factor

First Ladies Can’t Win

Gawker ran a post today about Laura Bush’s appearance on Larry King last night, in which Bush admitted that she disagreed with her husband on abortion and gay marriage . The post itself is not especially judgmental, but the commenters really go to town on Laura. For example , one says Laura has the “horrid empty life of a stepford wife .” But you can’t get too involved in your husband’s affairs, either, or you’ll be similarly pillloried. I was reminded of this when reading a recent Times of London profile of the new British Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron :

Questions about her influence can induce nervousness among Cameron’s aides and her friends. “Sam is desperately keen not to be seen as another Cherie [Blair, wife of former PM Tony Blair],” said one. “It’s true that she pushed him to become leader but she only wanted it for him.”

Hillary Clinton was, of course, also scorned for her involvement in her husband’s presidency. Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood-obesity platform seems to be separate enough from the major, hot-button issues that she has mostly escaped the criticism that she is too wrapped up in her husband’s affairs. “First Dude” Todd Palin has been painted with the Hillary brush: He’s been criticized for his perceived overinvolvement in the governing of Alaska .

This issue came up on a recent DoubleX Gabfest -the consensus was that political spouses (husbands, too) should not have to campaign alongside the candidate or be considered as part of a packaged deal with their mates. The way it is now, as a political spouse you’re damned if you meddle and damned if you don’t. But I’m curious what the readers think: Should Laura Bush be taken to task for not being more vocal about her pro-choice or pro-gay-marriage views?

Photograph of Laura Bush by David McNew/Getty Images.