The news that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels decided against running for president because his strange marital history has, frankly, made it impossible did evoke a moment of pity from me, and then I snapped out of it and reminded myself that Daniels is just experiencing the flea bites that come with the territory when you lay down with the dogs of sexist “family values.” Daniels recently tried to cozy up to social conservatives by using his governor’s pen to eliminate all contraception funding in his state, but this demonstration of his misogynist bona fides didn’t do nearly enough to quell whispers that his wife had somehow emasculated him by leaving him for four years and then reconciling with him in 1997.
It’s hard to blame Cheri Daniels for putting the kibosh on her husband’s presidential ambitions. As demonstrated at Politico and The Daily Beast , many in the Republican base were already sitting in loud judgment of Mrs. Daniels for not being the picture-perfect loyal wife that’s expected of politicians who want to win the Bible-thumping vote. Daniels would have a particularly hard time winning those voters over when compared to Tim Pawlenty, whose cringe-inducing remarks about his “red-hot smoking wife” work well to signal his tribal loyalties to the evangelical culture, where bragging about your wife’s hotness is mandatory. (Not that they’re defensive about the perception that they’re sexually repressed! They just all marry supermodels, that’s all.)
Not that bowing out of the presidential race will do much to call off those in the Republican base who are always on alert for whiffs of pussy-whipped-ness in political figures. As Roy Edroso chronicled , much of the right-wing blogosphere has now determined that Daniels is pathetic for letting his wife tell him that he can’t run. When it comes to the wife issue, Daniels simply didn’t have a lot of options, outside of kicking her out of the house and burning her in effigy. I just wish he’d realized earlier that his brief marital crack-up is a stain that will never wash out in the eyes of the social conservative base; maybe he wouldn’t have tried to win them over by cutting off family-planning funding.
Photo from www.in.gov