Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Something to Admire About Howard Dean

The fact that he doesn't drag his wife around as a campaign prop is actually a pretty positive thing in my eyes. I just don't see what the point of that sort of thing is; what does a man's choice of wife tell you about his fitness for office, particularly when said wife seems as uninterested in politics as Dean's? One might even say that, like Dennis Thatcher before her, she constitutes the ideal political spouse, one who doesn't make the mistake of thinking that an electoral vote for her partner is one for her as well.

In 23 years of marriage, 18 of which Dr. Dean has spent running for, or serving in, office, his wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, has developed an unusual role for the political spouse: invisible.

During Dr. Dean's two years of relentless campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Dr. Steinberg has stood by her husband's side at a political event exactly once, at his official announcement speech here in June. A country doctor who still makes the occasional house call and attends PTA meetings, Dr. Steinberg has given about a dozen interviews — none televised — two fund-raising letters and a cameo on a half-hour advertisement.

She has never been to Iowa.

It is a reprise of her performance as first lady of Vermont. When Dr. Dean became governor, Dr. Steinberg reluctantly danced through the first two inaugural balls, in 1993 and 1995, but that event was soon cut from the state capital calendar and replaced with an open house, which she skipped. Dr. Dean, for his part, rarely uttered her name, even to say thanks, in public speeches.


"I do not intend to drag her around because I think I need her as a prop on the campaign trail," Dr. Dean said last week in Iowa. "If she wanted to do it, it'd be great, but she doesn't want to do it, and therefore if she does do it, it won't be great. I just think she should do what she needs to do for her own happiness and satisfaction."

The woman has a full life of her own, shows none of the telltale traits of power-lust, is, if anything, probably a better doctor than Dean ever could have been, and yet some people seem to think there's a problem with her for not playing the political cheerleader for her husband? I just don't get the interest some people have in prying into the private lives of others. If there's one issue on which I am in complete agreement with Howard Dean, it's this one - people should leave the woman alone, and concentrate on what's important, Dean's own record and stance on the issues.

UPDATE: It seems that opinion amongst the commenters over at Tacitus is almost uniformly in accord with mine. I think it's a good thing that even those who intensely dislike the man's politics are able to separate their aversion to him as a politician from their attitude towards him as a family man. Not all of the blogosphere is given to the sort of fits of personalized hatred characterized by, say, John Derbyshire's hit piece on Chelsea Clinton, or the shameless attacks on the Bush twins carried out by so many on the left.