U.S. News and World Report posted essays from both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama about how they would approach being first lady. I expected these essays to be the standard Miss America-ish world peace pining affairs, but the messages from Obama and McCain managed to illuminate one major thing about both potential first ladies: where they came from. Obama's essay talks a lot about helping American working families, much like the family in which she was raised. McCain's essay stresses the importance of volunteering abroad and traveling to war-torn corners of the world, the kind of thing she has always been able to do as a woman of considerable means.Michelle talks about specifics, always turning back to hard facts and Barack's policy:
We've talked to mothers whose salaries can't cover the cost of groceries—but if they take a second job, they can't afford the additional cost of child care. More than 22 million working women don't have paid sick days. Millions of women are doing the same jobs as men—but they're earning less…The struggles of America's families aren't new to Barack. He was raised by a single mom who put herself through school and built a career that she loved while still finding time to read to him each morning. So, he knows how heroic America's parents can be. That's why he is committed to restoring the middle class, cutting taxes for 95 percent of all working Americans, establishing pay equity for women, and expanding family leave. He also knows that when our military goes to war, their families go with them. He's a strong advocate for predictable deployments and for better healthcare—including mental health care—for returning servicemen and women.
Cindy, on the other hand, goes for more ethereal rhetoric, and rarely refers to her husband's plans:
Opportunities to serve do not end at our borders, and I'll champion those working to create brighter futures for people lacking the many blessings we enjoy in America. I look forward to traveling abroad with groups that are engaged in efforts to reduce disease, repair war-torn countries, and alleviate extreme poverty. To take one example, millions around the world today—and especially pregnant women and children—suffer from easily preventable nutritional deficiencies. I'll work with the private sector and with our citizenry to help fix this. We know how to alleviate these problems. It is only a matter of resources and will. America, abundant in both, can tackle such problems, and I will welcome to the White House workers and donors taking on such great challenges.
Obviously I am outlandishly biased, but to me it was striking that Cindy would write such an essay when our country is in such dire economic straits. She does not once mention the economy in her essay, and like her husband, she doesn't go near the phrase "middle class." Yes, volunteering abroad and helping war torn countries and children with cleft palates is important, but the opportunity to do so is not something the average American will ever encounter. I do think that the scrutiny of first ladies in the modern political world is out of line, as your marriage is not necessarily reflective of your ability to govern a nation, but Cindy is so out of touch with the struggles of everyday citizens that it's impossible not to notice. Cindy McCain: As John’s First Lady, I Would Help Find Opportunities for People to Serve [US News & World Report] As Barack’s First Lady, I Would Work to Help Working Families and Military Families [US News & World Report]