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Susan Estrich
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The Wives


"Cindy Unleashed" screamed the headline on the Drudge Report. Did Cindy McCain really go after Michelle Obama? Not exactly, but close enough. There was only one right answer to the question Mrs. McCain was asked by Kate Snow on ABC's "Good Morning America" this week about whether Mrs. McCain was "insulted" by Mrs. Obama's comment some time ago that it was only with her husband's run for president that she was "really proud" of her country. The right answer was the one Laura Bush gave: Leave Mrs. Obama alone. Mrs. Obama already has explained ad nauseam that she didn't mean to say that she never had been proud of her country before. She misspoke, which human beings who are in the spotlight 24/7 do. She is not the candidate. Her husband is.

That's what Cindy McCain should have said because the last thing she herself wants to be is fodder in this campaign. In fact, what she did say gave the press an occasion to revisit the issue and McCain's opponents an occasion to remind people of her own vulnerabilities. "Everyone has their own experience," Mrs. McCain said in response to the "insult" question. "I don't know why she said what she said. All I know is that I have always been proud of my country."

Everyone has their own experience? How about your experience, Cindy, using drugs or reading about your husband's alleged affair in the newspaper or charging more on your credit cards than 99 percent of Americans make in a year? Are those experiences to be the stuff that my Democratic friends make hay with? Is that what you really want? People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

A majority of Americans are clearly eager to see a new man at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but I'd be surprised if the numbers were even close in terms of replacing the first lady. George Bush may have worn out his welcome, but Laura Bush continues to show the tact, decency and good judgment that have made her a popular and rarely criticized first lady.

Michelle Obama, guest hosting on "The View," said she was "touched" by the first lady's defense of her and was taking some "cues" from the current inhabitant of the White House on how to succeed in the role she hopes to assume. Cindy McCain would do well to follow Laura Bush's lead, as well.

Michelle Obama gave ammunition to her husband's opponents with her comments at that rally in Wisconsin. But they need to think twice before they use it. Turning the wives into the issue in this campaign is a strategy that will leave everyone covered with mud for no good reason.

We have been to this movie before. In 1992, Hillary Clinton, then in headbands, was the object of more criticism than her husband. From her looks to her law practice to her loyalty to her husband, the former first lady had a bull's-eye on her back, made worse, of course, by her version of the patriotism comments: the explanation that she could have stayed home baking chocolate chip cookies all day but chose to practice law instead, which led to questions about possible conflicts of interest, given that her husband was the governor of the state. At the time, Hillary described herself as a "transitional figure," but it is easy to see Michelle Obama as Hillary without the headband, the strong, powerful, well-educated and ambitious wife of the candidate who some people, at least, find more threatening and less likable than they do the candidate himself. At the end of the day, the point is: So what? People don't vote for vice president, and they don't vote for first lady. If they did, Gerald Ford couldn't have lost, and Ronald Reagan couldn't have won. If the '92 election had been a referendum on who should be first lady instead of who should be president, Barbara Bush would have won it for her team in a walk.

Google Cindy McCain and there's no end to the garbage you'll get. I have no idea how much is true and how much isn't, and I don't want to know. Like most Americans, I'm more interested in what the husbands have to say. And what they both should say loud and clear is what Laura Bush has said already: Leave the wives out of it. Kids, too. And girlfriends, if any.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



10 Comments | Post Comment
You're correct. The right answer was Laura's answer of "leave Michele alone." That's always the media's right answer. She's out there with a new speech writer stumping for hubby, but she's off limits. She can say what she wants but you better not dare take exception to it or criticize her. If you do, you're mean spirited and unfair. If you criticize Barrack, you're a racist. Hell, NBC spent more time on the Today show talking about the dress she wore on The View than they did on the Mid-West floods, but they only spent about 30 seconds talking about how Obama had, "changed his mind" about not accepting public campaign funding. Keep it up guys. Keep up that pandering "Don't you just love 'em" coverage and middle-America will be sick of them by November.
Comment: #1
Posted by: webass
Fri Jun 20, 2008 9:53 AM
Cheap shots Susan. Mrs. Obama does not have to say anthing because she has democrats like you to do it for her. I did not find Mrs. McCain's comments offending and please note in your articles the good Cindy does representing her country. You know as well as I do the influence wives have on their husbands especially Hillary. Please do not compare Mrs. Obama and Mrs McCain with Hillary for that is an insult.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Kathaleen McCausland
Fri Jun 20, 2008 10:16 AM
If Cindy Bush McCain becomes First Lady, will she hand out stolen drugs at the White House on Halloween?
Comment: #3
Posted by: joel
Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:11 PM
Hi Susan. I think that you are wrong about leaving the spouses totally alone. Especially if they have been sent out to campain for their husbands.
Analysing what they say and do can give great insight on the candidate. For example, if you look at what Mrs. Obama said in her Thesis and in the speach about being proud, you will find the same sentament being presented. She states that she never felt a part of that university because of her race. She accomplished great things but felt seperate. In the thesis she explored this with other African-Americans. In the end she was concerned that she would be cut off from the African-American community and not be fully accepted in the community at large. I believe that this is the reason that the family stayed with their church even with all the hate being preached from the pulpit.
By the way I expect that the family will return to the church after the election is over. If you remember they won't sellect a church until sometime in December.
Comment: #4
Posted by: J LaMarr
Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:05 AM
Susan, Maybe it's just a coincidence that Cindy bears some resemblance to Cruella Deville, but I can tell you that ever since I put that Cindy McCain blow-up doll out in the front yard, the neighbor's Dalmatians have stopped crapping on my lawn.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Robert Conner
Sat Jun 21, 2008 12:51 PM
Dear Susan, it is always OK for liberals to mis-state their real opinions as Ms OBAMA did according to you. The problem is that as other bloggers have stated she always has someone like you to defend her. I don't want a women in the WHITEhouse representing the USA who said she was never proud of her country until her husband ran form President. If she is the future first lady she is fair game. She will represent this country and if she isn't proud of it I don't want her in the damn house.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Robert
Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:58 PM
Susan, Susan, Susan. You are better than your comments suggest so I'm not sure why you're invoking moral equivalents. Where to start? The NYT innuendos about a McCain affair had no foundation and were quickly debunked. Mrs. McCain did get hooked on prescription drugs, sought rehabilitation and has been open, candid and classy about it. Mrs. McCain is entitled to put more on her credit card than 99% of Americans make in a year - because she has it. Are you penalizing her because she's rich? Suffering from wealth and class envy? Mrs. McCain's response about Mrs. Obama tactless remark about not being proud of the US until it starting voting for her husband was stupid on a lot of levels so she left herself wide open to legitimate criticism. Mrs. McCain's response to that was, at worse, neutral. True, Laura Bush's comment was pure class - and who didn't love her mother-in-law! But there was nothing wrong with Mrs. McCain's remark.
So I'm left wondering why you threw out unfounded innuendos, brought up old news about a redeemed drug addiction and slipped in wealth envy to suggest being successful (or from a successful family) is a bad thing. You're too sharp to be among the swooners. I thought.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Michael Fleming
Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:48 AM
Susan, In your colum "The Wives" you say word-for-word what Cindy McCain should have said in reply to a specific queston.

I understand your reply and disagree with you, because as a republican I prefer an honest and candid answer to all questions, instead of a scripted answer.

To bad that truth, honesty and straightforwardness is not a characteristic you want in politicians to exhibit. Choosing a wife is an important decison. Beng President requires many important decision. When you imply that becaus she is not running for the presidency her personality is not important, shows that you lack the ability to connect decision making with the Presidency of the United States of on so many levels you are just wrong, as usual.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Tom Benson
Mon Jun 23, 2008 11:02 AM
Where in your article, Susan, was mention that Cindy McCain has worked tireless for underpriviledged children personally (I mean she goes actually goesthere over and over)in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and other places like that (mostly Operation Smile which provides surgery for children born with cleft palettes)? Where is the mention that Cindy McCain adopted a little girl with physical problems from Bangladesh? Where is the mention that she has a son serving in the Marines in Iraq in harms way? Where is the mention of the several charitable foundations she is heavily involved in? Where is the mention that Mrs. Obama attended Rev. Wright's church for many years without so much as an "I didn't know he said that!" Or, how about the good buds of the Obamas, MR. and Mrs. William Ayers (Googlel them folks). I expect this from you because you are scared that John McCain will win. Shame on you and all the other liberal hacks who call themselves journalists.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Rita
Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:04 AM
Ms. Estrich, Although we are on opposite sides of the political aisle. I usually enjoy your columns and find them to be fair minded. This one was not, and your smears are beneath you. Cindy McCain only said that she didn't know why Mrs. Obama said what she said. Is that an unfair statement? Those were not Michelle's only comments that were very critical of my country, and of Americans, whom she described as " broken, bitter and mean ". The criticisms of Michelle were not racist, or sexist ; they were objections to her remarks - and if she chooses to inject herself into the campaign, her words are fair game.
Cindy did not " take drugs" , she developed an addiction to pain medication. It is a malady that befalls many people who suffer from chronic pain and I would think you would be sympathetic. And, you are also wealthy, are you not? As is Michelle Obama, who also spends money freely - Jimmy Choo shoes!! As another person commented, she - Cindy- also works tirelessly for many charities. This a foul column, and you should be ashamed.
Comment: #10
Posted by: CS
Fri Jun 27, 2008 9:51 PM
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