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The Agnostic Pulpit: Voting for the Wives

 article about US Elections

This article belongs to Theme: US elections 2008 theme.


One sharp contrast today in the American election is that between the candidates' wives. Every day we see television shots of both McCain and Obama giving speeches at rallies all around the country. Almost every time we see McCain, there is a thin, blond woman hovering just behind him. She is dressed in the latest fashions and is perfectly made-up. That would be Cindy McCain, the very wealthy second wife of John. She is always smiling, waving, and apparently loving the attention. She seldom speaks and is mostly a cheerleader for her husband, John.

On the Democratic side, we almost never see Michelle Obama together with her husband, Barack; she is usually traveling on her own holding rallies attended by large crowds. She is a trusted surrogate for her husband.

Although Cindy McCain can give a good speech, her words seem to be crafted by speech writers. She is given little room for spontaneous remarks, seldom gives interviews, and seldom goes off on her own.

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In an Obama presidency, I would expect to see the Obama family carrying their Bibles on Sunday and attending Christian services.
Mrs. McCain inherited wealth from her father, who built a successful beer distribution company. She is active in the company today, but what it is exactly that she does is not clear. John McCain signed a pre-nuptial agreement that probably limits his claim on her fortune. This marriage, to some extent, resembles that of the Democratic candidate of four years ago, John Kerry, who was married to a wealthy wife, heir to a giant food manufacturing company.

John McCain is some eighteen years older than Cindy. John has children from his first marriage, and the McCain's have four children together, one of whom is adopted. Cindy uses some of her wealth for noble causes that include children's health and the clearing of land mines. In view of the number of homes and automobiles they own, Cindy's charitable contributions do not seem to inconvenience her.

Following surgery some years ago, Cindy started to abuse pain medications and eventually, becoming addicted, committed illegal acts to obtain medication before entering a rehabilitation program. To her great credit, she faced the problem and dealt with it honestly. She also survived a stroke and made a full recovery.

If Cindy McCain were to become America's first lady in the White House, she would preside with considerable elegance over official ceremonies, holiday events, state banquets, and entertainment. She would probably also continue her charitable works, and, in all things, be the traditional first lady.

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Cindy McCain is the kind of woman I might tend to place up on a pedestal.
Michelle Robinson Obama is 44 years old. She was raised in relative poverty in a poor neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Her mother still lives in the one bedroom apartment in which Michelle was raised. Arising from poverty, Michelle graduated with honors from Princeton University and then attended Harvard where she earned her law degree in 1985. While working for a Chicago law firm, Michelle met and finally married Barack, himself a Harvard Law graduate. They have two young daughters.

Michelle and Barack, well matched as brilliant lawyers, have not had much money to contribute to good causes, but both have worked for social change and for noble causes giving up better paying jobs in favour of public service.

Cindy McCain is the kind of woman I might tend to place up on a pedestal. Her smile is without much real warmth, and her manner is generally formal. Michelle Obama, on the other hand, has a warm smile and a way of doing things that makes you want to hug her. She speaks well and spontaneously, Barack trusts her to go off on her own to make campaign speeches, and, like Barack, she can think on her feet.

If Obama is elected president, I think Michelle will be much more than a mistress of ceremonies. She might be another Eleanor Roosevelt, writing a column and traveling around the world implementing the changes she and Barack want to make.

In an Obama presidency, I would expect to see the Obama family carrying their Bibles on Sunday and attending Christian services. But, as an agnostic, I think I can trust him to keep his religion and his politics separate. I have no idea what McCain believes by way of religion. He says the right words, of course, but never seems to mention his religious beliefs. However, if he were president, he would certainly pander to his fanatic religious backers and allow their money to open for them some of the doors into government.

I will vote for Michelle. She would make a great assistant president, and a good man comes with her.

(Julian I. Taber, Ph.D. is author of Addictions Anonymous: Outgrowing Addiction with a Universal, Secular Program of Self-Development: ISBN 978-1-60145-647-2)




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