The Hill Pundits Blog  —  5/2/2012

Lay off spouses and families

By Peter Fenn – 05/02/12 03:43 PM ET

Our nation’s political history is replete with examples of snarky comments/attacks against spouses and children of presidents.

Dolly Madison was criticized as far too outspoken and called a “party-giver.” Imagine! Mary Todd Lincoln was criticized for spending too much and for her extravagant clothes. Lucy Hayes was thought to be way too far out front on women’s rights.

In more recent times, the criticisms of Eleanor Roosevelt are well-known. Margaret Truman, as a young daughter, was belittled for her piano-playing. Amy Carter was ridiculed as a teenager, as was Chelsea Clinton, by those who disagreed with their fathers’ politics.

Some of this, I suppose, comes with the territory. But it shouldn’t.

We have moved into a period of attacking the candidate/president by attacking the spouse or family.

The nasty attacks against Michelle Obama in 2008 that she “hated America” and was “an angry black woman” were absurd. Rush Limbaugh accused her of “uppity-ism” and said recently “there’s a reason she is called Michelle Antoinette.” Ridiculous, demeaning and dangerous.

Barack Obama urged people to back off when, in the 2008 campaign, it was announced that Bristol Palin was pregnant out of wedlock. He knew that circumstance because of his own parents’ situation and felt it should have no role in the campaign. He shut it down.

Now Ann Romney is feeling the same sort of attacks leveled at her that many spouses have felt. If she makes policy pronouncements, they are fair game. But to now see criticism for a $990 shirt she wore on the ABC interview with her husband is also absurd. Who cares? That is totally out of bounds. Her role as a wife and mother should also be out of bounds.

Campaigns should not be about such personal attacks — simple decency and respect should dictate a “no-spouse/family zone.”