Get Back In the Kitchen!

Why is everyone angry over attacks on Melania Trump and Heidi Cruz?

The ever-increasing war of words between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seems to have reached an even more incendiary level, as surrogates of both candidates took aim at - no, not the candidates themselves, that's already been done to death, but their wives.

To start things off, the anti-Trump PAC "Make America Awesome" put out an inflammatory ad in Utah, showing a nude fashion photo of Melania Trump which was taken during her pre-Trump modeling career, with the caption: "Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady.  Or you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday."

One might suppose that the Donald, ever a connoisseur of feminine pulchritude, would have responded with merely an amused chuckle.  It's not like the whole world hasn't seen the pictures before; the widest possible exposure is the entire point of fashion photography, though precisely which fashion Ms. Trump was modeling in this particular photo is not discernible to the naked eye.

One would be wrong: Apparently taking criticism of his lifestyle as "unpresidential" to heart, Mr. Trump went nuclear with a threatening tweet:

Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!

Just what was that supposed to mean? America found out in short order, with a National Enquirer expose of (allegedly) not one, but five different mistresses Ted Cruz has enjoyed, thus implying that Mrs. Cruz was failing in her performance of that most basic of wifely duties.  Before you dismiss this as drivel from a worthless tabloid rag, recall that the Enquirer was the publication which doggedly pursued the truth about John Edwards' love-child and bribery scandal when nobody else would.

The disgraced Mr. Edwards has now been consigned to justifiable political oblivion.  If the ostentatiously-Christian Ted Cruz were really guilty of philandering to this degree, he might be worthy of the same fate, but even Donald Trump didn't say he actually believed the charges.

So who exactly was behind them?  Everyone assumed it was Mr. Trump, just as Mr. Trump assumed (incorrectly) that Mr. Cruz was behind the attacks on Melania.

But further reporting appears to indicate that it was actually Mr. Rubio's campaign spreading the smears.  They'd been flogging these allegations for months with no takers, until finally arriving at the receptive offices of the Enquirer.

Now, it's true that the owner of the Enquirer is a good friend of Donald Trump, and that it's been generally favorable to his campaign.  Possibly Mr. Trump really was behind the story - or maybe Trump operatives got the skinny from Rubio's crew and passed it on?  We'll probably never know for sure.

More to the point, though - why is everyone so spun up?  Politicians are accused of adulterous liasons all the time, and often truthfully.

More Deadly Than The Male?

Clearly, the reason for the uproar is that the wives were dragged into the mud.  In 2016, though, isn't it a little peculiar that we still seem to think that unfair?

After all, it's been a long time since politicians' wives, as Mrs. Bill Clinton so memorably put it, "stayed home and baked cookies and had teas."  Yes, you still get the occasional one who does, like Mrs. Romney and Laura Bush - and guess what!  They're left alone.

In fact, if anyone in the current campaign has a claim to housewifely immunity, it would be Melania Trump.  She did have a reasonably successful premarital career, but in a traditionally female industry sector: modeling.  We certainly haven't seen her express any political views more distinct than the traditional beauty contestant paean to World Peace.

Take, in contrast, Hillary Clinton.  There's no doubt that she's a political heavy hitter in her own right, and has been for many years.  She flings mud with the rest of them.  When Donald Trump proved willing to fling mud right back at her, though, she abruptly shut up about him.

Isn't attacking your opponent what you're supposed to do in politics?  Nobody was surprised when Hillary did it, the only surprise when Mr. Trump returned fire was that his was effective, and nobody much cared.  Did the exchange make Hillary seem unladylike?  Of course it did, but for all these years, feminists have fought for the right to compete on a playing field that's at least level if not tilted their way.  That has a bad side as well as a good.

True, Heidi Cruz is not running for office; but she's no shrinking violet either.  You don't get to be a senior executive at Goldman Sachs earning the better part of a million bucks a year by being cute and cuddly. Like Hillary, she has political chops: Western Hemisphere economic director at the NSC, director of the Latin America offices at the Treasury Dept., economic policy advisor to George W. Bush, and so on.  What impact this might have had on her home life is not for us to say, but workplace achievement is certainly the common lot of many modern American wives if not generally to her level.

From what we're told, Ted's presidential ambitions date back to long before Heidi met him, and we doubt that she didn't figure this out somehow.  She knows what's involved in presidential campaigning; she's been in them before.  It's inconceivable that she's not fully capably of standing the heat, as well as completely aware of what that entails for years since.  

We would generally prefer it if some of the old rules of civility, to say nothing of societally-enforced stereotypical gender roles, weren't entirely dead.  It would indeed be a more pleasant world if first ladies stuck to things like childhood literacy (Laura Bush) rather than tyrannically imposing inedible school lunches on America's children (Michelle Obama) or promoting a national drug policy that's imprisoned millions and collapsed families from coast to coast (Nancy Reagan).  That ship sailed in 1932, though, with the election of FDR and his wife Eleanor, the first "power couple."

Apparently there's still some residual chivalry, or at least a general feeling that there ought to be some.  Who'da thunk it?  But the only way to actually rebuild chivalry, that idea that women should be admired and protected upon a high royal pedestal, would be for them to actually get back on there and out of the mud.

Until they do - as long as the modern American woman expects to exercise her rights as a free citizen to get down and dirty in the political, economic, or public world - she, like everyone else, has to expect to occasionally take a gooey glob right in the kisser.  Anything else would be sexist!

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