Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Jeri Thompson - asset or albatross? [Part Two]

By Libby

It never fails. You do a throw-away post at the end of the day that you think no one is even going to read and it generates a firestorm of criticism. After over four years of blogging, I'm used to that. I've developed a thick skin and normally, I would just let it pass but my post has been so widely misinterpreted that I think a response is in order.

First a clarification. It seems the main objection was over my use of the term "trophy wife" to describe Jeri Thompson, which to my surprise was viewed as some kind of attack on her. I don't have a mean bone in my body. I have never in my life insulted or belittled another person on a personal level, either deliberately or by innuendo. In fact, I'm so unversed in the art of personal insults that generally I don't realize someone has deliberately insulted me unless one of my friends points it out. However, thanks to a commenter at my place, I see by common definition "trophy wife" is indeed considered to be an insult.

All I can say is that I didn't mean it as such. I define the term to simply mean a marriage where the wife is 20 years or more younger than the husband, with no other implications, no matter what circumstances led to the pairing. To the extent that I insulted the women in these marriages, I apologize, but frankly I think it's silly not to take it as a compliment and rather dishonest not to admit it's true. No matter what led to the marriage, or how well suited you are despite your age difference, or how happily married, a young wife is still a prize catch for an older man; one that he is rightly proud of and when you walk into a room together, you are a visual symbol of his success. I would take that as a compliment myself, but that's just me.

In any event, getting back to my original question, which was -- will Jeri help or hurt Fred's candidacy -- I've been fascinated by the responses. Men are overwhelming positive about her. Even Andrew Sullivan notes that she is "hot" and in cruising the comment sections I've seen all too many men suggesting she's an asset because she's the first First Lady they would love to f*ck. Now that, I think is far more insulting than the term trophy wife as I used it. It clearly suggests she has no value other than as a sex object. I imagine it's precisely that reaction that defined the term in the first place and rendered it an insult rather than than a compliment.

Women, on the other hand had a largely negative reaction. A handful of women came out in support, most of them seemed to be women who are also in successful May-December relationships, but more commonly the reaction on seeing Fred and Jeri Thompson together in a photograph, was basically -- ick.

For myself, despite my initial reaction, which I already admitted was colored by personal experience of having been dumped for someone my daughter's age, I tend to agree with Jane Galt, who takes a neutral stance, but with one caveat. I don't think among informed voters, Jeri will make a difference. I've got some serious problems with her politics, but I don't care at all that she's young and beautiful. However, we don't really have an informed electorate.

With a media that devotes umpteen news cycles to such trivialities such as haircuts and sweaters over substantive analysis, our candidates are chosen on such shallow issues and appearances define a potential nominee more so than policy. It's not so much the age difference as that it's so visually apparent. Fred looks old and Jeri looks younger than her years and yes, very hot. Worse yet she flaunts it.

That's fine for a Hollywood wife, but for a potential First Lady not so much. No matter how greatly our mores and values have changed, I don't think the average American is ready for a sexy First Lady. We expect a certain dignity and decorum in our high office holders and if you think I'm wrong about that, I'd remind you of the reaction to the quasi-dominatrix outfit Condi wore on her first outing as Secretary of State. You'll notice she never made that mistake again.

So to answer my own question, I think Jeri will hurt Fred's candidacy as long as she's showing up in photographs looking like a Hollywood starlet at the latest award show. As some commenter somewhere so inelegantly put it, Fred will never get the old crone vote that way. Neither will he get the vote of any woman who has ever been dumped for a younger model. It's not an insignificant demographic. Certainly not one Thompson can afford to ignore if he's serious about the winning the race.

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