As a former gossip columnist, I am of two—at the very least two—minds about this scrutiny. Candidates and their spouses enter into a world where little is private. I am amused when a journalist such as Michelle Cottle of Newsweek writes a piece, as she did last week, ostensibly sympathizing with political spouses because they must endure dissection of everything from their beliefs to their make-up and then adds: “Memo to Callista Gingrich: lose the platinum helmet hair.” And, of course, we all know that there is a tendency for the press to be less kind to Republican spouses—often described as “Stepford Wives,” a designation Cheri’s interesting marital history would likely have spared her.
Although I winced when a 2007 profile in the Washington Post reported that Jheri Thompson, whose husband Fred was playing Hamlet with the notion of a White House bid, had some apparently unpaid, decades-old medical bills ($1,700) from her twenties—just the sort of thing you’d die over—I generally argue in favor of the press taking a good look at candidates and even, yes, the person who would have the honor of serving her country as first lady (or first dude). A person of ordinary rectitude who has the ability to develop the tough hide necessary for political life will do fine. Jheri Thompson, I am told, is thriving (and I bet, if the report was accurate, she quickly dashed off a check to cover those almost forgotten medical bills).
A reformed bolter, Cheri would have been irresistible, though. The press would undoubtedly have dug up details about the California marriage. It would not have been fun, at least not for Mrs. Daniels. “She wasn’t going to have all that garbage about her marriage brought up, and I can’t blame her,” a friend emailed me early Sunday morning. Oh, dear I am trying not to blame her. It would have been uncomfortable, and it might have been unfair, but she would have survived and there is a good chance she would have won the public over, too. After all, she got a great guy to marry her twice.
A marriage says a lot about the two parties and that the Daniels marriage endures speaks well of both of them ultimately. It could not have been easy to ask to be taken back. But it also speaks well of Daniels that he is not so consumed with ambition that he put Cheri in a spotlight she obviously fears. It is refreshing to have a political leader who values his family above his career. It reminds me of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s saying that he would not run in 2012 because “my kids are too small and my ego's not big enough." But here’s the bad news: these are just the guys we need in office, the ones who are loyal and decent and could make difficult decisions without a lot of fanfare.
Charlotte Hays is a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum.