Opinion

It's Obama and McCain who are running – not their wives

Voters are losing a sense of proportion in this election.

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Politicians involve their spouses unnecessarily in campaigns with increasing and disturbing regularity.

At the recent political conventions, both John McCain and Barack Obama had their wives give speeches in very prominent time slots.

That's right, during the valuable air time supposed to be used by the party to present their platform to the American people, spouses vouched for their husbands.

Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain are granting much-sought-after interviews left and right, and at times, the focus on them has eclipsed that of the candidates themselves.

Just this month Cindy McCain granted an interview to CBS' Katie Couric. Among other things, Ms. Couric asked for Mrs. McCain's opinions regarding abortion, Roe v Wade, the suitability of creationism as a topic in schools, and her husband's selection of Sarah Palin as his VP.

Michelle Obama has appeared on The View and also been interviewed by Couric, as well as by Larry King, Robin Roberts, and Ellen Degeneres.

Yes, it's fascinating to get the inside scoop on the possible next first lady, but what do their responses have to do with the campaign?

Our sense of proportion is off. A politician's spouse should be a negligible factor. To be sure, the duties of presidential wives have come a long way from looking pretty at ceremonial dinners.

But by letting ourselves be taken in by the red herring of what Michelle and Cindy think, we are turning elections into popularity contests. We move away from substance and toward showmanship.

The more people are influenced by the spouse of a politician, the less objective their thinking must be. If objectivity regarding politicians is decreasing, then so is our ability to choose leaders whose policies and beliefs are consistent with our best interests.

I assume that politicians, like other professionals, do not take marching orders from their spouses. If they did, we should ask the spouse to run for office and vote accordingly. What kind of character reference does a spouse make? When was the last time that you heard spouses say bad things (in public) about their candidate-mates? The speeches of the spouses of candidates should be seen for what they are: emotional pleas of biased parties.

In the run-up to the election, citizens need to be spending time analyzing the philosophy, character, experience, and vision of the candidate, not their spouse.

As a nation, we should aspire to elect representatives who are well versed in economics, philosophy, technology, morality, and history. We should regard political office as a place for learned individuals who have insight that escapes the common man.

Presidents must be consummate professionals. Through the policies they set and the way they interact with other countries, they shape our culture and set a direction for America.

Selecting the right candidate is a heavy burden. It should be among the most careful and informed decisions that we make.

If we support the candidacy of a politician simply because we like the person they are or are married to, it shows that we have little respect for the position itself. If you were interviewing a lawyer, and after he gave you his pitch, he brought his wife in as a reference, what would you think?

Would you invest in a company merely because you like the CEO's spouse? Then why do you care so much about the spouse of the nation's CEO?

Please, stop focusing on the spouses in the campaigns. Let's evaluate candidates based on their own merit. Let's treat politics more seriously than we treat sports and entertainment. Let's stick to the facts about a candidate and ignore the fluff.

Chris W. Bell is a freelance writer.

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