June 3, 2023

Heavy Mettle, Heavy Meddle: The First Ladies

Heavy Mettle, Heavy Meddle: The First Ladies

Heavy Mettle, Heavy Meddle: The First LadiesRegardless of your political persuasion, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on: If Barack Obama is elected President, Michelle Obama is going to become the First Lady of Most Smokin’ Umber Hotness.

I’m proud to be an American, because–no offense to Laura Bush and her pursed, puckery, judgmental librarian lips–if Barack Obama wins, we’re going to have the hottest executive wife in the world (okay, Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife is a definite babe–but she slept with Mick Jagger and Donald Trump. That’s the kind of Ick Factor that’s worth 100 Beauty Demerits).

Of course, if Hillary wins, we’ve got Bill, which is another discussion entirely.

If John McCain wins…well, we’ve got Cindy McCain as David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth.

But do full hips, smoky eyes, and sultry Diana Ross hotness really an ideal First Lady make? What does it take to be a top-shelf First Lady, and how have some of the 42* that will precede Michelle Obama measured up? After all, except for Michelle, we can’t assess a First Lady’s worth by how she looks in a bikini and curled up on a bearskin rug. And, no disrespect to Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan, but we shouldn’t. Ever. Seriously. (I thought Kitty Dukakis had her own kind of hot going on, and would have made a great First Lady. And when she was hospitalized for a drinking relapse after consuming isopropyl alcohol, I thought that displayed both a vulnerability and a resourcefulness that just made her even more tantalizing in a Mrs. Robinson/Virginia Woolf sort of way to my then-young-twentysomething self).

No, there are non-physical tangibles at work that measure the worth of a First Lady. How do they stand by their man, and how do stand on their own? Are they activist or passivist? Do they have mettle or meddle? Do they spend their time trying to make America a better place for America, or their husband’s administration a better place for their hair-trigger intolerances? And what would they do if they caught their husband sticking a cigar in an intern’s vajayjay? Let’s start by taking a look at America’s last six Chief Executive Wives.

LAURA BUSH: How does she stay with the man? She’s a librarian. She’s actually read the books that are on the shelves around her. She should have some reverence for the mother tongue that would compel her conscience, to make her walk far away from this man who treats the English language like Tex Watson treated Leno LaBianca. For blind loyalty alone, she should earn a C- but that’s not entirely fair. She’s conducted herself with unimpeachable dignity (as opposed to her husband, who has conducted himself with apparently unimpeachable indignity) and doesn’t do a lot of shrill politicking about who should and shouldn’t be in her husband’s administration, so, in the interests of fairness: B

HILLARY CLINTON: In her bull-in-the-china-shop arrogance, she botched any chance she had to reform health care, and ostracized a Democratic Congress that might have passed her plan. She stood by Bill during his infidelities–before, during, and, probably, after the White House, which only wins her points for fortitude. Sort of. After August 18, 1998, she and Chelsea should have left the White House with all their stuff piled into a Ford Aerostar and hit the road with the title song from “Alice” as their theme music. Her current spurious claims for effecting world peace during the 1990s notwithstanding, she did travel the world as an effective and vocal ambassador. Still, I can’t believe she didn’t Lorena Bobbitt Bill a long time ago. C

BARBARA BUSH: Yes, she taught a handful of children to read a handful of words. She might have been right when she said of Gerry Ferraro “it rhymes with rich.” But her otherwise-horrible attitude is still being amplified nearly sixteen years after she left the White House. There was her regal assessment of the Katrina refugees living in barely-contained squalor in the Astrodome that “well, some of them are much better off than they were before.” She said two days before the start of Gulf War II, “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen and how many this or that or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” And how many kids your son is sending to get shredded by IEDs. She is Marie Antoinette, but we’ll have to wait for history to cut her head off. F

NANCY REAGAN: Shrill and controlling, she was a tiny terror to the Reagan staff, and it was often her decision alone whose heads would roll. She had her own astrologist to shape the President’s schedule. She brought a gawdy plutographic opulence to the White House that was responsible for Dynastybeing around as long as it was, and added absolutely nothing to the public good–she didn’t get me to “just say no”; that little I do remember from the 1980s. A mean little harpie. D-

ROSALYN CARTER: Extra points for enduring Billy as a brother-in-law. Between her efforts on behalf of mental health and Habitat For Humanity, she’s done more charitable work than I’ll ever read about, all the while being a thoroughly inoffensive and unobtrusive personality. You just can’t compete with that. A

BETTY FORD: Now this is one tough lady. Even through a good-sized drinking and pain pill problem, she fought for the Equal Rights Amendment and battled breast cancer, and became one of the first activists for breast cancer awareness. After she sobered up, her Betty Ford Center became a whole new vacation industry for the Liza Minellis and Elizabeth Taylors of the world. A

*James Buchanan, 15th President and only bachelor to serve in the nation’s top seat. Murmurs were that he had the gay.