NYT Links ERA Failure to Allegedly Passive GOP Spouses

June 19th, 2008 4:26 PM

New York Times reporter Alessandra Stanley watched Michelle Obama's performance as co-host of the morning chat panel "The View" for her Thursday "TV Watch" report, "Michelle Obama Highlights Her Warmer Side," and came away raving about Obama's "all but flawless performance."

But before that, Stanley worked in some snipes against Republicans. After stating unconvincingly that Michelle Obama had "endured far more virulent attacks by her critics" than had Cindy McCain, Stanley succumbed to smug liberal stereotyping and, in a stretch bizarre even for her, reached back to the Equal Rights Amendment to explain why Republican presidential spouses are supposedly passive housewives:

It is a familiar pattern. Democratic candidates' wives -- from Rosalynn Carter and Kitty Dukakis to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Teresa Heinz Kerry -- are almost invariably characterized by opponents as too feisty and too outspoken, a little too radical for mainstream America. Betty Ford was an early exception to the Republican rule of bland, self-effacing homemakers; as the Equal Rights Amendment faded as a cause and conservatism made a comeback, Republican spouses became ever more careful to stay three steps behind their men and the times. And some have become so intent that they are accused of playacting.

Times Watch doesn't remember Barbara Bush as being a particularly retiring first lady, and neither does Stanley, who covered the 1992 presidential campaign and described Bush's "peppery session with reporters" regarding the status of abortion as a plank in the Republican Party platform.

Stanley continued in her Thursday piece on Michelle Obama:

In this election, the two candidates' wives could not be more different, but each is haunted by the legacy of a famous predecessor. Mrs. McCain, who is very rich, very thin and exquisitely dressed and carries herself with Bergdorf Goodman hauteur, is not at all like Laura Bush or Barbara Bush; she is a blond version of Nancy Reagan circa 1980.

Early on, Mrs. Obama was likened to Jackie Kennedy for her youth and fashion style, but lately, the strong and assertive African-American career woman is experiencing the kind of antifeminist hazing that Mrs. Clinton endured in the 1992 campaign when she made her "baking cookies" faux pas.