Monday, May 16, 2011

A decision for Mitch and Cheri Daniels

I spent the weekend thinking a lot about politics... and marriage.

I'm married myself. Like most marriages, I think, it's more often than not a happy one. Sure, there are the occasional flares of temper or clashes of personality... and more rarely there are the knock-down, drag-out, winner-take-all blowouts that are inevitable when two different people with two different minds each believe they are "right"  and the other, therefore, "wrong".

Anyone who is in a successful marriage knows it's a balancing act. A balancing act done on a high wire, in hurricane gusts, with the audience occasionally throwing things at you while you pinwheel your arms in an effort to keep it all together and up in the air.

I realize that sounds negative. It shouldn't. It's just that marriage is work. A successful, happy marriage is even more work - and includes sacrifice, selflessness, and support.

So, allow me to admit right up front that I'm sympathetic to Cheri Daniels, before I get further into this.

It's no secret that Mitch Daniels is allowing his wife's (and daughters') feelings to play an enormous part in his decision whether to run for the Republican nomination. He compared running for President to bungee jumping... with your loved ones along for the ride.
"This is one where you have to strap a bunch of people, your family and others, along with you."
Now, I don't intend to touch on the actual gossip involved. It's all over the innerwebs - go look it up if that interests you. I don't care that they once divorced, I don't care who left who or why. I'm not even going to speculate about it for the simple reason that I wasn't there. (There are two sides to every story, especially between spouses, and it boils down to their business, in my opinion.)

What I consider relevant is that they are married now, and by all appearances want to remain that way. Mrs. Daniels clearly does not care for the role of "politician's wife" and the media scrutiny that entails. Mr. Daniels just as clearly does care about the impact of a Presidential run on his wife and family.

As he should.

I'll be honest... the reaction from many "pro-family" conservatives has surprised me.

Ace had a piece up at AOSHQ where he seemed to see this from the same angle I do... but unlike me, he realized ahead of time that others would see it very differently.
Here's the thing: That's what a husband is supposed to do, right? When women imagine dream husbands, that's the sort of thing they'd claim they really respected, right?
But I don't think people will respect this.
He notes in his post that some of his own commenters are going after Daniels. (Actually, savaging him might be a more apt description...)
When I wrote this post, I expected commenters to give Daniels a bit of a break. Turns out, not so much. It seems like even people who should be predisposed to giving him some space on this are looking for reasons to mock him. If the comments are a preview of the liberal media, then forget it.
The reality is this:  In our era of "new civility", it doesn't even matter about the divorce and remarriage. The media, comedians, and Blogosphere will go after Cheri Daniels just because.

I'm no different. I have several posts about Michelle Obama that are not just uncomplimentary but actually kinda mean.  (Though in comparison to some of what I've read, they're mild.)  So why did I write them?  Because she's fair game.  (Lest you think this is a partisan thing for me, you can see where I've also called Olbermann's remarks about SE Cupp acceptable as well. And while I don't care for Glenn Beck, I found his remarks about Meghan McCain hilarious - and acceptable.)

A few years ago, while I was subjecting one of my offspring to a rant on politics, The Kid said, "You should run for office!"  I replied, "Not at all. You couldn't give me the job."  You see, unlike many Americans, I never want to be famous. The idea horrifies me. I've said it before:
See, this is America. In America, we ONLY put people on pedestals so we can watch them fall off. And if they don't cooperate and fall of on their own, we nudge them off. And sometimes we knock them right off like American gladiators jousting with those big styrofoam lances. Get the picture?
Is it nice? Well, no. But it's reality, which isn't always nice.

So I can understand where Cheri Daniels is coming from. And as someone who acknowledges that marriage is a team sport, I can understand where Mitch Daniels is coming from, too.

What I can not understand is the conservative reaction.

The media has portrayed the deference to Daniels's wife as "waiting for permission", although I've yet to see an actual "permission" quote attributed to either Daniels. And reader comments on various blogs (which I'm not linking, as I don't want to be held responsible for the ideas of my own commenters) have ranged from dismissive to downright brutal assertions that Daniels is "whipped", along with some sentiments that he should just tell the little lady how it's gonna be.

This from the pro-family side? Really? We should show we're pro-family by mocking him as a wimp who took back a runaway wife? Or by encouraging him to disregard her wishes? Or by demanding (like the spoiled brats such commenters sound like) that the Daniels marriage be damned, run because we say so?

Ben Smith wrote (basically) that if Cheri was afraid of the spotlight... well, she's in it anyway so problem solved.

Uhh... no. If Daniels runs, Cheri will be subjected to everything from fashion critiques to parsing of her every spoken word. This is only the front edge of the storm.

Perhaps the best take on this, in my opinion, comes from Moe Lane:
But if Gov. Daniels is well and truly not sure whether his family is ready for that, well, I would advise the governor then that he already knows the answer to the question “Should Mitch Daniels run?”
I agree. He knows the answer.

And so do we.

While Mitch and Cheri have not announced their decision, I've made mine.
Daniels can't run. And if he does, no genuine pro-family voter can support him.

We do not want a leader so callous that the feelings of the woman who shares his home and bed count for nothing.  And if Cheri comes around under pressure, we do not want a leader who is (understandably) distracted from the job at hand because of marital strain that will happen when a hesitant spouse gets the treatment we must admit she will receive.

And do we want to bear partial responsibility if their marriage, after all it has survived, fails in the White House because we've pressured him to run and his wife to be compliant?

I don't judge either Daniels for the things they've come through together. And I don't think any of what I've learned from all this reflects on him as a candidate...

But his wife's concerns have merit, and although I certainly won't take a "Be nice to Cheri" pledge or suggest anyone else should, I won't pretend that I would subject my own family to the kind of scrutiny and criticisms she'd be sure to face.

And I'd like to suggest that some married (or wanna-be-married) conservatives try looking at this from the perspective of their own relationships. Isn't the mantra "God... Family... Country"? If you're going to start disregarding the "family" part of it in favor of "country",perhaps you've switched teams.

Cross-posted at Republican Redefined.


Republican Redefined said...

I'm kinda lazy, so I'll post the same comment here, I posted over there.

I really enjoyed your post Scratch; and no, it wasn't at all what I expected from you when you said you were working on A Daniels piece.

I agree with your general point here; I simply believe you are assuming too much about the folks that will "weigh in" on the Daniels personal life. I think you are assuming "consistency" and I think that may be more than wishful thinking.

Like I've said here a million times - why would anyone vote for a candidate that "says" he's a "family man", a Christian, a "good guy", or even a "social conservative?" Why do we take anyone at the word? Why do we assume that they would tell us if the converse were true? I suppose where I come down on these matters is to "judge" not the man or woman that the media or political opponents want to paint as something less than desirable, but rather to judge those that go out of their way to "prove" to me and everyone else that they're a "really good guy", a really good Christian, or a really good conservative. It just seems like insecurity manifesting itself in conservative rabble rousing. Frankly, it's lost on me.

I guess my feelings on Daniels actually come from a place of respecting his decision(s) not to go out of his way to over-explain the matter. Sure, his weekend event of marching out his wife has been seen by most as a "testing the waters" of sorts, but on the whole, he has remained relatively silent. I respect that.

Add that to the fact that his track record of taking actual steps to cut funding to Planned Parenthood in his state and the fact that he was way ahead of the curve on tackling unions in state government and I'd say that many who have "attacked him" for being soft on social issues because he called for a break in social debating are really missing the bigger picture.

I guess my point is this. He comes off as a guy willing to do the difficult things in politics and cares very little for "explaining" himself to those who are typically quick to judge. I respect that. I appreciate that.

I understand that as a political figure personal lives quickly become very public ones. That's not lost on me. I even understand that people want to know what "makes their candidates tick." I suppose where I become frustrated is with the idea that people really think they're going to find a person with a squeaky clean personal life; or why they'd want them at the end of the day if they found one. In fact, I don't think they'd accept it. Then the candidate would be "too clean."

I guess what I'm saying here is I really don't look for saints when I go to the voting station. I accept that men are just that - men; fallible, flawed, human. I look to their politics and balance that against the man behind them. If the end result is more desirable than the alternative... I push the button and pull the lever.

I wholeheartedly believe that there is a very substantial portion of the Right-wing world that would prefer a very flawed candidate politically who happened to "appear perfect" in his/her private life as opposed to a candidate with personal scars (not baggage) just like the rest of us.

I guess what I'm really saying here is I wonder if there will ever be a time when people begin to understand that the days of squeaky clean candidates is a thing of the past - that didn't exist then either - they just appeared to exist. The Internet, social media, digital photos, and a 24/7 media can paint anyone as something they're not; or at least something they are no longer.

Republican Redefined said...

I guess I've just accepted that reality and would prefer to find a candidate that actually stands for something politically that makes sense; and who prefers to keep his private life - private.

But again, I think you may be assuming too much by way of consistency here. The same group that wants to publicly tar and feather Daniels and/or his wife will be the first to jump on his bandwagon if and when the field narrows down to he and Romney. Then the discussion will not be about a man who's been married once to the same woman - once; it will suddenly be all about "conservatism" of the fiscal sort. In an instant, social issues will take a back seat to fiscal ones - just like they have chastised Daniels for suggesting.

When one anchors their arguments to the flawed belief that there is but one moral and righteous code of conduct in this country, that person ignores the most Fundamental Principles rooted in the core of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The end result is a political "ideology" destined for inconsistency - and nothing else. That person; those people; are not conservatives. They are the people casting the first stone without an ounce of self-reflection; having never explored what the First Amendment was really all about.

ScratcherMMBI said...

As a lazy ass myself, I've cut & pasted my reply both places, too. :)

I’m not worried because he’s an imperfect candidate. Remember, I like Gary Johnson who doesn’t come within a mile of what most R’s would call perfect. And I’m one of the few conservatives who applauded his suggestion of a truce on social issues. (Still do.) In fact, other than considering him a hypocrite about his pot use, I like Daniels well enough. At one point, I was hoping he’d join the fray.

But it’s not just our side I’m worried about. That’s just the smallest taste of what’s to come. It’s the publicity in general. If Cheri Daniels found being the Governor’s wife overwhelming (as far as the attention) she’ll never be able to handle running for/being First Lady. Look at how the left has treated the entire Palin family, as a perfect example. I don’t think someone who’s already publicity-shy would get through such abuse – and it *will* come. In fact, they’ll treat Cheri worse. (Think about the schoolyard bully who always always goes after the easy prey. The media/blogs will be on her like sharks after a bleeding swimmer *because* it bothers her more.)

To be perfectly blunt, I’m concerned she’ll crack under the pressure. Even if she doesn’t, the strain on their marriage will be enormous. While that’s not my personal problem, I don’t want the President (were he to win) distracted. And how could he not be?

I respect and admire that Daniels is looking to his family before making such an enormous decision. And I’ll continue to admire him if he decides the risks to his loved ones and marriage aren’t worth it. (As I would, in his position.)

It’s a shame that politics has become a blood sport… but it has, and I doubt it will get anything but worse. And the reality is, not everyone could handle it. I don’t think I could.

But rather than view this as just an imperfect candidate – or worrying about so-cons leading to the primary – I see this as a breakdown waiting to happen. And I don’t want it happening in the White House.

(Also… I admit to being a big softie at heart… they’ve come through hardships, and emerged at the other end together. That’s something to celebrate and be thankful for, not test further under even worse pressures.)