Ann Romney merits respect; Mitt? Well ...
COLUMN: DIANNE WILLIAMSON
One of my girlfriends is no fan of Ann Romney.
"She would back a Caddy over `you people' and never even adjust her rearview mirror to assess the damage," my friend, a raging liberal, recently sputtered on her Facebook page. "I'm using the word `hate' because it fits. I hate her."
I felt the assessment was a tad harsh and told her so, but it only egged her on. "Sorry, Di. She makes my blood boil. Every time I see a clip of her, hatred for the masses rolls off her skin like a fog. She strikes me as ruthless. Lady Macbeth in a Talbots' jacket."
Ann Romney grew up blond, lovely and rich, and she still manages to be all three, even at the relatively ripe old age of 63. I'm not saying my friend is jealous, but women like Romney often draw strong and visceral reactions from other women, who tend to distrust the beneficiaries of such bounty.
Of course, Ann Romney has also endured devastating challenges. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, a moment she called her "darkest hour." She has survived breast cancer and suffered two miscarriages. As first lady of Massachusetts, she was somewhat of an enigma, although she famously put her foot in it while telling The Boston Globe that she and Mitt were so poor as newlyweds that they had to sell off some stock to stay afloat. Not exactly Les Miserables, and she was ridiculed mercilessly as a Country Club elitist.
But Ann has managed to mature on the national stage and is now widely considered gracious, warm and charming. That image is the polar opposite of her stiff hubby, Mitt, who tonight will accept his party's nomination for president of the United States.
So the pressure was on Tuesday night when Ann Romney took the stage at the Republican National Convention, faced with the Herculean task of humanizing a man who later sat by her side with a fixed grimace, looking all the world like a constipated Thurston Howell III. The concept of having the candidate's wives or children speak on their behalf is a relatively new, often gag-inspiring phenomenon, because one would hope that the candidate has at least managed to capture the support of his family. But the "My Husband Isn't So Bad" speech is good theater, so we tune in.
Ann didn't disappoint, unless you were seeking political substance, and we shouldn't expect it from an adoring spouse who is likewise adored by her husband, who often stares at his wife with the famous "Nancy Reagan gaze." A polished and effective speaker, Ann sweetly mentioned several times that Mitt is really fun and that she met him at a high school dance, perhaps hoping we'd focus on the image of a loose-limbed, joyously gyrating jokester, as opposed to a political flip-flopper whose physical limbs seem operated by remote control.
But before she got around to Mitt, we females had to endure DefCon One-level pandering, lest we were under the impression that the Republicans didn't like us. In fact, they're crazy about us, as long as we're legally married to a male, have kids, attend church and relinquish control of our reproductive rights. Who knew?
"I love you, womennnn!" Ann shouted, Oprah-like. "And I hear your voices. You are the best of America. You are the hope of America. Tonight we salute you and sing your praises."
It soon became apparent that when she said women, she meant mothers, as though the terms are interchangeable and we've gone back to the 1950s. Mitt must love moms, too, as he supports policies that would make it harder for sexually-active women to avoid motherhood.
Ann knows much about children and marriage; interestingly, if her husband is elected, she'd be the only previously unemployed first lady born in the 20th century. (The last unemployed first lady was Mamie Eisenhower, who was born in 1896.) "I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a `storybook marriage,'" Ann said. "Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters on MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? Nope, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage."
Good stuff. I disagree with my friend about Ann Romney, and believe she would make a fine first lady. She's attractive, articulate and dignified. She knows how to smile, dress and charm. I can easily picture her at state dinners, captivating foreign dignitaries and laughing prettily at her husband's awkward jokes.
Of course, we're not voting for a first lady. We're voting for a president. And Ann did her best, but it will take more than a worshipful wife to convince us that Mitt should waltz to the White House.
Contact Dianne Williamson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org