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Thinking About Couples

by Fred Cederholm

Never before have “significant others” of candidates been so formidable.
I’ve been thinking about couples. Actually I’ve been thinking about the 2008 Presidential Election, spouses, financial disclosures, money, power, the cult of celebrity, and “two-fers.” The American public is being treated to a temporary hiatus in the media blitz of the 2008 Presidential campaign. It’s not that the race for the Oval Office is over—far from it. Because of the gap in the timing of the remaining primary elections and caucuses before the political conventions are held this summer and the “real campaigns” begin in earnest after Labor Day, we are getting a breather.

You see, from just about any angle you approach it, this is a campaign for the record books. It is the longest campaign ever. It will be the costliest campaign ever. It began with the most contestants. It features the first potential African-American candidate, it features the first potential female candidate, it is the first race involving a former President as a direct player, and it already features the first real “World Wrestling Federation tag team bout” involving the battle of the potential first spouses. Never before have “significant others” of candidates been so formidable.

The recent revelations from the Clintons going public with their tax returns since they left the White House were noteworthy. Sure, the disclosures about the mega-millions earned by them since they vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were eye-openers, but... this should really come as no surprise. Former Presidents and their spouses have opportunities to make huge amounts of money. There are book deals, paid public appearances, corporate board directorships, and highly lucrative speaking engagements. Such opportunities are not available to mere mortals like us, or even the glitziest of entertainers, ex-corporate chieftains, sports figures, or those celebrities who are famous for being nothing more than “famous"! This is unique in that it was/is the first time we have been privy to an actual accounting/ publication of just how much “loot” is available to our “ex’s!”

We are a nation captivated and preoccupied by the cult of celebrity. Such status not only comes from power and money, it also breeds even more power and money. Never before in my adult lifetime have our Presidential candidates had spouses whose stage presence, articulation abilities, groupies/fans, and celebrity aura eclipsed those of the actual candidates themselves in the election phase. This is really something to watch. One actually has reason to ask if it is Barack and Hillary who is the true limelight magnet? Or... is it Michelle and Bill?

Meanwhile on the GOP side of the coming election, the McCains—the presumed Republican nominee for President and First Spouse—have been amazingly silent, with the media coverage of them being virtually non-existent. There was a recent flurry of activity casting Senator John as some sort of “Dr. Strangelove/” warmonger character in the coverage of his pilgrimage to the Middle East and Israel (with Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman in tow as a rabbinical “spiritual” advisor) to assure the Israelis and AIPAC that any McCain administration would mark not change in US policy for the region. His beautiful spouse Cindy has followed the more traditional role of being supportive—yet soft-spoken, non-controversial, and in the background. Given the center stage roles and hoopla/ free-for-all surrounding the Democrat’s candidates’ spouses, subdued silence is proving golden!

It is a fluke in this go around that the “coupling” on the ticket does not involve the usual spin, hype, and Kaka del Toro about who will be President and Veep. The spotlight on the duo/“two-fers” this time (and the ensuing debate thereon) could well prove to be all about just who will be the President, who will be the First Spouse, and what will be the ultimate role for each of them in any coming administration.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on April 7, 2008.