What If Voters Could Vote for the First Family?
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
Commentator Danielle Crittenden lives in Washington, D.C., where it's hard to avoid being bitten by the politics bug. Well, that said, here is her inside the beltway view of what America might look like if voters could choose the First Family.
DANIELLE CRITTENDEN: It's 641 days until election day 2008. Yes, yes. Okay. I know it's more than a year and a half away, but when you live in Washington it's hard not to get immersed in all the pre-game hubbub. Here's an idea the parties might want to put in their playbook as we approach the political Super Bowl.
Americans want effective, capable leaders. And they also want telegenic, scandal free presidential families. Unfortunately, the two do not always go together. In many states, citizens are free to vote for a governor from one party and a lieutenant governor or attorney general from another.
Sometimes, a governor from one party may find all the elected offices in his or her state held by members of the other party. So how about this suggestion? Let's take this idea to the next level and allow voters to vote separately for president, first lady and first family. Think about it. Here we have Hillary Clinton. Smart, tough, accomplished. But she comes pre-packaged with Bill. Even the staunches Hillary loyalist has to wonder if she's president, who's going to keep an eye on him?
When you watched presidential daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush speak at the 2004 convention in New York, didn't you kind of wish you could have returned Chelsea Clinton for four more years as first kid? Polls tell us that most Republicans regard Rudy Giuliani as their best and most selectable candidate for president. And yet the pundits tell us that Rudy's complicated personal life may deny him the nomination altogether. But what if we could somehow pair Rudy Giuliani with, say, the steadfast, uncontroversial Elizabeth Edwards?
I know, I know, I'm crossing party lines, but hey, if we could do it for the attorney general, why not the first lady? Or what about pro-lifers troubled by Mitt Romney's evolving views on abortion? They might want to balance a Romney ticket by nominating for first lady Mary Brownback, wife of the solidly pro-life candidate Sam Brownback. On the Democratic side, Joe Biden might recover from his recent gaps by reluctantly dropping his wife Jill from the ticket and hastily drafting Barack Obama's wife, Michelle.
Many Democrats have talked up Tom Vilsack as a solid middle-American kind of guy. Detractors worry that Vilsack is too boring. Why not add a streak of, say, anything mischief to the ticket by recruiting Teresa Heinz Kerry for a second madcap run. You could think of your own ideal combinations. But none remains as tough as Hillary's situation. There's talk that she might choose the handsome but safe Evan Bayh as her vice-presidential running mate. Wouldn't first gentleman be a much more suitable role for him?
Or perhaps a write-in candidate such as Al Franken, who maybe could teach Hillary what funny really means. This idea will perhaps seem radical to some, farfetched or laughable to others. To the scoffers, I have only two words to say. Roger Clinton. If your family is about to become our problem, shouldn't we all get a say in who that family is?
SIEGEL: Danielle Crittenden is the author of the forthcoming satirical book, "The President's Secret IMs."