A few months ago, when Howard Dean’s campaign looked its most promising, one of the weekly news magazines devoted a cover story to the man and the political phenomenon he’s riding. Readers learned myriad details about his life and past political historynamely, that he was a much more moderate governor than any of the hardcore liberals supporting him would ever want to know. Mostly, though, I was struck by one of the story’s accompanying photos.
There he was, Howard Dean, candidate for president, standing in the kitchen of his Vermont home. There was mail all over the kitchen counter, junk on the floor, no good working space for food prep, no signs that anyone in that household subscribed to Chef magazine or lingered over Williams-Sonoma catalogs or knew how to make biscotti or hosted overdone dinner parties for phony friends. It was clear that there was a homemaker deficit in the Dean household. And Judith Dean was-and isclearly to blame.
Not only does she clearly not cook for her husband, but she hasn’t even made an attempt to look like she does. She has refused to feign the happy homemaker we all want our presidents to be married to. It’s appalling, horrible, a travesty of political justice.
And that’s why I like her. That’s why we should all like her. Her home looks like ours. She is one of us, dammit.
She has bad glasses and faded jeans and is in serious need of a makeover. Check. Check. Check. More I can relate to. She’s not interested in darkening the door of Anne Taylor for the sole purpose of making her husband more electable. Poor Judith Dean went to Iowa after a two-week media-driven frenzy about her lack of participation in her husband’s candidacy. As if anyone in Iowa or New Hampshire or anywhere else gives a friggin’ Betty Crocker whether Dean has his wife by his side offering parade smiles to mobs of strangers. She admitted in a recent televised interview that she didn’t even watch Dean’s now-notorious serial-killer imitation until well after the whole thing was over. Blasphemy.
Judith Dean’s defense for these and other apparent transgressions has something to do with her patients, her high-school-age son, keeping the household running. Yada yada yada. Hippocratic Oath, schmippocratic oath.
It’s bad enough that she became a doctor (clearly not a traditional professional role for women), these critics seem to be saying. But that she’s not willing to abandon her son and her medical practice to stand by Howard Dean in tiny towns in frigid temperatures, only to be dissected by the political paparazzi hour after hour on cable, is deemed downright unladylike. Hell, if you ask me, she’s brilliant.
Should she be more like Laura Bush, God bless her, a librarian and teacher who has embraced her subordinate status with good nature? Laura Bush was enthusiastic about decorating the White House for Christmas, for example. That’s fine, if that’s who you are. But if Judith Dean doesn’t want to string Vermont with popcorn, who cares? Or, more to the point, why should they?
Even if Howard Dean recovers from his lunatic binge, he may never recover from his non-traditional wife. Right now, that may be the best thing he has going for him.