October 23rd, 2007
11:14 PM ET
11 years ago

'08 wives talk candidly about their roles

Jeri Thompson, Michelle Obama, Ann Romney, Elizabeth Edwards, and Cindy McCain put aside the competitiveness of the campaign trail on Tuesday to talk about being political spouses.

(CNN) – Fifteen years after Hillary Clinton made her then-controversial comment about being a career woman and not staying home to bake cookies, the wives of five contenders for the White House gathered in California Tuesday to discuss their involvement in their husband’s presidential campaigns.

The wives’ discussion with moderator Maria Shriver, wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, began with Shriver pointing out that the gathering was historic. “Never before,” Shriver said, have political spouses, “gathered together to talk about their lives, to talk about the campaign trail, to talk about what it’s like when someone from your family gets up and runs for president.”

And talk they did. Shriver asked Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, what she had feared or worried about in the early days of her husband contemplating a run for the White House. “You always worry about your life getting sucked out from under you,” Mrs. Obama responded. “I’m very practical, I have to know how is this going to play out.”

For her part, Jeri Thompson, wife of Fred Thompson, sought to dash persistent reports that she has a prominent, strategic role in her husband’s presidential campaign. “I have a one-year-old,” Thompson said. “And, I have a four-year-old. That’s my main role,” Thompson said. “Other than that, I do what I can to help when he asks me.”

Elizabeth Edwards was not as modest as Jeri Thompson in explaining her involvement in John Edwards’ campaign. “We do know our husbands best. Sometimes if we think he’s being misrepresented or misserved by something, it’s our jobs as wives to say, ‘you know, I don’t think that’s really the best thing,’” said Edwards.

Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain and a veteran of a past White House run, brought a different perspective to the discussion. “My boundaries changed from 2000 to this race,” she said. “I have now myself learned to say no” to some of the demands of a presidential campaign.

Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, spoke about the pressures of being a political wife. Gesturing towards Elizabeth Edwards, Romney rejected the assumption that statements or stances taken by the women always originate from their husband’s campaigns. “You have to be who you are. You have to have the flexibility and the luxury of expressing yourself for who we are as individuals,” said Romney.

The discussion was part of the 2007 Women’s Conference, a non-partisan annual event put on by California’s governor and first lady for the last twenty years. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, Shriver said former President Bill Clinton did not participate in the spouses’ panel because of a scheduling conflict and that Judith Giuliani, wife of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, “declined to attend.”

- CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart

Filed under: Cindy McCain • Elizabeth Edwards • Michelle Obama
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Stephen Adeleye , Halethorpe, MD.

    I am just as ecstaticm watching the wives of the white house potential bidders in unity. However I think the camera man may have mistakingly cut off Bill clinton. He is stillmarried to the "woman of steel" isn't he?

    October 23, 2007 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  2. Ann ME

    Can you imagine that many catty women thrown together in one room?

    October 23, 2007 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  3. M.S., Ohio

    Good Lord...where Obama's wife get that dress? Nice to see she makes her own clothes...

    October 23, 2007 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  4. W Clarke, Alexandria, VA

    Where was President Bill Clinton? Was he invited?

    October 24, 2007 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  5. david houston texas

    Why in the world would Formal president bill clinton be suggestivly shun for not attending this forum. Why not mention Laura Bush and Junior. The enduendo is there on the spin assertion. Has not the Republican base continue label mr Clinton as a Lady's man?, in order to continue to resurrect his infeldelity. You hipocrites.You Vipers.

    October 24, 2007 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  6. deror w. palm FL

    we know some things:

    john mccain lives off cindy's money.
    michelle dominates barack.
    fred thompson is hanging out with elvis' daughter.
    elizabeth rules over johnny boy.
    hillary rodham is tripped over will.

    guiliani's third wife didn't tell mr. security that she had a second hisband. he didn't know?. well then he's incomptent.

    enoughh for tonight.

    October 24, 2007 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  7. JGM

    Oh come on 'deror of w. palm FL', nothing on Ann Romney?
    It would be sooo much fun to talk about the inept and inappropriate Mormons.
    Remember, her son's are self-serving their country!
    I think John McCain does just fine without his wife's money. Not only is he self possessed, he's definitely not stuffing cash in the freezer!
    It would have been news worthy to add Bill to the mix, maybe he could share a recipe or tips on raising children.

    October 24, 2007 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  8. Karen,nj

    Who cares about their wives. Is this a joke. No wonder this country is all messed up. This whole election thing has turned into a side show. Everyone is sick and tired of this whole thing. We are all mad at the leaders of this county, especially Bush. Futhermore all those old silly congressmen and senators in office should retire and younger ones should replace them. They have been there too long and are cleaning out the pockets of the American people with there nonsense.

    October 24, 2007 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  9. freetobeme, Rochester, PA

    Since these women are not up for elected office, why should I care?

    October 24, 2007 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  10. Chris, Middletown, CT

    I wonder if they know that if they are first lady – it will automatically qualify them to be a Senator, quickly followed by a presidential run?? (someone should tell them the perks...just don't tell a surgeons wife the same thing)

    October 24, 2007 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  11. Ryan Indianapolis

    Where is Bill, I figured he would have loved to hang out with 6 woman.

    October 24, 2007 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  12. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Why in the world would Formal president bill clinton be suggestivly shun for not attending this forum. Why not mention Laura Bush and Junior. The enduendo is there on the spin assertion. Has not the Republican base continue label mr Clinton as a Lady's man?, in order to continue to resurrect his infeldelity. You hipocrites.You Vipers.

    Posted By david houston texas : October 24, 2007 12:47 am

    This is tough "david" as I speak English quite well, but I have NO clue in what you are writing here or trying to say.

    Laura Bush was not there as her husband is not a candidate in 2008 (thank god) as that was what this forum was all about.

    I guess we are all vipers for not being able to understand your lunatic ranting.

    Please enlighten us, so we can stop being hypocrites when it comes to speaking the truth about your beloved "formal president mr clinton".

    October 24, 2007 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  13. spinstopper

    Where's Bill??
    Wonder what these women think of him...

    October 24, 2007 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  14. Pixie, Murfreesboro, TN

    Oh fer gawd's sake people –

    Bill wasn't invited to the WOMEN'S CONVENTION. Rudolph Guiliani's spouse wasn't there either. Listen to NPR and you'll know this stuff.

    October 24, 2007 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  15. Right Said Fred

    Fred Thompson has a one year old? That is the grossest thing I've ever heard! Isn't he in his 70's? The old man looks like a cadaver for crying out loud!

    October 24, 2007 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. Myra Lawson, Asheville, NC

    it IS important to get to know the spouses- who you choose as a life partner is a direct reflection on your character. cattily remarking about obama's dress is certainly irrelevant and juvenile- and commenting that some of these women "rule" their husbands is just plain misogynistic.

    October 24, 2007 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. The Wood Wizard L V, NV

    Maybe they all will just erode away liken to Madagascar. By the way; where is Bill Hillary?

    October 24, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  18. Joe, NY

    So why did Juith Giuliani decline? Does she not think her husband would be a good president?

    (P.S. – it says at the bottom of the article why Bill wasn't there)

    October 24, 2007 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. Bea, Hoboken, NJ

    The one absence that I find interesting is Judith Giuliani. Why wasn't she there? Was it perhaps to avoid being questioned about her previous condition as Giuliani's lover while he was mayor and still married to Donna Hannover? Maybe she didn't want to be asked about her 3 husbands (one of which not even Rudy knew about)? Oh well, I guess we'll never know.....

    October 24, 2007 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  20. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    How Catty.....Furballs and Claws.....

    Hope they all get a stint on The View,
    so Whoppi can tell them how she'd like to do their man !!!!!

    Second thought I think they're all more like Petticoat Junction Material.

    Now how about some real news!

    October 24, 2007 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  21. SB

    Michelle Obama for First Lady 2008 !!!

    October 24, 2007 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  22. Ravikumar

    Holy Obama post! Clinton is also on the Democratic side, which slhoud give any thinking Democrat or non-Republican pause. Republican strategists have no idea how to run against Obama.

    February 16, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. Yayoi

    David McElroySeptember 17, 2011 @ 10:42 pmThanks for reproting that answer. If we have to go back to the late 19th century to find an example of it, I'd say it's pretty safe to say we have a strong precedent for it not to happen these days.

    February 19, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |