Donald Regan

Political Attacks On First Ladies: Nothing New!

The new book that claims that First Lady Michelle Obama has had problems with White House staff, that she interferes with their agenda in defense of her husband, has led to denials by her, and bitter attacks by conservative media.

Is criticism of the First Lady, whoever she is, anything new? History tells us otherwise.

First Lady Dolly Madison was always more outspoken in all ways than her taciturn husband, James Madison. She was known as the “party giver”, but that included her willingness to speak her mind!

First Lady Mary Lincoln was controversial over her expenditures, her clothes, and her mouth, and came under a lot of political attacks during the Civil War, including the fact that her brothers were part of the enemy, fighting for the Confederacy against the American government led by Abraham Lincoln.

Lucy Hayes came to be known as “Lemonade Lucy”, due to the fact that she prevented the serving of liquor at White House gatherings, and believed in women’s rights, including the right to vote, and spoke her mind regularly, causing problems therefore for her husband, Rutherford Hayes.

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second Mrs. Wilson, led cabinet meetings after Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, and often was considered the “first woman President” during his last 18 months in office.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the most controversial First Lady, speaking up regularly on all kinds of issues and topics, and labeled by her critics as a Communist and a Socialist. After her husband died, she remained part of the political controversies in the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War, always speaking her mind and being a political activist.

Betty Ford became a lightning rod under President Gerald Ford, speaking out as a feminist for the Equal Rights Amendment, and endorsing abortion rights, and speaking about her alcohol and breast cancer problems openly.

Rosalyn Carter attended cabinet meeting of her husband, Jimmy Carter, and also spoke out for feminist causes openly.

Nancy Reagan was criticized for her spending on White House China, and defended her husband, Ronald Reagan, against his own White House Chief of Staff, Donald Regan, who she was able to arrange to fire. She had no problem stating that she was there to help and defend her husband.

Hillary Clinton was the most involved and outspoken First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, and became a lightning rod particularly when she promoted a failed health care plan in the first term of Bill Clinton.

And now, Michelle Obama is making clear that she is there as an advocate of her husband, while claiming no problem in getting along with the White House staff.

So this is all nothing new!