By Susan Saulny
AS the election of 2008 approaches with its cast of contenders who bring unprecedented diversity to the quest for the White House, the voting public has been called on to ponder several questions: Is America ready for a woman to be president? What about a black man? A Mormon?
Now, with the possible candidacy of Fred D. Thompson, the grandfatherly actor and former Republican senator from Tennessee, whose second wife is almost a quarter-century his junior, comes a less palatable inquiry that is spurring debate in Internet chat rooms, on cable television and on talk radio: Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?
The question may seem sexist, even crass, but serious people — as well as Mr. Thompson’s supporters — have been wrestling with the public reaction to Jeri Kehn Thompson, whose youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair present a contrast to the 64-year-old man who hopes to win the hearts of the conservative core of the Republican party. Will the so-called values voters accept this union?
Mr. Thompson, who needs the support of early primary voters, is expected to formally announce his candidacy any day now. Meanwhile, much of the brouhaha around Mrs. Thompson, 40, is being stirred by photos of her in form-fitting gowns circulating on the Internet.
One thing that the Thompsons can be sure of is that it’s a good thing that he’s not a quarter century her junior. The press would have a field day, ‘Hey Fred, did your mom say that it was OK for you to run? Oh, that’s your wife not your mom, my bad.’ It’s amazing that pollsters and spinsters claim that only 1 out of 100 voters make their decision based on the candidates spouse. Tell that to the Clintons. Furthermore, could you imagine if a female candidate was judged by her husband’s appearance? You never hear the media referring to Hilary Clinton and her gigolo husband, Billy or to Elizabeth Dole and her beefcake spouse, Bob. OK, those were bad examples, but you can see what we’re getting at.