In the new issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, the two women who would be the next first lady offer very different views on whether the presidential campaign is changing racial views, their biggest fears and hopes if their husbands become president, and the most important campaign issues for them.
Michelle Obama, in her interview, also bats away the criticism of her must-dissected remark that Barack Obama's electoral success was making her proud of her country for the first time. “It’s a mischaracterization that has nothing to do with the intended statement," she said. "I am proud of my country -- I’ve always been. Nowhere but here could my story be possible.”
Cindy McCain, meanwhile, chafes at characterizations of her as a "Stepford wife." "That couldn’t be further from the truth," she said. " I think my husband would say that too. I have very distinct opinions. Just because I choose to be a little less overt out on the campaign doesn’t mean I’m anything less than very opinionated and very intelligent.”
The magazine's editor-in-chief, Rosemary Ellis, interviewed Obama and McCain separately for the November issue, which becomes available Oct. 14. Here are some excerpts released this afternoon.
On the campaign changing perceptions of race:
Obama: “I think absolutely it has. We are talking about issues that we have never talked about before out in the open. The good and the bad. I think that at least for the kids I know – not just African-American kids – seeing different images of what is possible means something. So many kids – because of their race, their economic background, or where they live – don’t see themselves [reflected in this world]. And when kids don’t see themselves, they don’t see their possibilities. As young people have watched Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama being treated as serious, viable candidates – people who could be President of the United States – it changes everything."
McCain: "I think it’s a phenomenal age of politics because there are many firsts in this race. But I don’t think it has changed – nor should it change – the way people look at race. I think Americans are good-hearted, open-minded people and race doesn’t enter into this – at all.”
Biggest hope for their husband's presidency:
McCain: “My biggest hope is that he can achieve the things that he truly wants to do. He really, truly wants to clean up government and keep our country safe. I know he can do that. People feeling secure in their own homes, that encompasses many things. It’s not just the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan: this is local issues, too.”
Obama: "My hope is that we can get the country on track domestically. Reinvest in education here in the United States so that we lay the groundwork to ensure that every child has access to a world-class education from preschool to beyond college. Making sure that folks have health care. I hope that our image as a nation, in the world, is improved.”
Biggest fear if their husband becomes president:
McCain: "My biggest fears would be, perhaps, he couldn’t get the work done that he wants to do. That politics as usual would stay in place. That he would attempt to work across the aisle and they would refuse. He’s a tough one to turn down, though.”
Obama: "Fear may be too strong of a word, but what I’ve just outlined (her hopes) – those are big agendas, and they take years to unravel. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to require a lot of hard work, not just from the next President of the United States, but all of us. And I hope that we’re ready as a nation to make [the needed] sacrifices and compromises – no matter who’s the next President.”
Important campaign issues:
McCain: "Certainly the war. My own sons have been and are active military, and many, many thousands of other young men and women around the world are involved in it. And the economy…the economy-slash-education. I put them together. People are losing their homes. And with that comes the opportunity for education. John and I had a wonderful opportunity to be able to send our children to the schools of our choice. Not everybody has that. We want everybody to have that. I think it’s a right that every American parent should have – choice and competition in education, and choice in schools are most important to me.”
Obama: "Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around the country working on issues that face working mothers. I want to be a voice for figuring out, How do we provide more support? So that families aren’t just surviving but they’re thriving. Within the last year, I’ve even honed that focus a bit more to military families.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.