It’s hard to pinpoint when this trend erupted, although looking at the widely admired Michelle Obama might be a worthwhile starting point. In 2007, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about wincing “when Michelle Obama chides her husband as a mere mortal.” In Michelle’s words, “‘For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his 5-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.’” Oh, and Barack didn’t put his dirty socks in the laundry.
Now, I shared Michelle’s distaste for the messianic tone some of her husband’s supporters used when discussing him. I still don’t know that I would have said the above about him. But we were all able to evaluate Barack Obama on his own. We knew both halves of the couple (from a distance), and the American people had an independent relationship with each spouse.
That can’t be said about most other men in America. Most husbands are not public figures, nor are their wives. When one half of a couple takes to print and chides the other for personal failings, it’s like being asked to play back-up in a stranger’s marital squabble. One or both parties may be justified in their dissatisfaction with the status quo, but the public can’t judge fairly, because we typically hear only one side.