October 21, 1960
“NEW YORK—As we watch the Presidential campaign unroll, I wonder how many have noticed one rather interesting change in the modern type of campaign. This was brought to my attention the other day when a young newspaper reporter said to me: “Do you really think that the decision as to a man’s fitness for the office of President should depend, in part at least, on what kind of a President’s wife his wife will be?”
I looked at her in surprise for a moment, because it had not dawned on me what changes had come about since Mr. Eisenhower’s first campaign.
Apparently we have started on a new trend. I can’t remember in my husband’s campaign, nor in Mr. Truman’s, that such a question could be asked. Some of the children or I would accompany my husband on the various campaign trips, and if we were around at railroad stops he would introduce us to the crowd in a rather casual manner. He often said, “My little boy, Jimmy,” when Jimmy was as tall as he was!
My husband insisted always that a man stood on his own record. He did not bring his family in to be responsible in getting him votes or in taking the blame for his decisions. I think he sometimes found it amusing to let me do things just so as to find out what the reaction of the public would be. But nothing we did was ever calculated and thought out as part of the campaign in the way we feel that Mr. Nixon plans every appearance with his wife.
There must be times when the whole situation becomes practically unbearable, I would think, for the woman of the family. And I hope that we will return to the old and rather pleasanter way of looking upon White House families as people who have a right to their own lives.
The wives, of course, have certain official obligations, but they are certainly not responsible for their husband’s policies. And they do not have to feel that sense of obligation at every point to uphold the ideas of the man of the family.
With so many people around a President who say “yes” to everything he says, it is fun sometimes for the family around him to say “no” just for the sake of devilment—but that should be a private family relaxation.”