Leave the Conways alone
"Does your husband know you're here, madam?" This is not quite a direct quote from Wolf Blitzer's recent interview with Kellyanne Conway on CNN, but it is pretty close to the spirit, if not the letter. What Blitzer wanted to know, basically, was why the senior counselor to President Trump has spent the last few years disagreeing with her husband, George, an attorney who dislikes his wife's boss and has sometimes expressed these views on television and social media. Is this bad for their marriage? "I know that there are issues there," Blitzer said.
Conway's response has been roundly criticized and hyped as emotive, unhinged, hysterical, in the way that women's responses to most things tend to be when they are not entitled to the protection of the liberal media establishment. (The reliably feminist bitcoining platform Salon led the way with "Kellyanne Conway erupts," as if a woman daring to contradict Blitzer was some kind of dangerous gas-driven weather event rather than a normal response to a question from a journalist.) I could not disagree more. In my opinion Conway was admirably restrained. If she'd had a glass of wine handy, there would have been a well-earned spot for it just above Blitzer's signature white beard.
If you are like most Americans who participate in the exhausting multi-media roleplaying game we call "the news cycle," you have probably found yourself asking questions about the Conways. What do they talk about at the breakfast table? Is Thanksgiving a nightmare? Does Kellyanne have to turn the blower on in the bathroom in case George overhears an administration talking point that he can pass on to the jackals at MSNBC?
Who knows. And who really cares? It is none of our business. There are millions of things that could and should command the attention of the American people. As Kellyanne put it on Thursday: "Now the news is what somebody's husband says?"
Even if we are going to abandon all rules of good taste and do this thing, I do not understand why it is Kellyane who should be expected to answer for her actions as opposed to her husband. Why, oh why, journalists ask themselves, would a powerful veteran of multiple political campaigns, a woman who has managed to combine her career as a feared spin doctor and all-round right-wing knife fighter with motherhood, serve in the administration of the president she helped to elect? Surely it is her duty to resign so that her husband can be one of roughly 50,000 interchangable critics of Trump on television without creating any hiccups. (All of this assumes that anyone would give a toss what he has to say about anything in the first place if he were not married to Kellyanne, which seems to me debatable.)
Imagine if the situation had been reversed, and a high-ranking woman in the Obama administration had been married to a schlubby Tea Party type who routinely went on Fox News and called the president a traitor with the blood of our boys in Benghazi on his hands. I cannot imagine anyone expecting her to explain herself. Instead her husband would be dismissed as an attention-seeking boor, someone who was not only very publicly undermining his spouse but attempting to profit from doing so.
This is why I for one cheered last month when Kellyanne let it rip on a female reporter from the Washington Examiner. "Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman. Don't pull the crap where you're trying to undercut another woman based on who she's married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven't noticed. Not the other way around."
I am not suggesting that it is anyone's duty to tell George Conway kindly to buzz off, even if it is true that his not exactly unique perspective adds nothing of value to our national conversation about the all-consuming badness of Drumpf the Orange Goblin—and a lot of unnecessary hassle to his wife's already difficult work life. But I do think it would be a good thing if we could allow both him and Kellyanne to say their pieces without making rude inquiries about things that do not concern any of us.
Family life is a welcome reprieve from the endless noise of our political culture. It should be that way for the Conways too, even when both of them are on television.