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Mama T on Moms

Teresa Heinz Kerry pulls off the rare and amusing triple gaffe.

12:00 AM, Oct 21, 2004 • By HUGH HEWITT
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I UNDERSTAND moms don't read websites. Moms don't blog either (except for, say, MommyPundit or 200 other momblogs) or read newspapers or magazines. They probably don't even vote.

At least Teresa Heinz Kerry should hope they don't.

When the would-be first lady decided to take a shot at Laura Bush in yesterday's USA Today by stating that Mrs. Bush had never held a "real job," she committed the rarest of things--a triple gaffe. Like triple plays in baseball, these are rarely seen in these days of well-coached candidates and spouses. But Tuesday's was one for the ages.

First, it is bad form--very bad form--to speak in anything other than the most complimentary terms of your opponent's spouse. It's just tacky. But after the assault on Mary Cheney's privacy by John Kerry, Mary Beth Cahill, and Elizabeth Edwards, I guess more appearances of the merely tacky should not surprise.

Blunder two was to denigrate, by omission, the professions of teacher and librarian. Ms. H-K quickly figured out these were interest groups in good standing in the Democratic party and rushed out an apology: She had "forgotten" Laura's service as both. Not believable, of course, but acceptable damage control.

The worst part of the Ms. H-K triple feature was failing to mention Laura Bush's "real job" as a mom. The apology crafters were no doubt in a bind when it came time to deal with that oversight. It would be hard to claim that Ms. H-K had "forgotten" the twins, but she couldn't exactly double-down on the status of mom not being that of a real job. So they said nothing. Mistake again. She ought to have begged the forgiveness of the tens of millions of American moms wondering: "What am I, a potted plant?"

A century ago--in a different era, certainly, but with still applicable wisdom--Teddy Roosevelt wrote about the "real job" of mothering:

"No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night. She may have to get up night after night to take care of a sick child, and yet must by day continue to do all her household duties as well; and if the family means are scant she must usually enjoy even her rare holidays taking her whole brood of children with her. The birth pangs make all men the debtors of all women. Above all our sympathy and regard are due to the struggling wives among those whom Abraham Lincoln called the plain people, and whom he so loved and trusted; for the lives of these women are often led on the lonely heights of quiet, self-sacrificing heroism."

Teddy was himself a tremendous politician because he was full of good spirit and an appreciation for what Americans appreciated--especially their moms. Of the Kerrys perhaps the best thing that can be offered is the explanation that the super rich aren't like you or me, and cannot be expected to understand that most moms have very real, very difficult jobs. Is this the defining gaffe of the new millennium? For the time being, at least. But don't rule out the possibility of even more eyebrow-raisers as there are 12 days left. Would somebody please ask either or both of them what they think of apple pie?

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends Upon It. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.