BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Come on guys. Really?
It’s one thing when the candidate, be it Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Todd Akin or Donald Duck, makes a genuine gaffe.
Jump all over it if you like — it’s fun, and often instructive. Elucidating Akin’s rather bizarre views on women’s reproductive systems, plumbing the depths of Romney’s apparent elitism or questioning whether the president really wants a Che Guevara-style redistribution of wealth might actually be productive for the wonks who follow this kind of thing.
But when a candidate’s wife says she worries about the mental and emotional strain on her husband should he become president, it is a bit of a stretch to spin that into a scandal.
The origin of all this kerfuffle was a bland but perhaps unfortunately worded interview that Ann Romney gave to a local television station in Nevada last week. Asked what her biggest worry would be if Mitt is elected, she responded: “I think my biggest concern, obviously, would be for his mental well-being,” she said.
This has become a major story, in which the candidate’s wife “reveals” that she is worried about her husband’s mental health.
This was followed by headlines such as "Mental well-being Mitt’s biggest challenge”; and “Ann Romney’s mental health concerns.”
Even the more neutral treatments of the story made rather a lot about something that perhaps did not deserve such a fuss.
In a Sunday interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan made no bones about the fact that he felt the media was “carrying water” for Barack Obama.
“I think it kind of goes without saying that there's definitely a media bias,” Ryan told Wallace. “I think most people in the mainstream media are left of center and, therefore, they want a very left-of-center president versus a conservative president like Mitt Romney."
Ryan was dinged by the mainstream media for “whining” and for making excuses for the main candidate.
It's no surprise Ryan's remarks riled up journalists. It certainly is not the media’s fault when a candidate seems intent on self-destructing right in the public eye.
But this is not one of those times. Ann Romney is not a professional politician — she seems a loving wife who has probably looked at the before and after photos of recent presidents. Barack Obama is nearly 15-years younger than Romney, and the past four years have certainly taken their toll. He is grayer and more lined than he was when he was exuberantly promising Hope and Change in 2008.
Ann Romney is right to worry about the strain the White House takes on its incumbent. The media is not right in picking on her for it.