Lary Swoboda And The ‘2-For-1-Deal’
I had to smile at the newspapers today that reported how Hillary Clinton was touting the idea of a ‘2-for-1 presidency’. She campaigned this week on the idea that if she were elected Bill Clinton would work at revitalizing the economy. There was no other way for me to respond upon reading this news given that I had heard that same ‘2-for-1’rhetoric from the longest serving Democrat (elected for over 20 years) from Wisconsin’s First Assembly District.
Everyone knew that when one saw State Representative Lary Swoboda either in a parade back in the district or at work in the statehouse it was more than likely his wife, Jan, would be very close by. The idea that when a voter cast a ballot for Lary they got more than their money’s worth as a wife came along with the deal might have had some appeal to older folks or rural ones who also might have lived a very close-knit relationship with their spouse.
But in politics there can be negative issues with a 2-for-1 deal.
Jan drove Lary almost everywhere, made sure he was on time for events, straightened his tie before a hearing, and made sure the per deim slips were filled out each month. No one could fault her for caring or being a supportive wife.
But with the 2-for-1 deal came issues that made for many uncomfortable moments. Since she was always around it was not uncommon for her to walk around Lary and pick at lint on his suit jacket or ear wax during a meeting. Former DNR Secretary Buzz Besandy, one of the top ten most wonderful individuals I was to know while working in government, caught my eye during such a moment in our office. The power of the Almighty stopped me from breaking into a howl while Buzz’s eyes twinkled.
There were also the many times the spouse constantly being around the legislator disallowed the personal relationships with colleagues that are often the glue and binder that helps when votes are needed in committee or when support is required for a passage of a bill. Over the decades Lary had many who knew him but the close bonding that takes place over a beer after hours or a meal always included the other one who was not really elected but still chose to help serve.
It was a real issue that at times others would try to point out, but in the end nothing ever changed.
Both Clintons have tremendous experience and a wide array of skills and intellect. There is no way to equate the personal recollections I have with a former legislator and how a White House marriage might work if both are involved with policy. But there are some rules of the road that we might want to consider with a 2-for-1.
Spouses can forget who the elected one is, not be able to take direction from staff who are working for the best interests of the one selected by the voters, and at times expect to be treated in ways that they are not entitled to.
Voters may think there is a deal to be had with getting two for the price of one. That deal paid off when Pat Nixon worked at typing letters in Congressman Nixon’s office in the last 1940’s. But it is my experience that some distance from a spouse in the workplace is best for a legislator.
Time will tell how it will work out in the White House with Hillary and Bill.