May 23rd, 2008
01:17 PM ET

Should a presidential candidate praise a spouse's looks or brains?

Roland S. Martin
CNN Political Analyst

Politics doesn't have to be all serious and stern, so let's have a little fun.

While on the set covering primary night on Tuesday, Clinton supporter Hillary Rosen and I had a fun debate about a comment made by Sen. Barack Obama prior to his speech in Iowa.

Obama, watching his wife, Michelle, and two daughters walk offstage, told the audience that he's got a good looking wife and kids.

Paul Begala, Jamal Simmons and I laughed.

Rosen, the new political director for The Huffington Post, frowned.

She said that women prefer to be called smart or great rather than good looking.

My reply? BS!

I said a married man will always elicit a smile out of his wife when he says that's she's a good looking woman. And even men like it when our spouses say we're hot.

My wife is a college dean and ordained minister, and is working on two Ph.Ds. But she sure likes it when I say that at 43, she's one fine woman! And I don't need to fantasize about another woman when I've got her.

Hillary said she would take a poll and ask her friends about this. So, I'm asking you, too. Who is right: Hillary or Roland? Would you prefer your spouse or significant other say you're great looking or smart?

Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Roland S. Martin
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    You know compliments and humour go a long way with everybody.
    At various points in time, I have said
    My wife is the most beautiful woman in the world, and everybody she still is at 59 years old.
    She is intelligent, smart, bright, capable of smacking me down when I say something stupid, and loves the nick names I use at times like
    Sweetie, Duck??, and she sure appreciates affection terms of endearment of any kind at any time. If I had said to the reporter :Wait a moment Duck!!?? I can imagine the furore that would have created for nothing that I intended. But oops we have to apologise to satisfy the media.
    Presidents are and will be human beings so why should they not be allowed to say things that most of us do most of the time. and not have to apologise for being misunderstood in intent.

    May 26, 2008 at 2:35 am |
  2. Angela

    A husband shouls praise his wifes looks and his children. The real issue still at hand is Hillary's and others that deem it appropriate to speak of assasinations at election time. That coming from those who are note in the race for the qhite house is seedy enough, coming from a competitor in the election is more than suspect. I am even more insulted at the spin she and others are giving the remark. If Hillary and her supporters believe that this dark side of Hillary willbe given a pass, they are seriously mistaken. I am more than annoyed. I will not give a vote to Hillary on anyones ticket!

    May 25, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  3. lea

    I am completelty sick of Obama and the overly obvious media favoritism towards him. Just wanted to say I agree wholeheartedly that he is an arrogant sexist. I think its funny too that the media always talks about him as getting the higher educated vote and the "college" vote. Yet Hillary gets the poor rural and uneducated voters , oh and the womens vote too. Are they saying that the women are poor and uneducated? Becuase thats what it sounds like to me!! Also who wants abunch of college aged voters making the countries decisions for those of us who have been voting for 20 years plus. Its as if we're not important anymore. The media is always saying "we don't want to disenfranchise the young voters or the first time voters that Obama has brought out of the woodwork. Excuse me!! Oh so the rest of us don't count. I'm thinking that the Democratic elitist male dominant DNC doesn't need to represent women voters anymore. Maybe we should choose to become independents and say the democrate party is not for us. Look at the way they've treated the first hope for a genuinely qualified woman candidate.

    May 25, 2008 at 7:54 am |
  4. Rosa Smith

    Ronald I agree with you, women as well as men like to feel like their attractive. Intellect of course is important too and in the case of Michele Obama she has both the intellect and the looks!

    May 24, 2008 at 11:56 pm |
  5. Apple in Tampa

    Well I don't claim to know why Sen Obama decided to made the statement publicly but clearly he is very proud of his family. That is fine with me I find it to be a honorable trait. I'm also sure he has the same feeling for his country. Another thought I had was maybe he was thanking his wife & family publicly for all of the sacrifice they make for the presidential race.

    I also will take this opportunity to say I agree with Sen Obama he has a wonderful looking family. Hats off to them.!

    May 24, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  6. Mike from Calgary, Canada

    There's always a critic, a naysayer with a chip on their shoulder. Rosen sounds lie a PAIN .... LOOKING FOR AN ASS.
    Get a life Rosen!

    May 24, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  7. Phin

    Roland.....Why is Mrs Obama's, papers from Princeton being held until the day after the elections?? Is it true?

    May 24, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  8. Jenny

    Please no more CLINTON in the white house,

    May 24, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Obama does have a "good looking wife and kids" and so do I. John McCain has traded in wife and kids so many times until he got one young enough to be his daughter. Obama has family values.

    May 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm |
  10. Jan Gray

    I think Rosen from the Huffington Post is asbolutly right.

    Cindy McCain is not only beautiful, classy and smart.

    Bill Clinton is georgeous, smart, witty and funny

    Michelle Obama may be smart, but certainly not good looking and his
    kids are cute like any other child, but not exceptional

    May 24, 2008 at 12:05 pm |
  11. fran from canada

    Jazzy I totally agree with you about Kathie from Canada she sounds very bitter I am also canadian but I think most spouses like a compliment and I think just because your married don't take everything for granted. Canadian but not bitter.

    May 24, 2008 at 11:38 am |
  12. Steve

    Nothing wrong with a dad being proud of his family. Good for Barack Obama. He's a regular guy.

    May 24, 2008 at 11:33 am |
  13. fran from canada

    Ryan I think most women like to be told once in a while they look good. Just because a person is married or in a relationship you should never take it all for granted you might find yourself alone on day. Everything in life is worth working at.

    May 24, 2008 at 11:30 am |
  14. Sharon

    My name is Sharon too and I don't want anyone to get us confused. I think what he said about his family was sweet and shows how proud he is of them. All the other crap being said about him is just exactly that. He is the best candidate we have and the only one that had the common sense and decency to know that invading Iraq was wrong . The people in this administration should have never been trusted and he has the judgement to realize that. For that alone he is the only one who deserves to be elected. Don't write back debating this either because that only means you have never done the research that would tell you that the decision to invade Iraq was made by this administration years before they came into power. I would prefer by the way that Mr. Obama picks someone like Dick Durbin, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden or Mario Cuomo as Vice president rather than Hillary Clinton . I will vote for her though if she is Democratic nominee.
    On the lighter side or maybe not I prefer that my husband call me his best friend and really mean it , or that just looking at me fills him with desire not just because of my looks but because of the closeness and memories that we have shared. That would have probably been inappropriate though so I think what he said about his family was just very nice.

    May 24, 2008 at 10:31 am |
  15. Margaret Biolchini

    Both. However, in this case it may just have been salemanship. Barach trying to sell his wife to the public. He says she is smart, so we are to forget her "foot- in- mouth" disease?? And while I firmly believe that everyone is beautiful, Halle Berry she is not.

    May 24, 2008 at 10:13 am |
  16. Rosemarie

    All you Obama haters, please get a life!!!! The man loves his family and has acknowleged his wife smarts many times. I agree with Roland, one of the best if not THE BEST on reporting the issue like it really is and not taking sides. Most normal women like to hear their spouse find them good looking. Roland I love YOU! 🙂

    May 24, 2008 at 10:13 am |
  17. Valerie

    What's wrong with letting people know how much you love your wife and how smart she is? Would you prefer that he tell another woman in the crowd so you all can make a big deal of it. Oh, your making a big deal of it now.

    I don't care where, when or how or what my husband is doing. It is always nice to know that I am on his mind.

    I'm sure that most people understands that just because you're running for President, doesn't mean that you excuse your wife and children. All women love to hear and will take any compliment from their husbands.

    For those who think Sen. Obama will say and do anything. I don't think so. I think he truly loves his wife and children and it truly shows. Sen. Obama continue to LET YOUR WIFE KNOW THAT SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND SMART. Mine do.

    I'm sorry, don't you talk about Cindy McCain' beauty all the time?

    May 24, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  18. Michael

    "JC- Los Angeles" shame on you! you can not have a decent discussion without scoring a political point, it is so cheap! God help people like you!

    May 24, 2008 at 9:26 am |
  19. EB

    What is wrong with a man complimenting his wife about the way she looks? Some of you need to chill out......There is nothing wrong with what Barack said about his wife and kids. Being complimented on one's appearance,in public, in front of other people, by your significant other is not a sign of being fake (unless of course your partner is fake)....Other wise, what is the point of taking the time to make sure we all look nice when we walk out the door everyday!

    May 24, 2008 at 6:08 am |
  20. Kay Dennis


    May 24, 2008 at 5:59 am |
  21. Linda

    Why would Hillary weigh in on a comment Obama made about his wife?

    This election process is confusing me?

    May 24, 2008 at 5:15 am |
  22. Fred Chicago


    You can't have a light blog, with the venom of the HRC supporters. Check out Shirley's response. Hillary has made a mockery of this process. To answer your question, the answer is definitely both. Unfortunately nowadays, if you're a guy nothing you say is going to be right anyway. If you say they are smart, they are mad that you didn't say good looking. If you say good looking, you are objectifying them and them they want to be told they are intelligent. You just can't win.

    HRC supporters, this is an election, not the pinnacle of the Women's Feminist movement. You are so concerned about the glass ceiling you have blinded yourselves to all the manipulations and deceptions that Hillary continues to display to get what she wants. No matter what she does, you all give her a pass and then want to overscrutinze every little gesture Obama makes. You made up your mind before this campaign even started and like Hillary thought she was simply going to be coronated. If she could not even run her campaign, what makes you think she can run a country. All of your venom about Obama is emotional and not based on any real proof or evidence of any wrong doing. This election is for the whole country not simply women although most of you probably wish it were.

    May 24, 2008 at 5:02 am |
  23. demos

    I agree with you. BS.
    The guy is cool and love his wife. Why not praise her beauty. Does that mean that her smartness is in anyway diminished? of course not.
    That woman needs to stop being defensive.Obama is inclusive and doesn't mind being who he is in front of people. He is not a comedian, he is the real guy.

    May 24, 2008 at 2:15 am |
  24. Kent Flagg

    I would have to say that most wives would like more to be called both good looking and smart. However, telling your wife she is good looking is always a good way to bring a smile on any wife's face.

    May 24, 2008 at 1:52 am |
  25. Tone in SF

    Are you serious? A man cant say that he has a "good looking family" without you all having to analyze it? This is ridiculous! I have a family. A good looking family. Its not just genetics that made them look good. They look clean. They look fed, confident. Well dressed. "GOOD". You people that find this to be a problem are sick, and have no life. Does he have to say smart everytime he mentions how good she looks?

    Please people!

    May 23, 2008 at 11:38 pm |
  26. Charlee Dawkins

    Frankly I just was so grateful that my husband had respect for me. Sen. Hillary has got so many issues relative to her spouse she needs
    to be a "Looking Glass Self". She may need to spend some time
    working on how she can get Bill to stay out of the Oval Office. I am
    just sick of all of the crap. This country is on the brink of despair and
    I was impressed with Sen Obama's message of change. And perhaps his remarks about his wife are a hint to us that one change will be "Tell Your Spouse How Much You Think Of Her" Wouldn't that help Women's Rights"? I agree with Annie from Birmingham.

    May 23, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  27. Jay

    LOL!!! why do you think women spend so much money of cloths and make up. We care about our looks. I would not want my husband to alway tell me a smart and great, when I take hours looking good when we go out.

    May 23, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  28. Mel

    I don't think it was appropriate for Obama to say anything at all. It sounded patronizing, low class, irrelevant and insulted the intelligence of his audience. If we care to observe whether or not his family is good-looking or intelligent, we'll form our own opinion. I felt that if he had to tell us that, then that's because he's not certain that anyone/everyone else would form that opinion.
    I also thought that it was a very transparent, deliberate manipulation to make sure people would notice that his daughters were there, so that his subsequent back-handed complement to Clinton would resonate more. (Statement = "Clinton's value is that she'll inspire girls, like my daughters, to aspire to run". Implied statement = 'Now Clinton can bow out; she's fulfilled her function which was to inspire, not win'.)

    May 23, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  29. Roland S. Martin

    Mary Simmons and Sharon from Indy: Can both of you CHILL.

    I said at the outset, "Let's have a little fun with this."

    Blogs don't have to be serious all the time. And Ms. Rosen wasn't angry about it. We were just having some fun with the topic.

    Man, I think some of you guys need a really LONG vacation. You're wound way too tight!

    This is just a light blog!

    May 23, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  30. Christina

    Roland, as usual!

    May 23, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  31. Jazzy

    To Kathie from Ontario: Too bad we can't see you. Stop being so spiteful. This is an election, not a roast. Your comment was very spiteful and uncalled for.

    It was fine for Senator Obama to say this about his wife. Culture differences may cause a preference in the terms used, but women like to be told by their spouse how great they look. Find some other topic worth talking about before flying off at insignificant chatter. This comment was made out of love for his family. I watched the report. Why is every word being scrutinized.

    May 23, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  32. Sara.RO

    JC- Los Angeles,
    interesting poin of view. Are you a man or a woman?

    I supose, Mr Roland should make a research for good statistic and perfect answers in some plastic surgery clinics 🙂

    though , as some sacred old texts mention and some scientists proved that in a family , the kids assimilate the brightness specially from mother's DNA...

    May 23, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  33. tish

    Do you guys have to take everything that is said out of context. I beg to differ. I think Barack doesn't need to say his wife is intelligent. Barack knew this when he married her and I believe that her intelligence aside from her beauty was one of the many qualities that attracted him to her. I don't think he needs to validate her intelligence and I don't think that she has a question about her accomplishments or her intelligence, because a strong woman is quite assured of herself. Yes, once and awhile it is nice to hear your spouse praise your beauty and accomplishments, but if women sit around and wait for the validation of their husbands, then I think they need to do some soul searching. The moral of the story is: be confident and assured within yourselves first and foremost. By doing so, you don't have to rely on the praises of anyone because you will feel confident within yourself and there won't be the dependency on the need for validation from an outside source.

    May 23, 2008 at 9:11 pm |
  34. Annie Kate


    What a choice!! I'd rather be called both and often. We all want to be considered irresistible to our spouses but at the end of the day its nice to know they don't think we are as dumb as a rock too!!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 23, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
1 2