AS the election of 2008 approaches with its cast of contenders who bring unprecedented diversity to the quest for the White House, the voting public has been called on to ponder several questions: Is America ready for a woman to be president? What about a black man? A Mormon?
Now, with the possible candidacy of Fred D. Thompson, the grandfatherly actor and former Republican senator from Tennessee, whose second wife is almost a quarter-century his junior, comes a less palatable inquiry that is spurring debate in Internet chat rooms, on cable television and on talk radio: Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?
The question may seem sexist, even crass, but serious people -- as well as Mr. Thompson's supporters -- have been wrestling with the public reaction to Jeri Kehn Thompson, whose youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair present a contrast to the 64-year-old man who hopes to win the hearts of the conservative core of the Republican party. Will the so-called values voters accept this union?
Way back in the fifties, there was what was called the "good, Republican cloth coat." Back then, the candidates' wives were supposed to reflect middle-American values and not be ostentatious or try too hard to draw attention to themselves. Jeri flies in the face of all this and, if Thompson ever decides to become a candidate instead of playing hide-and-seek, we'll see how this plays out.
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