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Despite Teresa Kerry's Comments, Mothering a 'Real Job,' Say Family Advocates

by Jody Brown
October 22, 2004
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(AgapePress) - So -- how telling are Teresa Heinz Kerry's remarks on Wednesday about First Lady Laura Bush? At least one conservative leader says it is during such "unscripted moments" that the Kerrys' real values shine through. The First Lady, however, seems to be willing to give Mrs. Kerry a pass.

The John Kerry campaign went into the "damage control" mode following comments by the Democratic presidential candidate's wife when she was asked about the differences between herself and First Lady Laura Bush.

"Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good," Heinz Kerry told USA Today. "But I don't know that she's ever had a real job -- I mean, since she's been grown up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things.

"And I'm older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little big bigger -- because I'm older, and I've had different experiences. And it's not a criticism of her. It's just, you know, what life is about."

Following the furor over her remarks -- published on Wednesday -- Heinz Kerry apologized for questioning whether Laura Bush, mother of twin daughters, ever had a "real job."

"I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush had worked as a schoolteacher and librarian, and there couldn't be a more important job than teaching our children," Heinz Kerry said in a statement. "As someone who has been both a full-time mom and full-time in the workforce, I know we all have valuable experiences that shape who we are. I appreciate and honor Mrs. Bush's service to the country as First Lady, and am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past."

A Bush campaign advisor called Mrs. Kerry's remarks "inappropriate" -- and told CNN that the subsequent apology really did not clear things up. "I think it's very nice that she apologized, but in some ways the apology almost made the comment worse because she seems to have forgotten that being a mother is a real job," said Karen Hughes. "I think it's just unfortunate to try to disparage women who have made the choice of making their families a priority."

The president's campaign also issued a statement saying that "staying home, working from home and raising children is not only hard work, but that's a real job also."

However, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Thursday, Laura Bush took Mrs. Kerry's comments in stride, telling reporters "she didn't even really need to apologize. I know how tough it is and I actually know those trick questions."

A Kerry campaign spokesman seemed to echo similar sentiments, telling "Fox & Friends" that after long days on the campaign trail, "things come out that you wouldn't have ordinarily said." The aide added that Mrs. Kerry's intention was to sincerely apologize and to convey absolute respect for what the first lady has done and what she does.

Underlying Message?
But Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families (CWF) contends the real Teresa Heinz Kerry, who has three sons and two step-daughters, was revealed in the comments. Heinz Kerry, he says, "managed to insult stay-at-home mothers, librarians, and teachers."

Gary Bauer
"Where I come from," Bauer adds, "the job of mothering is the most important job in the world!"

Bauer, a former GOP presidential candidate, says he detects politics playing a role in the apology issued by Mrs. Kerry, pointing out the Kerry campaign has been "very astute" in presenting the candidate and his wife as moderate or even conservative. Kerry, Bauer notes, claims he will balance the budget, precedes each comment on abortion by reiterating his respect for the sanctity of life, and says he believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

"But in the unscripted moments, their real values break through," Bauer says, "such as in the third presidential debate when John praised husbands who leave their wives for other men, and Teresa's instinctive disdain for mothering as not a 'real job.'"

According to the CWF chairman, such comments from the Kerrys could not make the choice on Election Day "more stark."

Another pro-family group says Teresa Heinz Kerry took a "swing at stay-at-home moms" with her comments, providing -- as alluded to by Bauer -- insight into the "stark contrast" between the wives of the presidential candidates.

Dr. Janice Crouse, speaking on behalf of the Concerned Women for American Legislative Action Committee, says Mrs. Kerry's remarks "indicate disapproval of those American women who sacrifice a career and all of its benefits in order to care for and train their children at home" -- adding that a potential first lady should not "demean" women who make that choice. And as for the apology?

Tony Perkins
"[The] apology only reinforced the ideology implicit in her original comments," Crouse says. "[It] was based on Mrs. Bush's employment as a teacher and librarian, rather than her lifetime investment in raising her two daughters. She appeals to feminist myths, while insulting the majority of American women."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says by failing in her apology to recognize the importance of mom Laura Bush in the lives of daughters Jenna and Barbara, Heinz Kerry "only dug the hold deeper."

An apology, Perkins says, cannot erase what he sees as the underlying message in the furor: "Stay-at-home moms and traditional families would not be respected by a Kerry administration."

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