November 22, 2016

JACK SHAFER: Abolish the Office of the First Lady.

Yes, defund the ridiculously large staff that currently earns upward of $1.5 million a year serving Michelle Obama; abolish the federally funded bully pulpit from which the presidential spouses have historically advocated for healthy eating, literacy, child welfare, anti-drug programs, mental health issues and beautification of highways. The president’s spouse isn’t a specimen of American royalty. By giving her a federal budget and nonstop press coverage, we endorse a pernicious kind of neo-nepotism that says, pay special attention to the person not because she’s earned it or is inherently worthy of our notice but because of who she’s related to by marriage.

The hairstyles, fashion choices, vacation destinations and pet projects of the president’s spouse are newsworthy only to the mentally vacant. Other democracies, such as the United Kingdom, bestow no such honors upon the spouses of their leaders and are better for it. To use an au courant phrase, the office of the first spouse is a swamp in need of draining. Won’t somebody please dispatch a dredger to the East Wing?

My beef isn’t against Melania Trump, the next first spouse, who seems to be a poised, harmless individual. I actually started composing this column in my head when the election of Hillary Clinton seemed inevitable. We already give mega-millionaire Bill Clinton a huge payout to run and staff his office under the federal Former Presidents Act. He’s collected in excess of $16 million since 2001. Why, I thought, give him additional funding and staff as first spouse?


Although to be fair, the First Lady’s budget and staff were modest prior to January, 2009.

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