May 10, 2001
7:13 PM   Subscribe

Massachusetts' acting governor Jane Swift (R) is bed-ridden, about to give birth to twins. State legislators (mostly Democrats) are challenging her right to run the state via telephone. Sleazy, sexist politics? Or do they have a point? Is it irresponsble for an elected official to start a family while in office? (more inside)
posted by jpoulos (41 comments total)
I thought I saw a comment below about how the US has it's values backasswards... our public values say that we value families and childhood and etc etc etc, but publicly, shit like this happens.

Shame on those other state legislators.
posted by SpecialK at 7:16 PM on May 10, 2001

The argument I'm hearing is "if she were a man having prostate surgery, they'd be commending him for doing his job from the hospital," but I disagree with that. Essentially, this is an "elective" procedure the acting governor is having.

I do think this is sleazy and sexist on the part of the Dems, but I've felt from the beginning that if Swift wants to be in State office (she was only Lt. Gov. when she became pregnant), the responsible choice would have been to wait. (She's only in her mid-30s.) What do you think?
posted by jpoulos at 7:16 PM on May 10, 2001

ONLY in her mid thirties? Can't link it (darn it) but don't babies born after the mother turns 30 have an increased chance of birth defects or later learning disabilities? Or was it Down's Syndrome? Someone help me out here.
posted by SpecialK at 7:18 PM on May 10, 2001

(BTW, as many MeFi'ers know, I'm a viciously partisan Democrat. Is that why I feel that way about her?)
posted by jpoulos at 7:18 PM on May 10, 2001

Not any more, Special K. Women these days can have children into their 40s without too much trouble. She's very young.
posted by jpoulos at 7:19 PM on May 10, 2001

*shrug* Just repeating what a woman who works in an ob-gyn clinic told me last week.

Here. What I was trying to find a few minutes ago.
posted by SpecialK at 7:23 PM on May 10, 2001

SpecialK is correct. After 30 isn't noticeable, but after 35 and especially after 40 dramatically increases the risk of Down syndrome and to a lesser extent other defects and undesirable conditions. (The main reason being that all a woman's eggs are created when SHE is, while a man creates new sperm for most of his life. Old eggs have broken germlines and such.) But 100 times a fraction of 1% still isn't very much, and a lot of women are willing to deal with those odds.

What's different is that modern medicine can detect and monitor these conditions early on and ameliorate some of them.

Personally, I think it's incredibly irresponsible of her to do this. What would they do if Connecticut were to try a sneak attack in the dead of night?
posted by dhartung at 7:25 PM on May 10, 2001

my bad, dan.
posted by jpoulos at 7:28 PM on May 10, 2001

Wait a minute... These guys are literally attacking motherhood. How dumb can you get? Even if they score a few points in the short term what do they think they're going to look like when pictures of the mother and newborn twins are published? This isn't just sleezy and sexist. It's incredibly stupid politics. Maybe they'll go after apple pie next?
posted by rdr at 7:30 PM on May 10, 2001

My wife is a professional. When she decided we should have a child, she took a leave of absence, granted by those who employed her in keeping with current norms of fairness. She did not try to do her job out of the house and had no need to.
I have no idea how long the acting Gov plans to be out of her office, but if she goes back very early, that seems unfair to the child and her family. After all, men are clamoring and in some instances have the right to take a substantial period off when their wives give birth in order to be there for the wife and the child and to share in this great and fleeting moment.
Why, then, should a political leader be in a different situation. They already are "different" in the benefits they get from those non-political figures usually get, as can be seen in our Congress.
posted by Postroad at 7:36 PM on May 10, 2001

Again and again what comes in last in priority are the needs of children.......wonder who's going to be raising these tricycle motors?

I'm a woman, and right now I could be tempted to kick Gloria Steinem and her ilk right in the caboose.
posted by bunnyfire at 7:41 PM on May 10, 2001
posted by Postroad at 7:46 PM on May 10, 2001

Funny, when a pregnancy is unwanted, the lefties call the opportunity to shirk the consequences of one's actions (an abortion) a "choice" (never mind the fact that the choice was whether to ride the mattress or not). When the pregnancy is wanted, or at least, not unwanted, it's a "right" and anyone questioning that decision is wrong.

Having a baby is an entirely selective procedure. Not by way of abortion, but by way of having sex or not having sex. Lefties and rationalization go hand in hand. She chose to have a baby, and it will impact her abilities to serve her public duties. It sucks, but it's the fact of the matter. Claiming that holding the baby up in front of the cameras as a publicity stunt is indicative of the selective application of morals and justifications commonplace with the lefties here on MeFi. It's bad for the Dems to trash her publicly because she's going to use her baby, her own flesh and blood, publicly to create public sympathy.

Gee, I wish I had a uterus. It seems to be the most versatile organ any human could have.
posted by Spanktacular at 8:27 PM on May 10, 2001

bad politics for democrats. they are going to create a martyr - she will be governor for life.
posted by brucec at 8:28 PM on May 10, 2001

I agree, spanky. I'm right-handed and damn proud of it. All you lefties SUCK! To the ovens!

Thank you, spanky, for making me realize why I'm a "lefty".
posted by jpoulos at 8:32 PM on May 10, 2001

''I have a difficulty with the way this meeting is being held,'' said Councilor Edward O'Brien, an Easthampton Democrat. ''This is not a duly constitutional meeting.''

O'Brien is the father of state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, a possible gubernatorial candidate.

Only in Massachusetts.
posted by grimmelm at 10:42 PM on May 10, 2001

I bet she could really go for a doughnut right about now.
posted by pracowity at 11:25 PM on May 10, 2001

Grimmelm: "only in Massachusetts"? I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying that only in MA could a state official make remarks or engage in activity which seems to conceal ulterior motives vis-a-vis relatives in public office?

cough – Jeb Bush – cough

Argh, somebody had to drag the Bushes into it, eh? Sorry, folks...
posted by letourneau at 11:42 PM on May 10, 2001

are they natural twins or were she and her husband using fertility drugs?
posted by sighofrelief at 12:34 AM on May 11, 2001

Holy specious rhetoric Spanktacular: that's because we believe that women have a "right" to "chose".
posted by sylloge at 12:39 AM on May 11, 2001

ahem. choose.
posted by sylloge at 12:39 AM on May 11, 2001

Unfortunately, probably very few people are (really) capable of full 9 to 5 and raising kids. So you gotta make choices. I think that, as Postroad said, politicians get special treatment because their jobs are so important and whathaveyou. If their jobs are so important, and if their careers are so important to them, then she should have put off having children.

With regard to the bit about this being the same as prostate surgery, it`s not. Breast surgery or ovarian surgery (to continue with the differences between the sexes theme) would be the same. A nose job would not.

But the final issue is just what the governor`s job is. I know it`s technically to run the state, but what does the daily work entail? If it`s the sort of thing where you have to be there (like a judge), then she`s shirking her responsibility to the state (I recognize that she was Lt. Gov when she got pregnant, so only sort of shirking. What does the Lt Gov do anyway?). But if her job is only to lend her judgements to things that can be done on paper (or by email), then as long as she would be capable of running the state from her office, she`d be capable of doing the same from home.

And it is a bit suicidal of the Democrats considering she`s soon gonna have a couple of cute little PR tools to use against this very attack.
posted by chiheisen at 1:06 AM on May 11, 2001

Why leatourneau, you wouldn't happen to be talking about Jeb appointing a convicted felon, of embezzlement no less, as the sole head of all of Florida's IT purchasing and administration would you? He's already catering to political pressures as recent headlines indicate...
posted by Spanktacular at 3:52 AM on May 11, 2001

Dear Spanky: For those with little or no education in a country where info on birth control is minimal, and in a country where all too often people are led by their religions as to what to do or not do in sex matters, choice is not as big a thing as you suggest.
The educated seem to manage ok with choices. But look at the record of trying to bring the French contraceptive to the public, the bombings and killings at abortion clinics, and the congressional reticence to enact lelgistlation that the Europeans have long had. And, by the way, compare their records on teen pregnancy with ours.
Merely labeling "lefties" just doesn't take care of things.
posted by Postroad at 4:57 AM on May 11, 2001

update: Democrats back off Swift attack

and for the record, even though i have little respect for Swift politically i still think its wicked cool to be living in the state that has a. such a young female gov and b. the first one to give birth while in office.

and for those that bitch and moan that she's a bad mom, keep in mind that her husband is a stay at home dad and will be the children's primary caregiver. when was the last time you heard some complain that a male gov whose stay at home wife gave birth while he was in office was a lousy dad?
posted by saralovering at 5:48 AM on May 11, 2001

Spanktacular - Please link on the Jeb appointment. Thks.
posted by vanderwal at 5:48 AM on May 11, 2001

Party and reproductive politics aside, don't women tend to go somewhat psycho after childbirth?
posted by whuppy at 6:03 AM on May 11, 2001

What would they do if Connecticut were to try a sneak attack in the dead of night?

It's not Connecticut that worries me, it's those right-wing wackjobs in New Hampshire...all that "Live Free or Die" talk isn't just rhetoric... Luckily, I still have my Y2K bunker all provisioned in case they try to invade while Madame Governor is indisposed.

FWIW, my wife and I will be Jane Swift's neighbors on the maternity ward at the Brigham and Women's Hospital next week.

This whole issue about her is really stupid political gamesmanship on the part of the overly ambitious Democratic Secretary of State, who has his eyes on the corner office.
posted by briank at 6:29 AM on May 11, 2001

and for those that bitch and moan that she's a bad mom...

i'm bitching and moaning that she's a bad governor.

briank: congratulations!
posted by jpoulos at 6:41 AM on May 11, 2001

Thanks, John.

and for those that bitch and moan that she's a bad mom...

i'm bitching and moaning that she's a bad governor

I don't hear too many people bitching that she's a bad mom. We went through all of this when she was nominated to be Lt. Gov. two years ago, because she was pregnant then, too. (as Groucho once said, "I like my cigar, but I take it out once in a while")

Swift engendered a ton of criticism when it was spilled that she was using state employees to babysit her first child (not to mention that flap about the helicopter ride). She was a little-known state rep when she got the nod for Lt. Gov., but she made several very stupid political blunders right off the bat and has very low approval ratings among MA voters. She will probably have a very tough fight if she even chooses to run for governor next year.

Unless, of course, the Dems keep doing stupid stuff like this.
posted by briank at 6:48 AM on May 11, 2001

> Party and reproductive politics aside, don't women tend
> to go somewhat psycho after childbirth?

My wife did, but I think it had something to do with the lack of sleep.

I was perfectly rational and sane the whole time. If she tells you otherwise, remember that she's psycho.
posted by dwivian at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2001

It turns out only a few Dems actually questioned Swift, maybe even just one (o'brien), so they should stop using the label 'Democrats' when they refer to those who are challenging Swift; its not the official position of the party.
posted by brucec at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2001

Well, hell, when did we stop painting whole swaths of people because of the actions of a few?

What struck me was the picture on the front of the Globe of a conference table with a phone in the middle - and the media circling the table. Um, was this some sort of bizarre photo op that Swift tried to concoct?

All in all, while I think it was dumb for someone to make a fuss over it, I do think the Guv is trying to do too damn much. Running a state while laid up in the hospital ready to pop out twins? My former boss was on press when she went into labor - she should have been in the hospital - and I think she's crazy, and that's nothing. You can't have the big career and the kids at the same time.

Sigh. And I know Jane Swift's ne'er do well younger brother too. My bizarre connection.
posted by solistrato at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2001

This wouldn't even be an issue if Swift had a Republican Lt. Gov. to take over. Galvin, a Democrat, would take over if Swift had to go on leave.

Really, this whole thing comes down (and we all knew this) to more partisan bickering. Yawn.
posted by MarkAnd at 9:55 AM on May 11, 2001

MarkAnd and Briank have nailed this. This is about one thing only: An attempt by the Democratic members of the Governor's Council to wrest control of the executive branch from the GOP. They want the State Supreme Court to declare Swift incompetent to serve, so that the next person in line, the Democratic Secretary of State, would become Acting Governor and thus be able to implement as many liberal policies as he could get away with until Swift was allowed to resume her duties. It's the world's lamest coup attempt.

i'm bitching and moaning that she's a bad governor.

She's been governor for exactly one month and one day. Has the state somehow imploded during that time, unbeknownst to the rest of the world?
posted by aaron at 10:15 PM on May 11, 2001

Where were the bitching Democrats when JFK was having children while in office?
posted by obfusciatrist at 1:25 AM on May 12, 2001

Erm, obfusciatris, JFK wasn't ever pregnant himself (now wouldn't that make the Weekly World News?).

aaron -- I think you're one toke over the line here. It seems rather unlikely that if Swift were declared unfit that Bill Galvin would go on some sort of spree. This has been nothing but a political pissing contest.

Besides which, this is Massachusetts after all. Even the Republicans are liberal in this state. And the governor has very little power compared to the Speaker of the House. Anybody who wanted to stage a real coup would have to depose Tommy Finneran.
posted by briank at 8:00 AM on May 12, 2001

Latest developments via The Boston Globe.
posted by briank at 8:06 AM on May 12, 2001

I'd rather have a politician who wants to work from hospital than one who clocks off at 5pm. And I'd rather have someone in high office who has experience of raising children and holding down a high-pressure job, no matter whether the interns are on babysitting duty.

It really doesn't do much for the clichéd reputation of Massachussetts Dems as middle-aged Irishmen who expect the women to be at home with the mangle and the brood.
posted by holgate at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2001

I know this thread is six days old, which is like ancient history for the short-attention-span-theater of MeFi, but just to update it a little bit:

1. Jane Swift gave birth last night to twin girls and will be on maternity leave for 8 weeks.

2. I thought this Salon piece did a good job of coherently summing up the whole thing.
posted by briank at 7:38 AM on May 16, 2001

But briank, what about the rest of the story?
posted by rodii at 2:26 PM on May 16, 2001

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