Many people in government have spouses of course, and many of those spouses say things on social media. Why are George Conway’s comments more interesting than most? The reason is captured in this New York Times report from May 15, 2017.
The hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said on Monday that the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway complained extensively about President Trump in private conversations with them before he was elected.
Mika Brzezinski said during Monday’s broadcast that she heard Ms. Conway denounce the candidate in private after promoting him on television.
“She would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off, and she would say ‘Blech, I need to take a shower,’ because she disliked her candidate so much,” Ms. Brzezinski said of Ms. Conway.
Joe Scarborough, Ms. Brzezinski’s co-host and fiancé, echoed the statements, saying that Ms. Conway said after being interviewed that she had only taken the job for money and that she would soon be done defending Mr. Trump. “‘But first I have to take a shower, because it feels so dirty to be saying what I’m saying,’” Ms. Brzezinski added, mocking what the hosts said was Ms. Conway’s attitude at the time. “I guess she’s just used to it now.”
Conway has denied the story. But her husband’s tweets suggest he currently holds views broadly similar to those attributed to Kellyanne by the Morning Joe hosts. And that, in turn, raises the possibility that she privately still feels the same way she allegedly did during the campaign: disgusted with the bad character of the man she helped elect to the presidency. If one of the most senior counselors of the United States does inwardly feel such acute disgust toward her boss, yet serves him anyway for her own personal advantage, that is important information both about the president and about the kind of people staffing his White House.
The question was completely in-bounds—and Conway’s angry reaction to the question only confirms its in-bounds-ness. Her first instinct was to invoke her autonomy as a woman. It was completely inappropriate, she suggested, to ask one spouse any questions about the political activities of the other—and especially inappropriate to ask such questions of a wife, for they would never be asked of a husband.
This is the same Kellyanne Conway who played a key role in the Trump campaign’s strategy for addressing accusations of sexual misconduct against its candidate—and that was to raise as a defense the sexual misconduct of their opponent’s husband. Here, for example, is Conway speaking with Chris Matthews after Trump’s press conference with Bill Clinton accusers. Here she is again with Megyn Kelly—insisting that women who claimed to have been victimized by Bill Clinton “deserved to be heard” as part of the case against Hillary Clinton. On the attack, Conway embraces views akin to the antiquated legal doctrine of coverture, wherein a woman’s legal existence is entirely subsumed into her husband’s. On the defensive, she’s suddenly Gloria Steinem.