What's in her shopping bag?

"Never marry a politician or a football coach," begins a bit of wisdom that came my way once. "Not if you ever want to see your husband."

That's true enough.


The wife of legendary Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs used to make cassette recordings of family news for him to play on his pre-dawn drives to the office. But when she began recording her frustration with his interminable absences, he simply stopped listening to them.

Betty Ford's loneliness was so profound that it produced a rehab center that has become the cultural shorthand for drunken wife. And former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell will spend a year and a day in prison because she tried to fill her empty life with luxury items from a lobbyist.

But we may have hit a new low when it comes to tormenting the spouses of powerful and ambitious men: picking through their purchases.

The Washington Post has published an accounting of years-old spending sprees by Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, including re-telling the story of how she lied to customs officials about the value of the clothing and jewelry she bought on a shopping trip to Paris. In 1999. More than 15 years ago.

A year later, The Post reports, she bought $42,311.70 worth of jewelry, including diamond earrings, bracelets and necklaces, and it has the receipts to prove it.

The newspaper tried to make the case that this will make it difficult for the former Florida governor to relate to the little guy if he runs for president. Much like Mitt Romney, who had all those cars, and John McCain, who couldn't remember how many houses he had.

I don't know about you, but if I bought $19,000 worth of stuff in Paris, I'd lie about it, too, in hopes that my husband wouldn't find out. And if my husband was worth millions in real estate, I'd probably buy a bunch of jewelry, too. If I didn't want him to know about that, either, I would probably have the receipts sent to a postal box instead of our mailbox, as The Post also reported.

If my husband was a politician and my shopping habits showed up in a national newspaper, I'd be furious. More furious than if he had missed homework and bedtime for the last 15 years. This is the stuff of couple's counseling, not political reporting

"While spouses are not on the ballot," said the story in The Post, "they too find their lifestyles the focus of curiosity."

I don't know. I'm not curious about how much Columba Bush spends on jewelry or how much Ann Romney spends on her blouses or how much Michelle Obama spends on sneakers, all of which were reported by The Post. The rich are different. We all get that. It's not like any of these women embezzled from a charity to buy this stuff.

This was a naked attempt to humiliate a woman who was described in the same news story as someone who maintained such a low profile that she lived in the family home in Miami rather than the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. And who "lunches by herself at modest restaurants." Another thing I didn't need to know about a candidate: that his wife eats alone. That makes me sad; it doesn't change how I will vote.

The run-up to the 2016 presidential election has begun in earnest, and so has the crazy talk. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, with presumed candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by his side, said President Barack Obama — who must be so glad he doesn't have to run again — doesn't love America like the rest of us do because of the way he was raised. And Governor Walker said that he didn't know for sure if the president was Christian.

It is only going to get crazier. But can we rope off the wife and kids, please, unless they are engaged in illegal or utterly reprehensible behavior? Or are we going to be seeing a bunch of credit card bills in print? How about grocery lists? Does she buy the really expensive ice cream? How will the common man respond to that in the voting booth?

I don't know about you, but marriage to a football coach is looking pretty good right now.


Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at and @Susan Reimer on