Like it or not, political families --- spouses, children, siblings-- - get scrutinized. And many seek the attention, making their togetherness a statement on the candidate's values. That's why Judith Steinberg Dean, a shy, private small-town doctor, seems to be such a curiosity for some. By all accounts, she's a hands-off political spouse and devotes herself to her medical practice. But her laid-back ways had the Times pondering whether she'll hurt her husband's campaign on Tuesday. And again today, Maureen Dowd finds near-pathology in everything from Mrs. Dean's clothes to her professional dedication. "Physician, heal thy spouse," Dowd says. (Why the most powerful woman in opinion journalism, who has certainly made her own unconventional life choices, would use her clout to raise withering questions about another woman's unconventional choices seems a story in itself, but one for another day.)
But the Deans are striking back, giving a long joint interview to People magazine, which is read by many more Americans than the Times. The would-be first couple discusses their first date, their courtship, their parenting styles, their TV watching habits and whether Howard Dean cries watching sad movies. It may not satisfy Dowd, but reading the long Q&A, what seems most odd about Judy Dean is just how normal she is.