By MIA FREEDMAN
One of the best things about having Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister again is that we get to reclaim Therese Rein as First Lady.
Because she is one excellent lady. Warm, kind, funny, smart and successful. An epic role model in her own right. And easily the most interesting, dynamic and inspiring first partner we’ve ever had.
So I had no problem seeing her next to Kevin Rudd yesterday when pictures emerged of their high security trip to visit troops in Afghanistan. In fact, it didn’t even register to me that it was unusual – let alone controversial – for Therese to accompany the PM until I started reading some of the outraged commentary, criticising her – and Kevin and professing shock that a Prime Minister’s spouse would visit troops.
How very dare she.
Having had the experience of meeting Therese Rein once myself, I think the soldiers who met her got very lucky. I bet they were beaming during and after. The First Lady is one of the warmest, kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. She radiates an extraordinary motherly vibe and who wouldn’t relish a bit of that when you’re far from home, desperately missing your family and doing an incredibly difficult, dangerous, frightening job.
Is there a downside here?
Apparently, there is. The negative media and political snark questioning Rein’s reason for being there was immediate (why does any political leader ever visit serving troops? As a moral booster! And a show of respect and appreciation on behalf of the country! Simple!). Her choice of outfit even came under fire. Yes, we’ve sunk that low already.
Today I see it’s gone further. In several newspapers, petty, mean-spirited commentary derides the prospect of Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd’s families appearing on the campaign trail and being used to influence voters. Oh no! Because what if a vote is cast on the basis that Tony has three daughters he clearly adores or that Kevin is a proud new grandfather? Hold me.
Disclaimer: Jessica Rudd is my friend. We met three years ago, soon after her father was replaced as PM, when she wrote her first book, Campaign Ruby. I interviewed her on the floor of her hotel room (you can watch that interview here) and we hit it off immediately. She’s a lot like her mum; whip-smart, funny, natural and self-deprecating.