Sen. Paul S. Trible (R-Va.) has been taking a lot of flak the last few days for announcing that he would not run for reelection because he wanted to spend more time with his family. I, however, am behind him 1,000 percent. In fact, he's going to be my role model for the remainder of the month. I, too, would dearly love to quit my present job so that I can devote more time to my family. (This happens after every vacation.)
Of course, our circumstances are a little different. Trible is still interested in politics and has made it clear that he has not ruled out the idea of running for governor of Virginia. What appeals to him about that job is the fact that the governor's residence is right next door to the governor's office, and he seems to think that would let him spend more time with his family. It's a new angle on working at home.
The present tenant, Democratic Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, had some words of caution for Trible, however. At a news conference this week, he said that Trible had the wrong idea if he thought being governor was "a 9-to-5 job." Baliles' press secretary, Chris Bridge, who has two children, says that Baliles had been in his office until 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning "on four separate occasions in the last week and a half." So have people on his staff, she says. "We couldn't even count the times we've been here until 1 or 2 in the morning because he is here."
To hear her tell it, being governor of Virginia may not be the ideal job for someone who is trying to juggle family and career. First, there is a lot of traveling around the state. Baliles also has been on two-week trade missions to China and Europe this year and heads out shortly for another two-week trade mission to Japan. Second, there are the personal appearances and speeches. "One day we counted 135 requests for appearances, speeches and attendance at events."
Bridge says she doesn't question Trible's sincerity about wanting to spend more time with his family. "While his intention may be to free up more time for his family, the schedule this governor has will not reflect that intention."
No discussion of Trible's attempts to juggle family and career would be complete without mentioning the fact that the first-term senator was facing the possibility of a very tough race against former governor Charles S. Robb, who managed to get the state Democratic Party back on the map. Robb, who has been playing hard to get and hasn't made a move to campaign for the job, had a 15-point lead over Trible in a late July poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Opinion Research.
This prompted some political analysts and observers to suggest that Trible, who had been actively campaigning and fund raising, was pulling out because of Robb, not because of his family.
The only person who really knows the truth of the matter is Trible himself. What is incontrovertable, however, is the fact that Trible has now joined a growing list of people who are citing family considerations as a reason for bowing out of political races. Gary Hart quit his presidential race, saying, in part, that he refused to submit his family to further gossip. Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ar,.) said he wouldn't run for president because it means "a total disruption of one's life and the life of his family," and, if victorious, family closeness is "necessarily lost forever." New York Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas bowed out saying he did not want to be away from his daughter for the long periods a presidential campaign requires. Gov. Mario Cuomo also cited what was "best for my family" in announcing that he was sitting out this dance. San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros has taken himself out of consideration for any statewide races in 1990, including the governorship of Texas, citing the health of his infant son who was born with severe birth defects. No one on earth would quarrel with the legitimacy of Cisneros' position, but there are people who might start wondering about some of the others.
Historically, politicians have been on par with foreign correspondents when it comes to being family men. Now, all of a sudden, we are getting an earful about families from politicians who are in tough races. Have we come upon a generation of born-again family men? Are present-day politics too tough on families? Or, perish the thought, are they simply using their families as a politically fashionable excuse?
I, for one, would like to see the next person who bows out say something neat, simple, and accurate, such as: "I'm getting out of this race because I know I can't win." That's the kind of person I'd like to vote for.