Toward the end of Saturday night’s Democratic debate, moderator Martha Raddatz posed the candidates a personal question:
Is it time to change the role of a president’s spouse?
Former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, who is now the Democratic front-runner, noted that the position was often shaped by each person who occupied the role.
But she said her husband would likely tackle politically vexing issues and focus less on traditional ceremonial responsibilities that the first lady tends to oversee, such as decorating.
“With respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that. But I will probably turn to him, as other presidents have, for special missions and advice,” Clinton said, citing his expertise on economic issues as a possible area where he could help shape policy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), meanwhile, began his response to the question by complimenting Clinton on her tenure as first lady.
“Let me by the way take this moment to congratulate Hillary Clinton, who I thought not only did an outstanding role as first lady, but redefined what that role could be,” he said.
Clinton did pursue a more active role in political fights than many of her predecessors as first lady. Clinton headed up a healthcare reform effort that ultimately failed in her husband’s first term, which she said Saturday still scars her. She was the original first lady to have her own office in the West Wing.
Sanders said that his wife, Jane — who he quipped was “a lot smarter” than him — would be well-suited to help reform the child-care system to help keep children out of trouble after school.
“I think we need a forceful advocate for the children, for teenagers, for the little children, to deal with the dysfunction child care system, and I think my wife would do a great job to help us accomplish those goals,” Sanders said.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.