Magazine article Newsweek

The Doctor in His Life: For a Possible Future First Lady, Dr. Judith Steinberg Has a Novel Approach to Politics. She Simply Won't Be Bothered

Magazine article Newsweek

The Doctor in His Life: For a Possible Future First Lady, Dr. Judith Steinberg Has a Novel Approach to Politics. She Simply Won't Be Bothered

Article excerpt

Byline: Eleanor Clift

The first surprise about Dr. Judith Steinberg is how she answers the phone: Judy Dean, she says brightly. Judy Dean? Is this the candidate's wife who has staked out an independent life, declining the traditional role of appendage to a politician? "It's what I've always done," she tells NEWSWEEK, explaining that she uses her maiden name, Steinberg, professionally; outside her medical practice, she's Mrs. Dean. It was how her mother did it, and it seemed "the natural thing to do" when she and her husband started out sharing a medical practice. "When people asked for Dr. Dean," she says, "we knew which one."

But when the voters look for Steinberg/Dean on the campaign trail, she won't be there. A dedicated physician, she works five days a week seeing patients and is on call a weekend a month. She shows up on election nights and Inauguration days, and her one concession if Howard Dean is elected president would be to move her practice to Washington. She displays little interest in the workings of her husband's campaign, though she thinks he could exercise more and eat fewer doughnuts. She won't be heading up any task force to reform health care, although she's got plenty of hands-on experience in the field.

Where Hillary Clinton tried to carve out a zone of privacy, Steinberg is constructing a biosphere around herself and her family. During the 12 years her husband was governor, he had his political life and she had her practice, "and we did it like a normal family." She sees no reason why that division of labor cannot continue. When he's home from the campaign trail, they don't talk politics. They talk about their two kids. "I like watching politics, and I think it does have an effect on our lives, but I'm not a participant," she says. "I'm much more comfortable on a one-to-one basis with my patients." She's about to find out whether voters accustomed to stand-by-your-man politics will buy this new style of clinical detachment. …

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