Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Politicians' Marriages

Frank Bruni:
Remember the Gores? Al and Tipper? At the Democratic convention in 2000, they shared that hungry, happy kiss, and it was more than a meeting of lips. It was a window, or so we thought, into a partnership of enduring passion and inextinguishable tenderness.

They’re separated now. Have been for more than five years.

And the Edwardses? John and Elizabeth? He resembled a Ken doll. She didn’t take after Barbie. That endeared them to voters — endeared him to voters. Only later did we learn about his double life, the furious fights and the copious tears.

We know nothing of other people’s marriages. Nothing at all.
After spending some time on what a mystery the Clintons’ marriage is  -- "Talk with six different people who know the Clintons well and you hear six different appraisals of their bond" -- Bruni concludes like this:
I’m less and less interested in guessing, because I’m more and more aware of how compartmentalized people are, of how flawed and fruitless it is to extrapolate from one chamber of their lives to another. The stingiest spouse and parent can be the greatest boss, and vice versa. Someone who’s selfless and principled in one context is sometimes the opposite in another, as if there’s only so much goodness to go around.
I agree with that absolutely. Some part of our brains very much wants to give blanket judgments about other people, good or bad. But all the evidence suggests that this is nonsense. People are good and bad in different ways under different circumstances. Political and military leadership, artistic talent, medical skill, athletic prowess -- these things are utterly unrelated to being a good spouse, friend, parent, lover, or just about anything else you can think of. Which is not to say that you can't be both a good leader or creative genius and a decent person, just that you can very easily be one without the other. I also agree with Bruni that even in interpersonal matters, people can be good in some way and bad in others, for instance loyal friends who are terrible parents.

And since I believe that nobody who is not crazy in some way would ever run for President, I have little interest in the private lives of the candidates. Give me another FDR or Gladstone, please, not another Jimmy Carter.

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