Once upon a time in America, we were interested in political marriages because we turned them into fairy tales, even when they most decidedly weren’t. Franklin and Eleanor. Jack and Jackie. Dwight and Mamie (less fraught, admittedly, but not exactly the Cleavers, either).
But that was a time, as conservatives like to remind us, when people respected decorum and knew shame. Now we are interested in them for roughly the same reason we’re interested in Michael Jackson’s nose: They are at once fascinating and repellent, and at the same time they serve the healthy emotional purpose for most common folk of reassuring them that their lot is pretty bearable by comparison—that their marriages are just fine, or, in cases where they’re not, at least that famous people behave sordidly, too.
Last week came the two latest entries. First, via author Ed Klein, we got the skinny on John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette’s apparently tempestuous union; the cocaine was one thing, but the real clincher was the thought that John-John bid adieu to the mortal coil on account of Carolyn’s quest for the perfect shade of toenail polish, which delayed their takeoff time that fateful evening until after dark.
Then, the Andrew Cuomo–Kerry Kennedy split, made even more dramatic in its way by Andrew’s decision to go negative on his wife as if she were a political opponent. If we believe the Post’s second-day account, Kerry broke the terms of their agreement, which is what led Andrew to mention his “betrayal.” Even so, legal justification is not the same thing as common sense. If he’d just kept his mouth shut and let the world learn about her alleged dalliance from another source, everyone would have felt sorry for him.
As cads go, Cuomo is still the silver medalist. The gold—for now—stays with Rudy Giuliani, who announced his separation to the world before he announced it to Donna, and then paraded Judi Nathan up Second Avenue surely knowing that his children would see the next-day photos. But the Cuomo-Kennedy story isn’t over yet. It’s almost enough to make Bill and Hillary look like—well, Franklin and Eleanor.