August 4, 2004
How do you solve a problem like Teresa?By Thomas Lifson
'Isn't she great?' said candidate Kerry in Milwaukee, following the 'four more years of hell' remark of his wife Teresa. Lawyer Kerry surely knows that, technically speaking, he is asking a question, not necessarily paying a compliment. 'And by the way, how great was Teresa Heinz Kerry last night?' said running mate Edwards to the Democratic National Convention. Another lawyer asking another question, masquerading as a compliment.
Teresa Heinz, as she still formally calls herself, ('Teresa Heinz Kerry' is her self—described 'political name') has emerged as a problem for the Kerry—Edwards campaign. Her husband, who advertises his diplomatic skills as a principal selling point, may have a point. Handling his wife's tendency to run her mouth faster than her brain might well make taming Jacques Chirac seem like child's play.
By now, it is clear that the widow Heinz has issues. Her speech at the convention made clear that she feels her opinions are the Rodney Dangerfield of political thought:
"My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called "opinionated," is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. My only hope is that, one day soon, women— who have all earned the right to their opinions—instead of being labeled opinionated, will be called smart or well—informed, just as men are."
So exactly who is it that does pay adequate obeisance to the depths of her profundity?
Certainly not the recipients of the largesse of her foundation! The scholars, bureaucrats, and activists whose livelihood depends on the charity of the wealthy of necessity learn the arts of flattery, most especially the feigning of an appreciation for the insightfulness of their patrons.
Certainly not the Democrat activists, whose applause fuels her perception that she has a lot to say. Few chemical substances are as intoxicating as the lusty cheers of a large crowd. And Teresa shows every sign of addiction. The campaign schedule is her pusher, supplying large doses at increasing frequency.
To be sure, those mean Republicans, and the 'right wing press' are at times less than overwhelmed with her depth. And, as her 'shove it!' remark to an editorialist shows, these comments rankle. It is not enough for Teresa to receive approval. The fact that she broke away from her handlers to return to her journalistic antagonist reveals the depth of her anger toward those who deign to criticize.
She apparently needs not mere approval, but also an absence of criticism, in order to feel good about herself.
Which raises the possibility that there is another source of resentment, one much closer to home. Who among us, even recidivist professional spouses of wealthy heiresses, can supply pure approval, unalloyed by the slightest hint of criticism, within the marital relationship?
Body language often speaks volumes about the inner state of a person. And Teresa manifests some very interesting body language with her spousal interactions. During her husband's speeches, she frequently looks bored and distracted. And when he reaches out to her in an affectionate manner, she is often as not seen to stiffen, resist, or reject his advances. If you don't believe me, watch their appearances yourself, as the campaign unfolds. Or take a look at this or this photo of the boat ride which preceded her 'years of hell' ejaculation.
Assume for a moment that Teresa is as full of resentment as she appears. What can the campaign do about it?
Not much, it appears. Teresa has them right where she wants them.
Any hint of discord from her would seriously damage the campaign. Cajoling resentful billionaires into changing their ways is not an easy task. They are used to getting their way, after all, and used to the approval of those who serve them. And, when you are a billionaire, nearly everybody your run into does serve you. It is habit—forming.
Teresa also clearly enjoys crowds, and believes that her native intelligence and distinctive life experience endow her with many insights to share. And the daily flow of campaign events supplies her with rewarding opportunities to broaden her horizons, as well, such as discovering the hitherto unknown culinary delights of the dish known as chili.
So, how does one solve a problem like Teresa?
The answer, I am afraid, is that one hones the diplomatic skills of accommodation, flattery, manipulation, and operating from a position of overt strength, disguising the underlying reality of dependence.
These are exceedingly valuable skills, however. Do not scoff at them. They actually prepare a candidate well for a position of top political leadership.
But not leadership of the United States. France is more like it.
Should John F. Kerry's quest for the White House prove elusive, there is always the Elysee Palace to shoot for. After all, he is partially of French stock, has a first cousin living in France, and seems to be quite popular there. And the French are quite accepting of the notion that one's wife need not define or limit the life of a political leader.