November 5, 2004

Teresa's look of relief.

On Teresa's look of relief -- noted here -- consider this (again, from the Newsweek article):
Later came Kerry campaign's post-convention "Sea to Shining Sea" tour: a 3,500-mile bus and train trek that was not a happy trip for Teresa. With each passing day she made less effort to hide her displeasure. Audiences were mystified when Teresa turned her back to them at daylight rallies and wore dark sunglasses and a hat at night (backstage, the candidate's wife complained of migraines and sore eyes). As they reached the climax of the tour, an hourlong "family vacation" hike in the Grand Canyon, the planned happy-family- vacation was disintegrating in plain view. Daughter Vanessa didn't enjoy being a prop, Teresa was complaining of migraines and telling her husband she couldn't walk anymore. The candidate tried to bravely soldier on, pulling his sullen wife and children to show them the magnificent condors flying overhead.
Teresa was an interesting character in the drama of the campaign. Who knows what was really going on, but if I were writing a screenplay, fictionalizing her story, I would say that she was still deeply in love with her husband who died, that she even agreed with his (Republican) politics, and that the whole campaign was for her a horror show. She (the fictionalized Teresa) tried to stand by her vows to the man she had married, at the expense of great personal pain. I would write that he (the fictionalized Kerry) really loved her and wanted to help her, but had to put the campaign first and had to work with his advisors, even though he knew they cared nothing for her personally -- she was just a whining rich bitch to them -- and only heartlessly damned her for not living up to the responsibility to be a political asset, a responsibility that the other candidate's wife fulfilled brilliantly.

I went back to find what I had written about Teresa at the time the Grand Canyon trip was described in the press and I was a bit surprised to see that I had thought of writing a fictionalized account of Teresa before at exactly that point:
I'd be quite interested in a movie that was a fictionalized account of this. I guess it would be a lot like "Primary Colors." I'm picturing all kinds of people trying to keep Teresa in line, trying to convince her to just keep it together until the election, and all the colorful things a wife might scream at a husband in this position like, "I don't even want you to be President!" But if things like that are really happening, I really do feel sorry for John Kerry. It is so difficult to make it through the campaign, but what a horrible struggle it would be if at the same time your marriage hits the rocks and you can't even engage with that problem as a personal problem, but you must think first about the ways in which your spouse is threatening to undermine the hard work of your campaign! And I feel sorry for her too, if these things are happening, because how horrible it would be if you were struggling at the end of your marriage and you could see that the main thing your spouse cared about was keeping you quiet so he could achieve his career goal. Would you freak out and tip over into vengeance and threaten to tell the whole world what a terrible husband he is? Ah, well, that's just my fictionalized, screenplay version. One imagines fiery scenes. I hope things go well for them.
Let's not forget this tragic photograph and that the press, at the time, wrote that Teresa had an attack of "vertigo" on looking into the canyon. Let's not forget that her beloved first husband died in a plane crash.

UPDATE: Here is another earlier post I wrote about Teresa. An excerpt:
Teresa Heinz Kerry is going to be a problem---not because she's "opinionated," the characteristic she pointedly defended in her convention speech, and not merely because she is interested in being the feisty, outspoken kind of First Lady, projecting her personality into the public sphere. She is going to be a problem because of that personality-projecting combined with a lack of real interest in helping her husband. I have no way to know what she really thinks of him, but time and again, I get the impression that she can barely tolerate him and doesn't even particularly care about supporting him. She too is walking through her public appearances, but she's not willing to play the First Lady role. She surely has a right to express herself, and she used her speech to inform us of this fact, though we all know it. But her honest self-expression seems unlikely to help her husband. This is not because we want to squelch female expression and demand a demure First Lady. It is because her honest expressions do not inspire support for the candidate.

Compare Heinz Kerry to other recent feisty First Ladies: Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan. These women had strong personalities (in fact they seemed far more energetic and political than Heinz Kerry), but they also obviously adored their husbands and staunchly agreed with their politics. We could see their love and it rubbed off on us--or at least it rubbed off on those not so opposed to the man as to be immune to such influence. Heinz Kerry shows none of this adoration. In fact, she seems to show a lack of interest in him. Maybe she doesn't even support his politics. (She is the widow of a Republican Senator.) She has an air of world-weariness (perhaps even mourning for the dead Republican). Here is her current husband, a dour-faced man with a droning voice, who is trying his damnedest to look like an optimist, and his own wife will not deign to gaze at him and smile. I'm all for female independence and expression, but why doesn't she want to help him?

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