Sunday, February 22, 2004

Blunt and Influential, Kerry's Wife Is an X Factor

New York Times

I appreciate the Times' effort to give a balanced portrayal of Teresa Heinz, but it's just too difficult an endeavor (see here for a longer profile of the couple). In trying, article makes her look even worse. Straining to find positive things to say, they come up with statements like this:

". . . she is known as a highly intelligent and devoted spouse who looks after her husband . . ."

It's important to recognize that the "husband" in question is her deceased previous husband, but point taken. As for the "looks after" thing, it just makes her sound controlling and creepy, but maybe that's just bad diction by the writer. However, there's no mistaking reality when the passage is read in context:

"Ms. Heinz Kerry may well have saved her husband's life. But politically she may be both an asset and a liability for his ambitions. While she is known as a highly intelligent and devoted spouse who looks after her husband, Ms. Heinz Kerry has a reputation as being offbeat if not a little odd, and even some Democratic strategists say that could complicate the Kerry campaign's efforts to make the Kerrys appealing to voters."

She's not just "offbeat if not a little odd." She's one of those really, really eccentric rich-types. If you know someone like this, you probably just refer to them as "crazy."

She's not stupid, mind you. Utterly without tact or social graces, yes (watch Kerry react to one of her statements with "She didn't say that publicly, did she?"). Insufferably arrogant, absolutely (watch this interview, for example. You'll forget that John Kerry is even running. Everything is about her. She even nominated herself for Vice President!). But she's not stupid. So maybe she'll tone it down a bit in the coming months.*

The funny thing is, many of these traits make Heinz kind of likeable, because it seems as though she doesn't have a game face. She acts like a real person all the time, which is kind of shocking at first. But once you get used to it, she's much more tolerable. So it'll kind of be sad if Kerry's people make her suppress her personality for awhile. Besides the potential for making her seem even more weird, acting like someone else might cause people to miss out on how interesting she is. I think letting Heinz be Heinz is the only way anyone will come to terms with her.

* These videos are from the Kerry website, and thus are some of her best appearances. I've seen short interviews in which she looked drunk, disoriented, and disinterested. I don't know if she was actually any of these things, but needless to say many of her appearances don't help her image.

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