There are two ways of looking at the field of presidential contenders. On the one hand, there's the novelty of a woman, a black and a Latino pursuing the White House.
On the other, presumably the left with a sizable rock involved, there are so many trophy wives.
Many candidates traded in their original models for younger, leaner and leggier partners, often producing a second family of adorable tykes so ideal for photo-ops.
I know, a shocking turn of events in Washington.
This does mark progress of some sort.
In the old days, pols rarely married their daughter-age girlfriends. That was because they were still wed to their wives, divorce being a greater political liability than adultery.
Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri, is 40, almost a quarter century his junior. Given to plunging necklines and soaring hems, she will never be mistaken for Laura Bush. The couple have two toddlers, making him one of several AARP diaper dads seeking the White House.
Sen. Chris Dodd, 63, who engaged in a 1985 "waitress sandwich" with Ted Kennedy while their dates were in the ladies room, is another. His second wife, Jackie, is a mere 18 years younger.
As is Cindy McCain, the Arizona Republican's second wife of 27 years. Not being one to endure a marital vacancy, McCain began courting his second wife while married to his first.
Dennis Kucinich's third wife, Elizabeth, has late-night pundits, You Tubists and, well, most males salivating. The former "boy mayor" of Cleveland, now 61, has a babe wife less than half his age.
She is car-crackup gorgeous and — for a change from the requisite blondage — a redhead, resembling Julianne Moore, only better and taller.
Should the Ohio congressman be elected president, Elizabeth Kucinich would become the first first lady with a pierced tongue.
Does a spouse matter in politics? Ask George Bush, whose wife's approval ratings dwarf his. She's taken a pivotal role in criticizing Burma's repressive regime and is now traveling in the Middle East.
Ask Bill Clinton. Or Hillary Clinton, for that matter. Not everyone sees this as a strength when his charisma continues to overshadow. "I think no woman is electable in America, and particularly not Hillary," novelist Mary Gordon observed, "because she is married to this guy whom everyone is libidinally attached to. I think there is unconscious sexual jealousy of her among women."
There's certainly precedent for young wives: Grover Cleveland (27 years younger), James Madison (17 years), Woodrow Wilson (16 years), and John Tyler, who was positively Kucinichian with a bride 30 years his junior. One difference was that Tyler and Wilson were widowers.
"The heart wants what it wants," that great champion of biological imperative Woody Allen proclaimed after romancing his girlfriend's daughter. "There's no logic to these things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that's that."
Biology might suggest that another organ was involved. There may be no logic but certainly an ocean of lust.
Some men may believe that marrying women younger than their children, and siring tots to play with grandchildren, makes them appear youthful. To some folks, it has quite the opposite effect. It makes the men look old, dirty-old-man old, and a bit foolish, like their brains are located southward in their pants.
Then again, the reasoning might be that with a 30-year-old, tongue-pierced, hot wife the whole issue of zipper problems is eliminated. The old guys would simply be too tired from that, and late-night diaper changes.
About the writer: Karen Heller is a columnist for Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may write to her at the Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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