Thursday, July 08, 2004

Breck Girl Takes On Dr. No

July 8, 2004

Breck Girl Takes On Dr. No


I'm happy for John Kerry.

Long-faced guy, as some Bushies refer to him, finally found somebody to stand at the podium and give him an adoring look.

Heaven knows Teresa was never going to do it. Her attention rarely seems to light on her husband when she's at a microphone with him.

It's sort of mesmerizing, really. She's unlike any other political wife I've ever seen -- unscripted and ready to do as she likes, in her intriguing, world-weary way, even as her second husband introduced his running mate at her adored first husband's 88-acre, $3.7 million "farm" in suburban Pittsburgh. The white-columned colonial mansion and swimming pool were out of sight and bales of hay strategically placed to give a populist touch.

She doesn't gaze like Nancy or glare like Lee Hart or look appraisingly at her husband like Elizabeth Edwards. She doesn't always seem to notice he's there. When Mr. Kerry moves in for a nuzzle or a kiss, she sometimes makes a little face.

She's easily distracted, waving and mouthing "Hello" at the audience and languidly arranging her hair and the red-and-blue "John Kerry for President" scarves she designed.

She siphons attention from a husband who has a hard enough time getting it. Yesterday, she distracted the audience when she seemed to be trying to get young Jack Edwards to stop sucking his thumb. Sometimes she'll laugh and smile in inappropriate places -- she once chuckled while her husband talked about curbing tax breaks for the rich.

Teresa has the air, as Chris Matthews noted, of an old-fashioned European movie star. She projects a quality like Marlene Dietrich or Jeanne Moreau, a sultry touch-me-and-you-die look with an accent to match: a rare political perfume of I don't give a hoot, I'm worth a billion dollars and you're not and he's not and the Bushes are not; of I have four mansions and he doesn't; of I'm so confident I can admit to using Botox and I can wear Chanel while my husband complains about manufacturing jobs' going overseas.

Her detachment seems all the more appealing now that John Kerry can't stop patting and grabbing his new pup, John Edwards. Mr. Edwards awkwardly reciprocates, sliding his arm around the big guy's torso.

(But nothing was as painful as watching Mr. Kerry determinedly trying to cavort on the farm's lawn with the adorable little Jack.)

Ordinarily, the John-John ticket might seem a bit off-putting -- a little too glib, a little too ingratiating, a little too forced, a little too expedient, a little too eager to please. But when the competition is two oilmen who don't seem to want to please anybody but Halliburton and the Saudis -- ask Pat Leahy, Old Europe and the 9/11 panel -- overeagerness is a relief.

It's hilarious that the Republicans are trying to paint their ticket as the more optimistic one.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush radiate negativity, even as Mr. Edwards and his photogenic blond kids glow for the cameras. Dick Cheney glowers for the camera, a Dr. No with a dark vision that has resulted in a gigantic global mess. (When he was stopped by applause at a campaign stop in Altoona, Pa., on Sunday, he asked, "You guys want to hear this speech or not?")

Unfortunately for this White House, it is Mr. Edwards's great talent to talk about the class warfare of "two Americas" in a sunny way. The Breck Girl is already getting under the Boy King's thin skin.

President Bush should have easily knocked a question about Mr. Edwards -- nicknamed the Breck Girl by Bush officials -- out of the park. But he whiffed. Steve Holland of Reuters noted that Senator Edwards was being described "as charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy. How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?"

W. should have given a sly smile and drawled, "You mean you don't find Vice sexy?" Instead, he looked irritated and spit out his answer: "Dick Cheney can be president." Indeed, he already is.

Except for the fact that the Secret Service has already advised journalists to bring "escape hood respirators" to the Democratic convention in Boston in case of a terrorist attack, it looks as if happy campaign days are here again.