It’s late at night, a time for reflection. Like his father before him, a well-known and still-aspiring politician has retired to a lonely desk to commit his most private thoughts to his diary, which some day may be published for a large amount of money and read by thousands. It is a loose-leaf diary, which is good because it allows for certain revisions of one’s innermost and spontaneous thoughts. You can never be too careful, you know.
One word made all the difference: betrayed . My people said that I felt “betrayed” by my wife’s behavior. We selected that word with great care. Notice that we didn’t say she was “unfaithful.” Notice that we didn’t say she was “negligent” as a mother. Notice, in fact, that the word instantly made me into a sympathetic figure-the cheated-upon, broken-hearted husband. That word appeared high up in The Times story, as we knew it would, and everybody noticed.
It worked like a charm. Within a day, every tabloid reporter worth his or her soiled undergarments was sniffing around to find the co-betrayer, and with a little help here and there, they found him. And I won again, because now they’re writing stories about her using the words “cavorting” and “polo-playing boyfriend.” And me? Oh, I’m just broken up about it all. (Reminder: Get the guys to commission a poll soon to find out how the married-woman-with-children vote splits on this one. My guess is that I’m ahead.)
Once “cavorting” and “polo-playing boyfriend” made their way into the stories, all I had to do was sit back and watch. I knew nobody would remember that just a few months ago, I made a great show of dropping out of the Governor’s race because I refused to go negative on Carl McCall. (That was a hoot!) Now here I am, going negative on the mother of my children. And who comes out looking bad? She does.
Nobody ever gives me credit for being crafty. No, that’s what they say about them -those other people, with their inherited money and good looks and alleged style. Me, I’m supposedly the guy who takes care of business with a sledgehammer. But I’ll show them.
This is no different from a political campaign, which is no different from war-except you don’t get to use real bombs and bullets. But the goal is the same: total destruction of the enemy. And now they’re the enemy, and they’re out of practice. It shows: How could they not have expected me to find some yo-yo in the tabs willing to attack my wife for being a bad mother? God, that one was almost too easy. Don’t they remember what happened to Donna Hanover when Saint Rudy (who wasn’t yet beatified at the time, never mind canonized) decided he wanted to be rid of her? The yo-yos were out in force, slandering Donna because she wanted to be an actress when she should have been home with the kids, making chicken soup for Rudy’s soul. I seem to recall Rudy’s lawyer making a rather rude reference to Donna’s emotional state. The phrase “hanging on to the chandeliers” comes to mind. Now that’s the way to spin a divorce!
And who comes out looking dirty? The woman, of course. You have Donna Hanover, whose husband the saint was catting around on her, hanging on to the chandeliers. And now the yo-yos attack my wife because-get this-she went to India to help the poor, leaving the kids with Grandma.
But nobody says anything about the fact that I was running around the state for a couple of years trying to be Governor-and before that, there wasn’t a photo-op anywhere in the country that I’d pass up if I thought it would help me. (Remember that one of me carrying a hunting rifle? Those upstate gun owners had to know that I wasn’t just another gun-hating Democrat!) Does anybody ask me where my kids are if I’m campaigning in the suburbs of Watertown? Heck, no-I’m a man!
I know this is a risky strategy, and things could get out of control. Some reporter loyal to them will attack me or my motives. They have their people out there, and I know who they are. But in the long run, I have to spin this problem so that I preserve my political viability. Is that so wrong? This is what I do for a living. It’s all I ever done.
One of the guys in my camp just called to warn me that I might lose points in the next poll I take. Shows you how much he knows-as far as I can tell, I can’t lose any popularity points.
It’s a mathematical impossibility.