Public people, private lives
The official media punditocracy and the blogosphere will no doubt follow true to form and scoff about the revelation that Patrick considered resigning early in the first term as the coverage of mistakes sent his wife Diane into a depression.
It was clearly a bad time -- inappropriate calls to Ameriquest, symbolic missteps in refurnishing the Corner Office and adhering to State Police to get a Cadillac as his official car. But Patrick reveals the mistakes were amplified by the go for the jugular mentality that defines today's media-politician relationship.
It was apparently the Ameriquest call and the reaction that pushed Diane Patrick over the edge:
“Diane awoke after a fitful sleep,’’ he writes. “She nudged me awake and said she just couldn’t face another critical story. She began to cry and shake.
“When I asked her what was wrong, she said, ‘I just hate this. I hate this. This is what the next four years are going to be like.’ ’’
The need to personally destroy candidates -- made into garden sport by George H. W. Bush advisor Lee Atwater and practiced by dark arts masters of both left and right -- is one of the major reasons the quality of debate in our country has plunged, along with the quality of candidates.
It is no longer enough to criticize policy: there's a need to demolish the individual (birther anyone?). Right wing radio has been especially adept at this practice from the early days of the medium, but has sharpened its skills -- and fangs -- in the last two decades.
We often wonder what has happened to the real leaders of this nation. The answer is we have pushed them out of the arena by unrelenting and frequently personal attack, questioning not just their policies but their very existence.
Barack Obama correctly characterized his portrayal as that of a fun-house mirror image. It's time we leave the amusement park and return to the real world.
But someone I suspect we won't.