Fathoming People’s Emotions and Motives from Afar

Someone who works closely with Michelle Obama recently told me that Michelle is "a huge bitch."

In Lee Siegel's column about Elizabeth and John Edwards, which is stellar, he notes, "No matter how sophisticated we seem to get about social stereotypes, we fall right back into them as soon as their pleasure beckons. Elizabeth Edwards was a 'saint.' Now she’s a monstrous bitch. That’s how high-status women have been perceived for as long as anyone can remember."

Elizabeth Edwards is back in the headlines thanks to a new book about the 2008 presidential campaign where there's a chapter devoted to the Edwards' marriage. She comes off as…a monstrous bitch:

At one point during the 2004 presidential race, she “snarled” at the people who were scheduling her appearances: “Why the fuck do you think I’d want to go sit outside a Wal-Mart and hand out leaflets?”

To which Siegel offers the logical reply: Well, why the fuck would she?

Halperin and Heilemann [the authors] are veteran political reporters. Surely they know that such language and tantrums are as common in political campaigns as their opposite: sheer, calculated niceness.

Siegel says he doesn't defend Elizabeth's outbursts, but it's "appalling to tear her out of her context and turn on her now because we idealized her before."

What's more, deconstructing the dynamics of a relationship we have no part of is a fool's errand:

A friend of mine once said that the only two people who know what’s going on between a man and a woman are the man and the woman themselves. He was half right. The man and the woman—or man and man, woman and woman; it’s all the same—are the last to know. The idea that we can precisely fathom people’s emotions and motives is absurd. We can barely comprehend our own. Maybe pretending that we understand what makes our political figures tick is how we console ourselves for not understanding our politics at all.

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