The late great George Frazier, stellar and oh-so-unique columnist at the Boston Globe, coined the adjective "duende", that special force or characteristic that makes someone or something irresistibly attractive. "So difficult to define," he wrote, "but when it is there it is unmistakable, inspiring our awe, quickening our memory. To observe someone who has it is to feel icy fingers running up and down our spine."
This aura is alive and well, especially in the world of politics. John F. Kennedy had it, as did Franklin D. Roosevelt (the ultimate father figure), Robert Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower ("he led us to victory"). So did Bill Clinton, which leads me to an inevitable comparison between him and Anthony Weiner, who most decidedly does not. The scandals surrounding both men are strikingly similar, yet one survived while the other is imploding.
Clinton's sexual escapades were not confined to one woman. They culminated with the Monica Lewinsky affair. When confronted with unequivocally damning evidence, he denied the obvious, choosing to parse his words and embarrass a nation. He was impeached by the House of Representatives and his anguished appearance betrayed his attempt at confidence. His wife did not embrace him. She distanced herself but did not divorce him.
Clinton did more than just survive. His popularity is as high today as it ever was. He is on top again, and the reason he was able to so remarkably recover was his face. It's magnetic. I once saw him up close at London's Heathrow airport and must admit that I was quite taken by his star quality. He had the face easy to like. He had duende.
Weiner's situation, at least allegation wise, is not dissimilar. He sexted to more than one. He steadfastly denied wrongdoing until incontrovertible evidence was uncovered. His wife stands publicly by his side, to her own political detriment. And yet, his political career has plummeted to pieces. He did not mind the gap and has fallen upon the third rail. It's because of his face. It's unlikeable and off-putting. He doesn't have duende.
My readers will undoubtedly scoff at this notion as a ridiculous over-simplification. And well it might be, for I doubt that this post shall challenge the writings of Plato. But take a step back and think on it a bit. It ain't as crazy as it sounds.
Which is probably why I would never have made it in politics.
Hark! I doth mock myself.