The world has long applied an unjust double standard to women. One of the most famous is how a woman who is promiscuous is dismissed as a slut while a man who is equally so is lauded as a stud. But in this election year, it seems odd that few have focused on another double standard that is equally troubling.
Many recent reality TV shows have had as an underlying premise that women love money more than romance. First there was “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” followed quickly by “Joe Millionaire,” and “The Bachelor.” Women who repeatedly marry rich men are dismissed as shallow gold-diggers and crass parasites. But why are men who repeatedly marry rich women not portrayed in a similarly unfavorable light?
John Kerry is married to Teresa Heinz Kerry, a half billionaire, whom he married even though she was five years older than him – a practice which, while not unheard of, is certainly highly uncommon for a man who was in his 50s. And before that, he was married to his first wife, Julia Thorne, who, according to press reports, had a similarly huge fortune of over $100 million.
Now, before I go on, let me say immediately that speculation as to why people choose whom they marry is immoral and out of place. I am a tireless advocate of the institution of marriage, and those who marry, especially after a first divorce, should be applauded rather than criticized. My parents divorced when I was a boy and after it became clear that the possibility of their reunion was not realistic, my next desire was that they remarry and not be alone.
This is especially true of someone like Theresa Heinz who was tragically widowed of her first husband when he was killed in a plane crash. It is fortunate that she found love again after a devastating loss.
But I mention Kerry’s predilection to marry extremely wealthy women not to question his motivation but rather to argue that this is proof that he will probably never be president.
If there is one thing we have learned about the presidency of the United States, it is that attaining the office involves immense determination. A man who is prone to taking shortcuts won’t make it there. Just look at some of the office’s most recent occupants.
- Franklin Roosevelt summoned Herculean energy in overcoming the paralysis of polio before he became president.
- John F. Kennedy, while the scion of great wealth, was afflicted with countless ailments, yet he doggedly led a vibrant life.
- Richard Nixon famously raised himself from extremely humble beginnings and a fundamentally anti-social predisposition.
- Jimmy Carter was a self-made millionaire who had a backbreaking work ethic as a peanut farmer.
- George Bush Sr. worked countless government positions – like CIA director, U.N. ambassador, U.S. representative in China, and eight years as vice president before he became president.
- Bill Clinton was orphaned from his father before he was born and rose from the constraints of an unstable upbringing and a drunken and violent stepfather to become an Oxford Rhodes scholar.
- George W. Bush, while born into wealth and privilege, had to summon vast spiritual resources to give up drinking and being directionless and commit himself to a demanding spiritual regimen.
But everything we know about John Kerry tells us he is an opportunist who is prone to shortcuts. He has always searched for instant success.
- When he came back from Vietnam, his shortcut to celebrity came in the form of becoming a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and offering harrowing stories of American service personnel perpetrating war crimes – allegations that he now admits were “exaggerated.”
- He engaged in cheap publicity stunts, like throwing away his service medals – or was it his ribbons? Now, that all worked well to get him on “Meet the Press.” But publicity stunts do not build character.
- To top it off, he married a first wife who could take care of all his financial needs while he focused on a budding political career. When that marriage sadly fell apart, he found the next gazzillionaire just as he was beginning to nurse presidential ambitions.
Now, having a wife who provides you with a private jet and eight multimillion-dollar vacation homes provides for a comfortable life. But is this the right preparation for becoming president?
There is a reason most of us work. Work is redemptive and it brings out our best qualities. The Talmud says that a human being is like an olive: We need to be squeezed in order to produce our best oil. An equivalent secular aphorism reads: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Those who are forced to work learn to be hungry. They learn to triumph over adversity. And they learn the blessings of pointing at an object of their own creation.
People who know John Kerry speak of his aloofness and haughtiness. Indeed, when a man bumped into him while he was snowboarding in Idaho, he famously gave the man a look of austere condescension. John Kerry is not the kind of man who is used to being bumped into. He is not accustomed to common people brushing up against him. Maybe that’s because he never had to endure the diatribe of an employer.
To be sure, that does not mean Kerry never did an honest day’s work in his life. On the contrary, he was a successful prosecutor, lieutenant governor and distinguished senator. But even while he did these jobs, his wives’ wealth always gave him a safety net. He was going to be taken care of whether he succeeded professionally or not.
When I first got married, I thought my parents would help to support me and my wife for our first year together while I studied to complete my rabbinical degree, which is how many of my classmates made ends meet. But my father told me that if I wanted to work in his business, I was welcome. If I wanted to be a rabbi – which was not what he had in mind – I was on my own.
At first, I was upset. My studies consumed my entire day. The tests I was expected to take at the end of the year were complex. I had to be ready. How was I to work? But this dilemma is what forced me to write. I came up with a book idea, pitched it to a publisher, and he agreed to pay me a modest weekly sum over a six-month period until the book was completed. At the time, I thought it was highly unfair that I still had to work after a grueling 12-hour study day. But today, I thank God that writing became an integral part of my life.
Whether Kerry wins or loses the presidency, he will still be living like a king. For most people, that would be a blessing. But for someone who wants to be the president of the United States, having such a significant fallback position is actually a curse.
Alas, there is yet one other important consideration that should get us all thinking. Before they married, Teresa Heinz made John Kerry sign a prenuptial agreement. Which begs the question: If his own wife doesn’t trust him with her money, why should we trust him with ours?