Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Updated June 16, 2004: 5:00 am, revised 4:35 pm

Teresa Heinz Kerry tells us she is, "Sexy and Cheeky." Perhaps it could be a lively campaign, after all. If there is a debate between Teresa [always marry a John] and Laura, how will the current First Lady respond [Naughty for a librarian, but nice]?

John and Teresa, the Odd Couple? A December-October Marriage. Feminists like Kerry because he married up, in more ways than one? Can we count on the Chicago Tribune to enforce the “Public’s Right to know?

Now I know why so many people watch the Network News and why it is so “trusted,” [more on the trust issue in a few days]. The Network News 2-CBS Evening News watchers learned yesterday that John Kerry, Presidential Candidate and 60 [not minutes, but] years old, describes his wife, Teresa, as “saucy, sexy and brilliant.” Okay, anybody married and in that general age cluster knows you might try “sexy and brilliant,” for your spouse, but “Saucy,” I don’t think so. That is really pushing the envelope. Especially for a woman who likes to wear shawls.

I mean, talk about Old Europe. Actually, I guess the Teresa shawls are more new Europe. That should count for something with Don Rumsfeld. However, people say Kerry looks French. So, maybe John and Teresa blend New and Old Europe, the Kerrys' base, so to speak. Maybe they are not such an odd couple, after all-- kind of a European Union-- or as the mathematicians might correct us-- European Intersection.

And how does Teresa self-assess? “I mean, I’m cheeky, I’m sexy, whatever. You know, I’ve got a lot of life inside.” [She told the CBS Evening News, June 15, 2004]. I’ll say, I mean Teresa Heinz Kerry, 65 years old, has been around the block a few times. First, she was married to the now deceased Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, John Heinz, from whom she inherited most, I believe, of the 500 million dollars she is now worth and Teresa now runs a billion dollar foundation named after Senator Heinz, and of course, is trying to help Senator John become President. But, in terms of being Sexy, she had a Newsweek cover picture in the last month or two that made her look 22-- Botox, anyone? or just good old fashioned touch up photography? Trust me, I know Teresa, and that was no Teresa].

Notice how that 500 million dollar figure keeps coming up in Democratic politics. Blair Hull, who wanted to be the Democratic Senator from Illinois, sold his business for about 500 million dollars, but he personally received only somewhere between 300 and 400 million dollars. Senator Jon Corzine, having spent about 70 million dollars of his own wealth to elect himself to the U. S. Senate has a net worth, I believe, at least in the 500 million dollar range.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with possessing wealth, assuming it was obtained legally. But I get a sense that many Democrats, like Hull, Corzine and George Soros, don’t feel good about all that wealth—that is, there is that guilt about time wasted earning money, instead of redistributing it. You see, that is a difference for people like JFK [Kennedy, although I suppose Kerry fits a bit, too] and Teddy. Having inherited it, they didn’t have to feel guilty about having wasted time seeking great wealth[although, there is that bootleg whiskey history behind a good chunk of the Kennedy money]. Most Republicans, on the other hand, have no guilt about accumulating wealth, as long as it was obtained legally. This stems from their fervent belief in the free market, including the market to marry well, which some Republican pols, of course, have done as well.

Now, as to Teresa Heinz Kerry, having been born to some of her wealth, and married a lot of it, there was no time wasted on earning her wealth, so she has no guilt. You have heard of guilt free chips—Teresa’s is guilt free wealth. However, that history might lead to a mistaken and inaccurate perception of wealth creation by Teresa. It could explain why she is not exactly "supply side," notwithstanding her prior association with someone whose wealth came from putting Ketchup on the table, somebody who understood that in a free market, demand creates its own supply [turning Say's Law on its head].

So, I ask you, shouldn’t we know more about Teresa’s good fortune, so to speak and potential conflicts of interest, as she is a potential First Lady. Or, should it be enough that John and she have disclosed that she is one saucy, sexy, cheeky Lady?

Talking about cheeky, Teresa at first claimed she should not have to release her tax returns. I mean, she was caught thinking for a minute like the Republican she once was, "I am Teresa Heinz Kerry," can't they just trust me." Sounds like something VP Dick Cheney might think , or even say. But, Teresa, even President Reagan said: "Trust, but verify." And, of course now that Teresa is a Democrat, what about the Public’s Right to Know? Shouldn’t we know whence the Wannabe First Family is getting its money and how it is spreading it around? Of course, the Heinz Foundation's financial doings, which Teresa also runs, might be even more relevant- but that is for another blog entry.

So after some uncharacteristic pouting, Teresa relented, telling the great unwashed that she would release her tax returns in October-- four months from now. But, how can this be? Isn't it part of the Democratic mantra that Justice Delayed is justice denied. Disclosure Delayed is disclosure denied. I mean, if Teresa wants cheeky- we'll be cheeky.

Further, Teresa is putting her foot down, on the public's grasping, fingers, that is. Apparently, Teresa is claiming her children [three sons with Senator Heinz] will be shut out from the First Family. Sons, but not really a part of this First Family. Teresa said defiantly to those who call for full disclosure, “Anything that I have that is joint with my children, I will not divulge. Period.” Now, that is cheeky, with a double E.

What does that mean? If Teresa shares a joint ownership of a company with her kids, 98% held by her, 2% by her kids—it won’t be disclosed? Well, I am not sure what it means. Did the CBS Evening News inquire? Did the trusted network news ask the tough questions, once it got past saucy, sexy and cheeky? Where is that hard charging Dan Rather when we need him. I don’t know where Dan is. And, if CBS did ask the financial disclosure follow-up questions, it didn’t tell us.

But, one thing I know for sure. If someone declines to disclose, say child custody records, we can depend on the Chicago Tribune to file suit to obtain access. You know, First Amendment, Public’s right to know, etc. So, I expect the Chicago Tribune to file suit tomorrow [in Massachusetts] to compel Teresa Heinz Kerry to disclose her tax returns now, and her documents and returns regarding her wealth that is jointly held with her kids-- that will be sought, too.

I mean, Teresa is 65, saucy, sexy and cheeky. The Kerrys agree on that. But, who can battle the Chicago Tribune? Bruce Dold, Tribune Editorial Page Editor, has told us: Almost everybody has to make all of his [her] divorce/child custody records public, so why shouldn’t U. S. Senate candidates, he argued on WTTW? [Dold didn’t distinguish between divorce and child custody documents; will he now distinguish between the First Lady wannabe and the President wannabe?]. I mean, apparently, the Chicago Tribune thinks this should be the kind of stuff on which Senate campaigns turn.

As luck would have it, The Tribune is expecting an answer by the California Judge this week to its request to order the public disclosure of the Jack Ryan child custody files. I am sure the documents will tell us a great deal about the formulation of Jack Ryan's domestic and foreign policies, which I understood to be what the Tribune Editorial Board thinks voters should consider, along with the formulation of Barack Obama's domestic and foreign policies, before voting. The legal foray by the Tribune is a bit hard to reconcile with its pious pronouncemnts, is it not? Makes you wonder why the Tribune took this to the California court, does it not? To know such answers, didn't Deep Throat tell us to "Follow the money."

In any case, perhaps having resolved that effort to insure the "Public's right to know," the Chicago Tribune can now turn the attention of the Tribune's legal eagles to the Kerrys and the Public's Right to Know about that potential First Family. And, if the Tribune can't win in state court or federal court, perhaps the Tribune can win in the Court of Public Opinion. Perhaps the Tribune will pursue this in the courts and on its editorial pages, but you will understand if I don't hold my breath.

Trivia question: Is Teresa the only person to have married two U. S. Senators, and from two different political parties-- which would make Teresa a switch hitter, as she once was married to a Republican and now, of course, is married to a Democrat. The Ds will perhaps serenade Teresa at the convention in Boston, “Once she was lost and now she is found.” Me, I sure would like to find 500 million dollars.

Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at