Whenever Dennis Kucinich spoke, all eyes pivoted in his direction. In everyone’s mind was a single question: Who is that tall, attractive, red-headed woman standing behind him?
I am not gratuitously bringing this up.
At least, not more than anyone else over the past few years.
Kucinich, by himself, was a colorful figure. But Mrs. Kucinich was, if not a national obsession, then certainly a treasured District landmark. Like the pandas and the cherry blossoms, we knew that we would not keep her forever. In the meantime, everyone was mesmerized.
The perpetually boyish former mayor of Cleveland and two-time Democratic presidential contender has many quirks. He’s vegan. He proposed a Department of Peace. He saw a UFO and said Jimmy Carter had seen one too. He wanted to impeach Dick Cheney.
But Mrs. Kucinich was something completely different.
D.C. is generally, they say, Hollywood for ugly people. There is possibly one member of Congress with abs, and this revelation left us so excited that we tore off his shirt, flung him onto magazine covers and then castigated him for a lack of seriousness.
Image and message are important, but the District set tend to be known for quirks other than “being, simply put, quite excellent genetic specimens” — say, their prematurely orange hue of hair or skin (Reagan or Boehner), or their preternatural resemblance to beached whales (any number of people).
This does not stop us from commenting obsessively on everyone’s appearance. We make lists of the Most Attractive Folks on the Hill. We obsess over Michele Bachmann’s manicure and Michelle Obama’s outfits. The penguin flocks of men largely escape scrutiny — every so often, their hair comes in for comment — but back in the ’90s, one Hillary Clinton hair would move slightly to the left, and we’d have to stop the presses.
So we had no real idea of what to do about Mrs. Kucinich — five inches taller than her husband, British, and 30 years his junior. Saying the obviously true — that she was an excellent example of genetics who could easily have made it in the other Hollywood — seemed dangerous and potentially sexist. But it was indisputable that she livened up a room. Even “The Daily Show” noticed. When Mr. Kucinich waxed lyrical about their courtship, we could forgive him.
In December 2007, The Post’s Libby Copeland wrote:
So if the six-term liberal congressman is nearly invisible during his second presidential run, if his tall, elegant, improbable wife receives most of the press, if cameras cut to her face during a presidential debate, and rival candidate Sen. Joe Biden says, “Dennis, the thing I like best about you is your wife,” and reporters schedule interviews to ask about her tongue stud, and “The Daily Show” does a segment about how hot she is . . . if she is the reason people stop and stare — well, so be it.
He is just as wowed by her.
Here is an excerpt from a 2007 ABC article: “At first sight, the couple stands out. She's tall; he's short. She's in her late 20s; he's in his sixties. She has a tongue ring, the congressman does not.”
Yes, we were obsessed.
On Tuesday night, when Mr. Kucinich lost his primary battle to the long-serving fellow incumbent Marcy Kaptur, Twitter erupted in mourning. He can’t go! Then we’ll lose Elizabeth! “But do we get to keep MRS. Kucinich?” asked Boston radio host Michael Graham
(Kaptur will be taking on Joe the Plumber in the general election, in case voters were worried that things might get boring.)
We can picture a congress without Mr. Kucinich, colorful as he was. But without Elizabeth? That’s more difficult. If she goes, our average attractiveness as a city is going to plummet.
Look, it’s not that Mr. Kucinich was not interesting — even for a congressman in the era of Frank. But who was that behind him?