The public lives of private couples

Writing about his and Barack Obama’s favourite book Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals in his blog today – http://www.alastaircampbell.org/blog.php  – Alastair Campbell  makes the important  point that great leaders like Abraham Lincoln would never have survived the 24/7 rolling news culture and the intense public scrutiny of political life at the top.

Lincoln and his cabinet were riven by feuds and political disputes but because these arguments and rivalries were not magnified by daily and nightly news, these men could still sruvive and govern, strengthened by what came out of the clash of dissenting views.

It  occurs to me that that you could apply a similar argument to many private relationships lived out in this same 24/7 culture.Some of the strongest partnerships, surely,  are characterised by regular argument and quite fiery clashes. But these require privacy to be properly resolved.

But expose a couple to the prying lens of the media and the gossip columnists and something else happens; an ordinary row becomes public fodder; very few people can row back from that.

There’s something peculiarly humiliating about having the world observe you sulking and certainly screeching. And once captured on camera, it enters the bloodstream of the  You tube culture for ever.

Any couple entering public life should wise up to this asap. If possible they should  a) try and keep the dissenting/combative elements of their relationship alive but b) do everything they can to keep everyone else away from their disputes, while at the same time accepting that  c) life often doesn’t quite work out like that.

Good luck to the Obamas on this one, as on so much else.

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