I liked Dana Goldstein’s against the grain reading of The Ides Of March in which she argues that George Clooney’s Governor Mike Morris actually comes through as a reasonable figure of political virtue. His sex life is not, at the end of the day, relevant to whether or not he’d be a good president and his clear reluctance to accept his staff’s various pieces of cynical advice speaks well of him. “There’s no reason, as the movie seems to suggest in its final scene, to feel that voting or working for him would be futile, or that either act lacks basic integrity.”
She does concede that “you wouldn’t want to be married” to Morris, though even here I don’t think it’s totally clear. I wouldn’t want to be married to Morris, but I think we should hesitate to draw sweeping conclusions about other people’s marriages. Infidelity aside, I think most of us would be extremely displeased if our partners adopted the kind of work-and-travel schedule that’s associated with being president of the United States. It’s simply not a job that’s compatible with a traditional view of how a model spouse and parent is going to behave. My dad walked me to school every morning when I was a kid. Sasha & Malia’s dad is on the road this week touting the American Jobs Act. A high-level political partnership is necessarily an unconventional marriage, and we don’t really know anything about the terms of Mr. and Mrs. Morris’ relationship.
Last, I want to note that it’s not apparent what’s wrong with the allegedly sleazy deal to put Sen. Thompson on the ticket. In what universe is an African-American senator from North Carolina not a good running mate for the white governor of Pennsylvania? The problem with Thompson is supposed to be his hawkish views on foreign policy. But obviously a southern running mate is going to have some positions that are to the right of the Democratic party consensus (you saw this when John Edwards was on the ticket) and then do what all VPs do, which is shift their views to align with the party position of lukewarm multilateralism.
The fact that Ryan Gosling’s character is so outraged by the idea of a presidential candidate having an affair with an intern even while having an affair with an intern that he becomes totally unhinged tells us a lot about him, and very little about Gov. Morris.