That's the theory anyway. The most obvious flaw in this line of reasoning is how little we really know about even the most famous relationships. "Most of the information that we have about what a marriage looks like on the inside is just public relations," says Frank Pittman, a psychiatrist and family therapist in private practice in Atlanta and the author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy. Any couple can smile for the cameras, but that doesn't tell us much about their internal dynamics. And even if a couple is indeed happy, there’s no guarantee of wise leadership.
By all accounts, George and Laura Bush have been loving, faithful partners for nearly 30 years. That hasn’t prevented his approval rating from sinking because of the disastrous Iraq war. On the other hand, Bill and Hillary Clinton certainly had a far more troubled relationship during their White House years. Yet, even after the 1998 impeachment vote, Clinton's approval rating skyrocketed to 73 percent—not only his personal best, but also higher than Ronald Reagan’s peak. Voters evidently thought the Monica mess mattered far less than the fact that Clinton presided over the greatest period of economic prosperity in modern American history.
As the 2008 election begins to heat up, we're once again being barraged with slick presentations of a new set of marital histories. From the Clintons' purportedly repaired relationship to Mitt and Ann Romney's fairy tale love story, they're all carefully packaged to highlight the positive. But this time around, there are a few new twists. When Bill and Hillary first appeared on the campaign trail in 1991, their dual-career relationship was groundbreaking. She was as well-educated as he was, prompting the campaign slogan: "Buy One, Get One Free." This year, the other major Democratic candidates could make that same two-for-one claim. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, is a hospital executive, who, like her husband, has a degree from Harvard Law School. John and Elizabeth Edwards met when both were students at the University of North Carolina Law School; she is also the author of a well-received autobiography, Saving Graces, about her battle with breast cancer and the emotional struggle to overcome the death of their 16-year-old son.