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Don't Cry for Me, Argentina


NAME THAT PLOT: An ambitious, publicly principled but morally crippled politician with aspirations for higher office has a hidden but longstanding extramarital affair while in office. His wife, moneyed or ambitious in her own right, not only knows of her husband's indiscretion but also puts up with it as long as it does not bring embarrassment to her or damage her own priorities. Is it...

A) All My Children's DA (Kieran Campion) and wife Madison (Stephanie Gatschet)

B) General Hospital's Mayor Floyd (John Bolger) and wife Andrea (Martha Bryne)

C) South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and wife Jenny

D) All of the Above

Here's a hint: the correct answer is not A, B, or C....(continued)

I don't know about you, but to me there are few things more thrilling in the soap world — even when they are a tad bit macabre — than when real life imitates daytime dramatic art. Most of the time, soaps wind up chasing events such as the odd election story; As the World Turns' badly written election story featuring Luke timed to coincide with the 2008 general election comes to mind. Sometimes a soap is just barely ahead of the social political discourse curve, such as Guiding Light's still-much ridiculed 1998 cloning story (I actually liked it) which was preceded by the 1996 real-life cloning of Dolly the Sheep, an event that exploded into still-debated controversy over human bioengineering that rages to this day.

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For all of the sometimes justified flack that soaps recieve for outlandish plots like people returning from the dead multiple times, freezing the world, and satellite controlled brain chips, there are less heralded times when soaps and the real world collide as a matter of happenstance, providing us with at times something resembling schadenfraude.

I refer of course to today's jaw dropping news that Mark Sanford, Republican governor of South Carolina and speculated Presidential hopeful for 2012, disappeared for about a week without telling anyone and in the process left his state without an installed leader, which in turn forced his staff to lie on his behalf: He's hiking in the Appalachias! No, he's writing a book! Wait, uh, he just go in from Argentina? And, of course, Gov. Sanford admitted he had been in Argentina — Buenos Aires, "the Paris of South America," to be exact — having an affair with someone he called "a dear, dear friend." Well, I would hope so, given that he flew 4934.5 miles (more or less) to be with her, leaving his wife and four kids pouting over a cold Father's Day cake. The whole sad affair makes Jon & Kate look like The Brady Bunch.

Of course, daytime has two partially politically-based imbroglios full of sexual shenanigans, unfaithful politicos, and their long suffering wives (are there any other kind?) going on right now. The first is All My Children's super-duper young DA North prosecuting and persecuting Kendall (Alicia Minshew) for the murder of Stuart. North seems to have had a thing for beautiful hookers of color (Randi, Denise Vassey), despite being married to his very wealthy and very beautiful young wife. It must be noted that Mr. Campion as North and Ms. Gatschet as Madison are bringing a great deal of life to otherwise poorly developed and rushed characters in a storyline that gets more convoluted literally by the hour.

The other, and vastly superior, political story on General Hospital involves the increasingly-it-looks-like-murder of the unknown Brianna Hughes, the mistress of the mayor of Port Charles. This couple is portrayed as two ambitious people whose marriage of political convenience is something of a cross between Macbeth & Lady MacBeth and the Clintons, which might seem a redundant comparison to some. One half expects Andrea as Lady MacBeth to shout, "Out, out, damned spot!..What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt?" as she washes Brianna's blood (and maybe Ric's (Rick Hearst)?) from her cold hands and plots her schemes to save her husband's career, as well and more importantly, her own future. How eerie was it that Mayor Floyd's explanation about his feelings for Brianna echoed Gov. Sanford's words about his real life mistress at his press conference? I, for one, am marveling at Ms. Byrne's so-far breathtaking, multi-layered performance while Mr. Bolger, who was generally consigned to the role of Snarling Mayor, got a chance to really shine in today's episode.

While the tales of North, Floyd and Sanford exist in the broad strokes of Cheating Politician cliché, the similarities that do exist are startling: powerful men with underlying low self-esteem seeking more power undone by their restlessness, egos, and hypocrisies; their wives — bedecked in pearls and smart, conservative jackets — consigning themselves to living public lies in order to conceal the private indescretions of their spouses and advance his (and possibly their) own stations in life; and plot twists that make no sense in what we consider "the real world." In fact, the Sanford scandal is far more outrageous than anything happening on AMC or GH! 

In their own ways, these stories recall Brutus from Julius Ceasar: "The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power...But 'tis a common proof that lowliness is young ambition's ladder."

All the world's a stage, indeed.