I’m back. There was talk of walking out on top after the marriage announcement heard ’round the world. Did I feel a little guilty about putting them on blast to the entire world? Yeah, I did. Did they deserve all the harsh words spewed at them from everyone from The Daily Mail to Bravo? No. But I had a realization – these announcements aren’t normally about the couples themselves but more a judgment of the insufferableness of The New York Times’ coverage of them.
So let’s step out of the past and move into the present and enjoy this week’s marriage announcement from The New York Times.
For Obama’s Speechwriting Team, the Message Finally Got Through
When Kristen Bartoloni came on board as a researcher on the White House communications team in 2011, there was one rule she was intent on following: Don’t mix dating and work.
Can’t dip your pen in the company ink, guys. But based on the fact that this is a fucking marriage announcement, I’m going to guess that these two crazy kids bumped uglies and decided to make it legit.
“I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea of why I was there,” she said.
Who does she think she is? Yeah, lady, everyone thinks you just happened to get a job for Obama purely to get some from another staffer. Hop out of that ivory tower.
But she hadn’t anticipated meeting the very persistent Cody Keenan, a speechwriter whom President Obama nicknamed “Hemingway.” Still, she adhered to her self-set rule through three attempts by Mr. Keenan to get her to go out with him.
Well at least this guy is probably humble and down to earth. Nothing screams, “Here’s some free confidence!” like a fucking president nicknaming you after the greatest American author of our time. What we do know about Hemingway, though? Dude loved babes, so perhaps that’s why this horndog got the nickname. Respect.
Mr. Keenan, who had begun working for Barack Obama in the early stages of his 2008 campaign for the presidency, was smitten from the moment Ms. Bartoloni popped her head into his office to say hello.
Considering this guy probably spends 14 hours a day in the office and another four hours a night getting blasted on The Hill, he was probably pretty pleased to see a little biscuit like her roll into his office.
“We met literally on her first day of work,” said Mr. Keenan, 35. “I have it in my calendar: June 27, 2011. It was midday or late morning. We worked in offices next door to each other. And her boss brought her around, and there was a knock on my door, and I noticed how pretty she was. I remember saying, ‘Wow.’”
As opposed to meeting figuratively on her first day of work, eh, Hemingway?
Researchers like Ms. Bartoloni are the speechwriters’ safety net, poring over every word, parsing every sentence, challenging every assertion — striving to ensure everything the president says is correct.
Just what you’re looking for in a wife – someone that pores over your every word, parses every sentence, and challenges every assertion you have. Have fun losing every argument from now until the end of time, my man.
As such, Ms. Bartoloni and Mr. Keenan began working together very closely. “She is paid to tell me I’m wrong,” he said, laughing.
For being someone smart enough to write speeches for Barry, cannot fathom how he thought this was going to be a good idea. This is like me dating a nun who didn’t approve of me drinking two bottles of wine during a casual Saturday in.
She noticed that he was particularly witty in his email, and they quickly developed a warm rapport.
Just a little work flirt turned work wife turned actual wife scenario. Can’t imagine White House HR was stoked about that.
“We took email conversations to our personal email and started talking there, about random stuff. What are you doing this weekend? Not anything monumental,” said Ms. Bartoloni, 30.
Classic Dems, man. Just taking things offline to their personal emails. And was that ‘monumental’ nod a pun for hitting the Washington Monument? Because if so, barf.
Also serving as an incubator for lifelong attachments was the hothouse atmosphere of the White House.
“The nature of these jobs is you spend more time with each other than with your families,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication and Mr. Keenan’s close friend.
That’s the nature of any job, Ernie. You spend nine hours a day at work and three hours a night with the ones you love. That’s the miserable world we live in. Don’t act all high and mighty because you work for a president, bro.
Presidential speechwriting means working long hours, and fact-checking those speeches means Ms. Bartoloni’s work continues into the wee hours after the speechwriter completes the work.
You know who else canoodled with their coworkers after hours in The White House? Bill Clinton. Guess how that worked out for him.
It was quickly clear to those in the West Wing that Ms. Bartoloni and Mr. Keenan were of similar temperaments. She, too, seemed to always be willing to work harder and stay later.
“Work harder” and “stay later.” So easy to make a joke about this that I’m not going to make a joke about this.
An assistant to Mr. Rhodes at the time, Ferial Govashiri, noticed Ms. Bartoloni and suggested to Mr. Rhodes that she would be a perfect match for Mr. Keenan.
Love his assistant Ferial’s move here. Easiest way to get your superior’s job? Triangulate a sex scandal that puts his head on the chopping block.
The differences between the speechwriter and the fact-checker also seemed to add to their attraction.
Katie Munroe, who went to American University with Ms. Bartoloni and now works for a law firm, said, “She has a very magnetic personality, and is such a happy, positive person that people like Cody, who can be pretty serious, are drawn to her.”
When people hear the phrase “fact checker,” they immediately think “happy, positive personality.” Same goes for auditors and funeral home directors.
In early October 2011 Mr. Keenan challenged Ms. Bartoloni to a bet. She had questioned a sports reference in one of his speeches. If he was correct, he explained, she would go out for drinks with him; if he was wrong, he would go out for drinks with her.
This couple, man. Hey Hemingway, just pull the trigger and ask her out dude. Making a bet like that is on par with me asking my 8th grade girlfriend out using a game of Hangman.
She was proved right, but she decided against collecting. She didn’t believe that dating in the West Wing was a great idea, especially for women. He dropped that line of inquiry, for a time.
What a tease. You can’t just be flaunting the goods and making bets you can’t fulfill when you’re in this position. Meanwhile, Assistant Ferial is just sitting at this desk pounding his fist that these two haven’t gotten together yet.
On Halloween they went to a mutual friend’s birthday party. Ms. Bartoloni was dressed as the N.B.A. lockout in a Knicks jersey with a big lock around her neck. Mr. Keenan thought she was particularly attractive that night and was emboldened to ask her out one more time.
As a noted hater of Halloween, I think we can all agree that her costume was just awful. But when Hemingway saw her in an oversized NBA jersey that brought him back to his college days, you bet your ass he was straight vibin’ at that mixer.
He wasn’t terribly worried about mixing work and play. He had had a number of relationships with no such conflict, but they had not worked out so well.
Maybe these relationships weren’t working out because, oh, I don’t know… they were with coworkers? But yeah, go ahead and keep beating that dead horse.
“I was aware of the hazards, but also willing to risk them for her,” he said. “I was nervous. I had already asked her out once in kind of a ‘no big deal’ way, but this was the first time, I think, that I had the courage to make a serious request.”
Once, twice, three times a lady, Ernest. In the fashion of the Super Bowl losing Carolina Panthers, just #KeepPounding.
So: Would she be willing to join him for a drink sometime?
Again the answer was no, and she clearly explained to him her rule on work and dating.
At this point, the fear has to start creepin’ in. Is she just not that into him, or is she playing hard to get? I’m saying the latter, because well, they got fucking married.
Though she believed it was the right choice, she had become a bit wistful about it. They did have great fun together, and she worried that the easy interplay between them might shut down. It didn’t. “He was still the nice, kind person he was when we first started talking,” she said.
Well, yeah, of course he was still nice. He’s trying to get his and you’ve been stringing him along this entire time. Say what you will about fact checkers, but they know how to play the game of love.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, got to know Ms. Bartoloni better during a presidential trip to Indonesia and Australia, when they worked in concert for several days. Upon their return, Mr. Rhodes told Mr. Keenan that his assistant’s hunch had been exactly right: Ms. Bartoloni was perfect for him.
The house of cards that Assistant Ferial has constructed is finally panning out. In his mind, he’s already penning one-liners for Obama that are making the nation erupt in laughter and then explode in tears.
Mr. Keenan admitted that he had already asked her out twice without success.
Yet on Dec. 1 of that year, when Mr. Keenan again asked Ms. Bartoloni, the “no” was uttered a little more regretfully.
Everyone knows that the best time to start a love story is in December with Christmas coming up. No one wants to go home single over the holidays and have the entire dining room table whipsering about what’s wrong with them. Incredible stuff coming from Hemingway during the happiest time of the year.
“The third time, we were at a co-worker’s birthday party at a place called Hill Country Barbecue,” Mr. Keenan said. For Mr. Keenan, a huge Chicago Cubs fan, three strikes were enough.
Classic baseball pun there from The New York Times writer. I don’t think she realizes that after three strikes you’re actually out, though. So in essence, Hemingway would’ve had to go to the dugout. But hey, keep swinging, New York Times writer. You’re doing great.
But Ms. Bartoloni had begun having serious second thoughts. As Christmas neared, she kept thinking about him. She didn’t want an office fling, but she wondered if the rapport between them may extend beyond Pennsylvania Avenue.
Remember what I said about Christmas coming? Trust me, I’ve been there. Just because they’re in DC doesn’t mean the Cuffing Season rules don’t apply to them.
“It kept nagging on me after I said no at Hill Country that I was making a mistake,” she said. She talked it over with friends, who all had the same opinion. “They said, ‘You’re being ridiculous,’” she said. “‘He’s great. He’s better to you than your ex-boyfriends were.’”
What a vote of confidence – “He’s better to you than your ex-boyfriends were.” Always what you want to hear from the ones you love when you’re getting courted by a dude. They might’ve well just said, “Well, he doesn’t treat you like shit. Go for it!”
So, during an email exchange with Mr. Keenan the day after the third no, she spared him the need for a fourth time and said yes, she would go out with him.
During an email exchange? Come on. You work in the office over. When he got that email, he probably slowly walked to the door, shut it, and started silently celebrating and fist pumping.
“When I emailed the next morning, and he responded with a joke, I just decided to go for it, kind of impulsively,” she said. “I wasn’t 100 percent at that point, but I was sure it wasn’t going to be a short-lived fling.”
Impulsively? You can’t use that word to describe the situation when you’ve been courting each other for months now. This was a long time coming.
That week, she invited her friend Julianna Acos to a White House Christmas party, partly so she could offer a second opinion on Mr. Keenan. “She wanted me to vet him,” said Ms. Acos, who gave her seal of approval. “He was amazing: so affable, so friendly.”
Yes, she just fact-checked her fucking boyfriend by bringing in reinforcements. Incredible stuff.
Ms. Bartoloni agreed to meet Mr. Keenan at a bar in her neighborhood, but she showed up two hours late. That wasn’t a problem, though: Mr. Keenan understood how hard it can be to get away from the White House pressure cooker.
…two hours late? So was Hemingway just getting blasted on brown drinks the entire time? What type of self-respecting dude sticks around for two fucking hours to see if their date shows up? She probably intended on ditching him and thought, “Oh, my date was two hours ago. Yeah, Sheila, let’s go grab drinks there. No way that poor sap will still be hanging around.”
When Ms. Bartoloni finally arrived, she dug into a grilled cheese sandwich. The two talked until the bar closed at 2 a.m.
Just. Dug. Into. It.
That became a trend: Every time they went out, the conversation was nonstop. They were always the last to leave.
Say what you want about Hemingway, but this guy is not a closer. Between staying until last call every night and getting asked out by her after three failed attempts, he’s lacking the clutch gene.
On their second date, standing outside an Irish bar in Washington’s Chinatown, Mr. Keenan hailed a cab. As the taxi pulled up, she turned toward him, tugged on his lapels and kissed him.
So after all that sexual tension, they didn’t kiss until the second date? Like I said, Hemingway lacks that closer mentality. Sad, really.
For a while, though, she wanted to keep the relationship from her colleagues (though she informed her boss), but it’s hard to keep that sort of thing secret at the White House for long. (Mr. Rhodes said everyone knew pretty quickly but pretended otherwise.)
Assistant Ferial was probably going desk to desk whispering, “You won’t believe who just got together.”
In February of 2012 Mr. Keenan surprised Ms. Bartoloni with Knicks tickets (she’s a lifelong fan). In June she took him to a cousin’s First Communion in Staten Island and introduced him to her extended Italian-American family.
Ah, that explains her awful attempt at the NBA Lockout Halloween costume. If it was anything but a Charles Oakley jersey, I can’t support it.
Among those on hand was Matt Bartoloni, Ms. Bartoloni’s brother, who recalled that his sister had always been passionate about what she believed in. She had championed gender equality, for example, since elementary school. “I remember she wrote a letter to the N.B.A. commissioner saying there should be a league for women,” Mr. Bartoloni said.
I don’t know why, but I laughed out loud at the notion of championing gender equality since elementary school. Yeah, it’s great. But I feel like she probably just wanted to play professional basketball rather than be the next Susan B. Anthony.
Indeed, if there are characters from the TV show “The West Wing” that match Ms. Bartoloni and Mr. Keenan, it may be the self-assured Amy and the almost-too-smart Josh.
Mr. Keenan started saving for a ring in 2013. “I just kind of knew all along,” he said.
Saving for a ring, huh? And all this time I thought government cheddar was endless.
Mr. Keenan’s proposed to Ms. Bartoloni atop Rockefeller Center in June 2015. He had to resort to a ruse to get her to Manhattan (she loves her work and hates leaving Washington, he said). So he told her that he had received an invitation to the finale of the “Saturday Night Live” season. (Cecily Strong, the S.N.L. cast member who hosted the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, agreed to send him an invitation.)
Nailing down tickets for the SNL finale is the only thing this guy has closed on in the last two years.
Briefed on Mr. Keenan’s proposal plan, President Obama had only one piece of advice: an umbrella. (And it did rain that night.)
Glad our tax dollars are being spent on Barack game-planning this dude’s engagement. I do love imagining him bringing it up to Obama only to have Barack say, “I don’t know, Hemingway, I’m fucking busy. Just bring an umbrella in case it rains on your parade.”
Afterward, he took her to the Campbell Apartment at Grand Central Terminal, where her family and friends were waiting at a surprise engagement party. “I knew she’d want to call her mom and cousin, and instead I had them all in one place,” he said.
Her mom and cousin? Man, must’ve took a lot of leg work to get all those people in one place, Ernest.
On July 3, the couple married at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. As guests filed out in a light drizzle, the couple slipped away to the White House, where they met the president for a congratulatory hug and photo.
Only assholes get married on holiday weekends, especially July 3rd. No one wants to be hungover on the best day of the year, nor do they want to fork out for flights to attend a wedding and not get faded on a pontoon boat.
That evening Mr. Keenan, who now is chief speechwriter, and Ms. Bartoloni, now deputy director of research and rapid-response adviser, gathered with guests at a reception at Bluejacket brewery near Nationals Park.
No word on what Ferial is doing, but I really hope he got a promotion when Hemingway got promoted to chief speechwriter.
A few days before the wedding, Mr. Keenan said of his bride: “She’s made me a better listener. I like to think I’m a better person knowing her.”
Those are the words of a man whose been beaten down by losing every argument they’ve had because he married a fucking fact checker.
He said that they had never known life together outside the White House, but that they would both be unemployed the same day come January.
Yeah, I’m sure you two will be struggling to find work. I feel so bad for you going from eight years of working in The White House to just slumming it on the streets of DC.
They plan to take off for two months and travel, being free for the very first time to turn off their cellphones and turn, exclusively, toward each other.
Too bad she hates leaving DC or that would be a great idea.
Luckily for all of us, Obama had some words to pass along to the happy couple.
President Obama, who served as an unpaid adviser for Mr. Keenan’s romantic aspirations, offered some thoughts about the couple’s union:
“Cody and Kristen complement each other very well, even though he clearly married up,” the president said in a statement. “Michelle and I will take credit for bringing them together, but we’re thrilled for them, and we hope their life together is as full as ours has been. “One of the blessings of this job has been to see so many idealistic young people who’ve worked for us get married and start families of their own. We feel very parental toward all of them.”
Love that even on the happiest day of their life, Obama is taking credit for this non-closer’s aspirations and accomplishments. Obama also congratulated them using Wrigley Field’s marquee, which was a power move considering he was a huge Mets fan. .
[via The New York Times]