John Baer: Who didn't see this coming?

Posted: February 08, 2011

TO THOSE who know Ed and Midge Rendell - heck, to the Philly world at large - word that they are finally splitting is no surprise.

How long has this rift been rumored? Five years? Eight years? Longer?

I remember past calls and e-mails from "impeccable" sources who knew for absolute certain that papers were filed or that Midge had moved out of the governor's mansion or that Eddie no longer went to their East Falls family home.

The difference is, this time it's true.

And while no one can know or pretend to know the nature or full scope of anyone else's marriage or relationships, a few things here seem evident.

For one, the split comes scant weeks after Ed leaving office, suggesting that the couple publicly held together as long as possible to avoid the distraction of an incumbent's and a first lady's private lives overshadowing their public duties.

As a federal judge, Midge is, by nature of her job, more publicly insulated than as first lady.

For another, the split, delicately announced as "amicable" in e-mails yesterday to friends and devoid of the word "divorce," suggests no hard feelings so much as a mutual recognition that, not unlike Al and Tipper Gore, they chose, even after so long a partnership, to go their separate ways.

Ironically, the Gores split last year after 40 years of marriage; the Rendell's split now, in the 40th year of their marriage.

At least Ed and Midge never shared a passionate, nationally televised kiss and embrace as Al and Tipper did at the 2000 Democratic convention in L.A.

Perhaps that's because, as a federal judge, Midge is barred from attending overtly political events, such as conventions.

There are those who suggest that Ed pushed her appointment for that reason.

For, while there is no mention in yesterday's e-mail of reasons for the Rendells' split, it's impossible to ignore the elephant - or, more appropriately, given Ed's politics, the large donkey - in the room.

It is hard to imagine that Ed's well-earned reputation for cultivating the company of attractive women, especially tall blondes, was not a factor in the couple's decision.

Such cultivation was documented for years in news stories and photos, and most famously in a Philadelphia magazine photo last July: a seated and grinning then-guv posing with friend, employee and former Miss Pennsylvania Kirstin Snow draped over his shoulders.

It was a photo that said more than any number of written words. It might have been the proverbial last straw.

It couldn't be explained away as some media cheap shot or the work of a political enemy. It was a formal picture for which he posed.

Many women asked me why Midge allowed it, or what's Rendell's problem, or why do they stay together. Many men, simply, seemingly enviously, shook their heads while uttering some version of "Eddie being Eddie."

I suspect comments today on blogs, e-mails and around water-coolers will include a fair share of "he's a pig" and she's "a classy lady" who deserved better, and, of course, "it's about time."

Meanwhile, Citizen Ed, with six or seven paying jobs probably producing more income than he got combined as a public servant, is on his own.

He seems the same. Yesterday, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" (one of his new gigs), he was his usual suggestive self with the show's attractive blonde co-host, Mika Brzezinski.

As she argued excitedly with co-host Joe Scarborough over media treatment of Barack Obama, using the words "freakin' " and "slather," Rendell giggled and repeated each word in the background, along with "I love it . . . Mika's on a roll."

Which, like yesterday's Rendell e-mail, is no surprise at all.

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

www.philly.com/JohnBaer. Read Baer's blog at www.philly.com/BaerGrowls.

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