An irresistible pry into the family life of our politicians. MacPherson, a Washington Post feature writer, likes the frank wives, including Betty Ford (on the subject of how often she sleeps with the president: ""As often as possible""). The book is catty about Marian Javits' pretensions to Culture, and chafes at the ""Team Wives and True Believers,"" like Joan Mondale, who ""said with an automatic smile, 'I bask in reflected glory.'"" Many granges still exist among political wives, but they deserve some pity: Nixon had a habit of greeting Pat during public reunions with a handshake. Wit, beauty and money, on the other hand, crop up now and then. (cf. Senator Philip HaWs wife Jane and Congressman John Heinz's wife Teresa). The political husbands (Abzug, Chisholm) are chiefly distinguished by their devotion. Marriages that ended--McCarthy, Mandel--are scrutinized, along with the resentments of almost every politician's child (""'We feel it's the quality of time you spend with kids, not the quantity,'"" Lloyd Bentsen ""said with a profound look""). MacPherson insists that most politicians really are narcissistic, power-mad and married to their aides; ordinary infidelities are not neglected here (LBJ was crazy about Lady Bird nevertheless) but at book's end come some exemplary couples like Gaylord and Carrie Lee Nelson (he's no egomaniac) and Frank and Bethine Church (she loves politics). The final moral is provided by Nixon: private virtue never ensures public merit.