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Monday, January 23, 2012

Gingrich's serial cheating would make him a strong president...wait, what?

Cheating for America-- not on it! 
The fact that Newt Gingrich is running for president, and actually has supporters for that position, makes my brain hurt and my heart sink. It inspires a despondence that I don't care to dwell in, frankly. But I have to admit that the whole discussion about whether he asked his second wife (whom he married after cheating on the first) for an open marriage before leaving her and marrying the woman he was cheating with who became wife #3-- gosh, it's kind of hard to write that out-- is fascinating to me. Apparently the serial cheating is bad, but not as bad as the notion of his having asked for an "open marriage." And let's be clear, if what former wife Marianne says is true, what Gingrich did wasn't asking for an open marriage exactly. The words "open marriage" might have come out of his mouth, but what he was really asking for was to continue cheating with impunity. Reading those words, I could feel the collective cringing of Americans who are actually in open marriages-- a consenting arrangement in which a couple decides together that each of them may have another partner or partners, with explicit permission-- as their lifestyle's reputation went further down the drain.

Newt has, of course, vehemently denied that he did any such thing. He has complained bitterly about the indignity of even being questioned on the subject, as if he wasn't the same man who found it appropriate to lead impeachment proceedings against Clinton for lying about an affair. As if he isn't the same man, running for the nomination of the same party, which trumpets family values as a reason to deny rights to gays. Apparently those family values allow room for serial cheating, divorce, and re-marriage, but not for things like consenting open relationships or affirmation of government-awarded rights and privileges for relationships between two people of the same sex. I admire the intentions of this suggestion on Yahoo! News that Gingrich could become an unwitting argument for gay marriage if elected president by being the living antithesis of family values, but that would both require Gingrich supporters and other opponents of gay marriage to acknowledge their inconsistency and further entrench the notion of gay marriage as somehow being equivalent to serial infidelity. The former is unlikely; the latter undesirable. And anyway, there are plenty of things that make Gingrich an extremely poor choice for president apart from that. Dan Savage-- sex columnist/podcaster, influential gay rights advocate-- has been having a field day with this issue. On Friday he wrote:
Let me be quite clear: Newt wasn't claiming that the story about his six-year affair with a congressional staffer twenty years his junior was false—the third Mrs. Gingrich was there last night—just the story about Newt asking his ex-wife to agree to an open marriage. That was false. (Callista "Devout Catholic" Gingrich was down with the open marriage: "Callista doesn't care what I do," Newt allegedly told his ex-wife.) 
So... Newt Swingrich got a huge round of applause from a GOP debate audience packed with God-fearin', traditional-marriage-lovin', gay-marriage-hatin' social conservatives... for insisting that he cheated on his second ex-wife for six years like a good Christian. He did not ask his second ex-wife for an open marriage. An honest open relationship was never on the table. Newt and Callista's adulterous relationship was grounded in lies and deceit and betrayal from the start and Newt never wavered from that path. Newt never tried to negotiate an agreement—not even a retroactive one—that would have allowed him to sleep around and remain married. Newt did not ask his most recent ex-wife for an open marriage and he won't ask any of his future ex-wives for an open marriage. 
Because that would be wrong. 
Clap clap clap. 
(Who are these friends who knew Newt and his second ex-wife and can "prove" her story is false? Were they present during these conversations between Newt and his second ex-wife?)
...which makes me very curious to hear what Savage thinks about this commentary by a psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, who insists that the "psychological data" of Newt's infidelities would make him a strong president. Seriously. Yes, it's on Fox News...of course. If you don't want to go there, I'll just quote some juicy bits for you:
As I have written before for Fox News Opinion, I don’t think voters belong in a candidate’s bedroom. But the media can’t seem to help itself from trying to castrate candidates for the prurient pleasure of the public.
Yeah, it's the media's fault. For reporting what people (rightly or wrongly) want to hear about, just as they did when it was Clinton's cheating that made headlines. For informing the public, including Ablow, about the thing which Ablow is now going to say presents a good reason to support Gingrich as president.
I will tell you what Mr. Gingrich’s personal history actually means for those of us who want to right the economy, see our neighbors and friends go back to work, promote freedom here and abroad and defeat the growing threat posed by Iran and other evil regimes. 
First, one note on what Mr. Gingrich’s married life, including his history of infidelity does not mean: It does not mean that Mr. Gingrich would be unfaithful to the United States of America or the Constitution of the United States. 
You can take any moral position you like about men and women who cheat while married, but there simply is no correlation, whatsoever—from a psychological perspective—between whether they can remain true to their wedding vows and whether they can remain true to the Oath of Office.
...whatever "remaining true to the Oath of Office" means. It sure doesn't mean invading Iran, so far as I can tell. I agree that from a psychological perspective-- from any perspective-- cheating on one's spouse doesn't mean that one would be a bad president.  It doesn't render a person incapable of working to create jobs, protect freedoms, decrease the deficit, or, you know, legalize gay marriage. Just saying.
I want to be coldly analytical, not moralize, here. I want to tell you what Mr. Gingrich’s behavior could mean for the country, not for the future of his current marriage. So, here’s what one interested in making America stronger can reasonably conclude—psychologically—from Mr. Gingrich’s behavior during his three marriages: 
1) Three women have met Mr. Gingrich and been so moved by his emotional energy and intellect that they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with him. 
2) Two of these women felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married. 
 3 ) One of them felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married for the second time, was not exactly her equal in the looks department and had a wife (Marianne) who wanted to make his life without her as painful as possible.  
Conclusion: When three women want to sign on for life with a man who is now running for president, I worry more about whether we’ll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we’ll want to let him go after one.
My conclusion: Okay, so by that logic Richard Ramirez should be president. The "Night Stalker" who killed thirteen people in 1985 in a campaign of murder, rape, and eye-gouging should be campaigning for president instead, since he receives bags full of mail including marriage proposals at San Quentin where he's been imprisoned for 23 years. Countless women want to "sign on for life" with a serial killer. I'm sure at least some of them are attractive, though I'm not sure why that matters. Ablow seems to think it important. Kissinger famously said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, and that most likely applies to the power to slaughter a dozen or so people with your own hands as well as to (potentially) do so to endless more as president. I'm guessing Ablow is one of those people who likes to complain that "chicks dig jerks" while simultaneously evaluating the worth of every man by the appearance of the women he manages to attract.
4) Two women—Mr. Gingrich’s first two wives—have sat down with him while he delivered to them incredibly painful truths: that he no longer loved them as he did before, that he had fallen in love with other women and that he needed to follow his heart, despite the great price he would pay financially and the risk he would be taking with his reputation. 
Conclusion:I can only hope Mr. Gingrich will be as direct and unsparing with the Congress, the American people and our allies. If this nation must now move with conviction in the direction of its heart, Newt Gingrich is obviously no stranger to that journey.
My conclusion: Okay, I suppose lying in a hospital bed counts as "sitting down." But what about the whole part where he wasn't direct and unsparing up until he was? You know, the cheating part? Should we welcome a president who is lying to us up until he tells the truth, because he finally has concluded that he needs to "follow his heart"?  Gee, Congress, you know...I guess there aren't any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And I knew that all along. But I needed to follow my heart, and tell you the truth. I hope you can understand.
5) Mr. Gingrich’s daughters from his first marriage are among his most vigorous supporters. They obviously adore him and respect him and feel grateful for the kind of father he was. 
When I want to know who in a marriage (or, for that matter, a series of marriages) is the one who actually was aligned with their best interests, I never dismiss evidence of who the children gravitate toward and admire. In this case, they have judged the father who left their family, then remarried twice. And they judge him 10 out of 10. I only hope my own children love me and respect me as much when they are adults.
They probably will, because they're your children. But they might not back you politically, because despite loving you and being directly related, they can see a distinction between respecting you and supporting you for public office. They might be more like John Huntsman's daughters, or more like Rick Santorum's nephew. They might speak out against you or not, depending on a multitude of convoluted factors beyond how they much they care for you. In short, like every other voter, their decisions are their own and there's no particular reason that anyone else should agree with them.
So, as far as I can tell, judging from the psychological data, we have only one real risk to America from his marital history if Newt Gingrich were to become president: We would need to worry that another nation, perhaps a little younger than ours, would be so taken by Mr. Gingrich that it would seduce him into marrying it and becoming its president. And I think that is exceedingly unlikely.
*blurk* 

Yes, I get that that was supposed to be a joke. It earns the envy of lead balloons.

Dr. Keith Ablow, you will not be at all reassured to know, is a forensic, adult, and adolescent psychiatrist as well as head of Dr. Keith Ablow Life Coaching as of May, 2011. One can't help but wonder how successful and happy are the marriages of the people whose lives he coaches, as well as whether Mrs. Ablow does a lot of looking over her shoulder.

ETA: I love this exchange on Dispatches:
Tabby Lavalamp: Shouldn’t Ablow be concerned that during a possible term of President of the United States, Gingrich might want to resign to become President of Paraguay?
eric:  Why, does the US have cancer? 
Randomfactor: Paraguay is nowhere near pretty enough.

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