Callista Gingrich can breathe a sigh of relief—Newt has pledged not to cheat on her. Sure he presumably made such a pledge before God when they exchanged marital vows, but now Newt is making his promise before a higher power, a social conservative group called The Family Leader.
Per Politico, Gingrich initially declined to sign Family Leader’s pledge on marriage and abortion over the summer, but has, in his own Newt way, signed on by way of a lengthy letter supporting the various stipulations of the marriage pledge. He writes in part:
I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.
As a general matter, the proliferation of signed campaign pledges (including the godfather of them all, Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge) is generally pernicious. The only pledge an office-holder should be bound by is his or her vow to support and defend the Constitution. Other iron clad pledges only serve to circumscribe the options available when a pol leaves the campaign trail and has to actually govern.
But even in the spectrum of signed pledges, this one is dumb. Put aside for a moment the fact that a politician’s personal life is frankly irrelevant and unrelated to actual policies.
Suppose for a moment that you believe the state of a politician’s marriage is actually relevant to his or her fitness for office. Does anyone honestly believe that Gingrich (or any other politician) will pull himself back from the brink of cheating because it would mean breaking his vow … to The Family Leader?
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, December 13, 2011
The revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child a decade ago with a woman who was not his wife—a disclosure that comes just a couple of years after we learned that onetime Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had done the same thing—begs an important question:
Exactly what century are we in?
The issue here isn’t even why a married person would have sex outside his or her marriage, which is not an infrequent occurrence now or at previous points in history. It’s not even about how a public person thinks he or she could behave that way without anyone finding out. Edwards, after all, was castigated for doing something so reckless and foolish during a time when he was under intense media scrutiny. But the fact that Schwarzenegger was able to keep this a secret for the entire time he was in the governor’s mansion is astounding, and suggests maybe Edwards wasn’t as delusional as some people thought.
But has it not occurred to these men to use a condom? Birth control is readily available. It’s legal. It’s simple to use. And it limits the fallout from an affair. Learning of a past sexual dalliance would understandably be very upsetting to a spouse. Learning that a child was produced from the union is devastating and adds a living, breathing reminder of the episode, a pain compounded by the fact that it is not the child’s fault that he or she is a walking symbol of marital betrayal.
But seriously, if a woman approaches a man and says, “you are so hot,” as Rielle Hunter reportedly said to Edwards, does it not occur to the man that she might not mind having a permanent connection to the candidate a child would secure? And what was Schwarzenegger thinking when he had sex with someone who actually worked for the family? Did he not consider the possibility of pregnancy?
Perhaps the use of birth control adds to any guilt the men might feel; if the episode is planned, it is more difficult to convince oneself that passion was to blame. It’s sort of the counter-argument to those who believe that providing birth control to sexually active young people will give them ideas about sex they wouldn’t otherwise have. More likely, they are thinking about sex, and while it may not be wise to engage in sex at a young age because of the emotional implications, the physical consequences of sex without birth control are far more serious. One would think adult men would know that by now.
By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, May 18, 2011
Nobody wants to run for the presidential nomination. Mike Huckabee said God told him to stay on Fox News. NBC told Donald Trump to stay on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Whatever happened to putting your country first? Our forefathers would never have passed up the presidency for anything less than the Charlie Sheen role on “Two and a Half Men.”
The Republicans are terrified that they’ll wind up with Mitt Romney, who has been fund-raising like crazy and seems to be planning a campaign based on the slogan: “Money can’t buy love, but it can definitely purchase a grudging, defeatist acceptance.”
Some party leaders are looking hopefully at Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, who’s promised to make up his mind this month. If he runs, one thing you are not going to get from Mitch Daniels is the politics of joy. Have you ever seen “Game of Thrones” on HBO? It’s about a mythical kingdom that sends some of its young men to the remote tundra to live in perpetual celibacy and guard a 700-foot-tall wall of ice. Their reaction is very similar to the way Mitch Daniels looks when he talks about running for president.
Daniels is apparently worried that a presidential run might prove embarrassing to his wife, who ditched him and the kids and ran off to California to marry a doctor and then later recanted everything and came back. I think it is pretty safe to say that this topic might come up.
Which brings us to sex. What is it with Republicans lately? Is there something about being a leader of the family-values party that makes you want to go out and commit adultery?
They certainly don’t have a lock on the infidelity market, and heaven knows we all remember John Edwards. But, lately, the G.O.P. has shown a genius for putting a peculiar, newsworthy spin on illicit sex. A married congressman hunting for babes is bad. A married congressman hunting for babes by posting a half-naked photo of himself on the Internet is Republican.
A married governor who fathers an illegitimate child is awful. A married governor who fathers an illegitimate child by a staff member of the family home and then fails to mention it to his wife for more than 10 years is Republican.
A married senator who has an affair with an employee is a jerk. A married senator who has an affair with an employee who is the wife of his chief of staff, and whose adultery is the subject of ongoing discussion at his Congressional prayer group, is Republican.
We haven’t even gotten to Newt Gingrich yet!
Gingrich is the best-known of the second-string Republicans who are ready, willing and eager to take on Romney for the nomination. The question is whether social conservatives will resent the fact that he was having an adulterous relationship with his current wife while she was a House of Representatives staffer and he was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair. Also, this week, Politico reported that in 2005 and 2006, Gingrich had an account with Tiffany’s that sometimes ran to $500,000 in debt.
Never have we had sex issues with so many layers. It shows you how far we have evolved as a nation. In the old days it was: Warren Harding making whoopee in the presidential coat closet: yes or no?
Really persistent sexual misbehavior says something about the character of the person involved. In Gingrich’s case, we have a failure-to-settle-down problem that extends way beyond matrimony. He can’t even hang onto a position on Medicare for an entire week. This man is a natural for an occupation that rewards attention deficit. Maybe God actually meant to tell Newt to stay on Fox News, but accidentally shipped the message to Huckabee.
As to Governor Daniels, the voters are unlikely to give a fig about the interesting past of his wife, Cheri. But if he wants to protect her from the embarrassment of being asked about it 24/7, perhaps he could just declare her off limits. The news media has generally respected those kinds of rules when it comes to presidential candidates’ children, as long as said offspring don’t show up on reality shows or as teen-abstinence ambassadors for a shoe store foundation.
Of course, a wife who is off limits would not be able to campaign for her husband. I think that would be terrific. Finally, we could end the tradition that a presidential candidate’s spouse is running for something, too. If we want a first family to obsess over, we should just hire a king and queen.
Don’t know how the social right would feel about this. But there’s always Mitt Romney.
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 18, 2011
Part of the price of keeping the government operating this week is another debate over the financing of Planned Parenthood. Whoopee.
At least it’ll give us a chance to reminisce about Senator Jon Kyl, who gave that speech against federal support for Planned Parenthood last week that was noted for: A) its wild inaccuracy; and B) his staff’s explanation that the remarks were “not intended to be a factual statement.”
This is the most memorable statement to come out of politics since Newt Gingrich told the world that he was driven to commit serial adultery by excessive patriotism.
The speech in question was Kyl’s rejoinder to the argument that Planned Parenthood provides a critically important national network of women’s health services.
“You don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,” Kyl declared.
Planned Parenthood says that abortions, which are not paid for with federal money, constitute 3 percent of the services they provide. That’s quite a gap. But only if you’re planning on going factual.
Anyhow, that was definitely a high point. Next year, Kyl is retiring from the Senate and returning to the private sector, where he will have leisure to contemplate that this was the single moment of his public career for which he became nationally famous.
But there’s another part of Kyl’s speech that’s more significant. Take a look at the “good” nonabortion services he does mention. They don’t include contraception, which seems strange since Planned Parenthood has definitely gone public with its association with family planning.
And he’s not alone. Senator Patty Murray, one of the leaders of the defense of Planned Parenthood in the Senate, says that she doesn’t remember any of the lawmakers who wanted to strip Planned Parenthood’s funds mentioning that they supported contraception services. “They just lump everything into one big basket with the word ‘abortion,’ ” she said.
This is important because it speaks to a disconnect in the entire debate we’ve been having about women and reproduction. For eons now, people have been wondering why the two sides can’t just join hands and agree to work together to reduce the number of abortions by expanding the availability of family-planning services and contraception.
The answer is that a large part of the anti-abortion community is also anti-contraception.
“The fact is that 95 percent of the contraceptives on the market kill the baby in the womb,” said Jim Sedlak of the American Life League.
“Fertility and babies are not diseases,” said Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, which has been fighting against requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives under the new health care law.
Many anti-abortion activists believe that human life and, therefore, pregnancy begin when the human egg is fertilized and that standard birth control pills cause abortions by keeping the fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This isn’t the general theory on either count. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as beginning with the fertilized egg’s implantation. Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood says that the pills inhibit the production of eggs or stop the sperm before they reach their destination. “There is absolutely no direct evidence that there is interference with implantation,” she said.
Beyond the science, there’s the fact that many social conservatives are simply opposed to giving women the ability to have sex without the possibility of procreation.
“Contraception helps reduce one’s sexual partner to just a sexual object since it renders sexual intercourse to be without any real commitments,” says Janet Smith, the author of “Contraception: Why Not.”
The reason this never comes up in the debates about reproductive rights in Washington is that it has no popular appeal. Abortion is controversial. Contraception isn’t. A new report by the Guttmacher Institute found that even women who are faithful Catholics or evangelicals are likely to rely on the pill, I.U.D.’s or sterilization to avoid pregnancy. Rachel Jones, a lead author of the report, said the researchers found “no indication whatsoever” that religious affiliation has any serious effect on contraception use.
What we have here is a wide-ranging attack on women’s right to control their reproductive lives that the women themselves would strongly object to if it was stated clearly. So the attempt to end federal financing for Planned Parenthood, which uses the money for contraceptive services but not abortion, is portrayed as an anti-abortion crusade. It makes sense, as long as you lay off the factual statements.
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 13, 2011