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“Something Is The Matter With Kansas”: When Does The Madness End?

Kansas State Representative Keith Esau has introduced a bill that would eliminate no-fault divorce in the Sunflower State. He has some interesting ideas on matrimony:

“No-fault divorce gives people an easy out instead of working at it,” Esau told The Wichita Eagle on Friday. “It would be my hope that they could work out their incompatibilities and learn to work together on things.”

…Esau disputed the suggestion that bill was an example of government overreach. He said the state gives benefits to married couples, such as tax breaks, so couples shouldn’t enter into the institution of marriage lightly.

Moreover, he said, the state has a vested interest in supporting “strong families,” and divorce undermines that.

“I think we’ve made divorce way too easy in this country,” he said. “If we really want to respect marriage it needs to be a commitment that people work at and don’t find arbitrary reasons to give up.”

Of course, one of the immediate effects of this law would be that couples seeking a divorce would have to face-off in court and point fingers at each other. Either that, or one of them would have to accept the blame for their failed relationship.

Divorce is tough on kids, but nasty divorces are toxic.

But this isn’t even the worst bill that was considered in the Kansas House this week.

On Tuesday, the Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a measure designed to bring anti-gay segregation—under the guise of “religious liberty”—to the already deep-red state. The bill, written out of fear that the state may soon face an Oklahoma-style gay marriage ruling, will now easily pass the Republican Senate and be signed into law by the Republican governor. The result will mark Kansas as the first state, though certainly not the last, to legalize segregation of gay and straight people in virtually every arena of life.

If that sounds overblown, consider the bill itself. When passed, the new law will allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Private employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality. Stores may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations—movie theaters, restaurants—can turn away gay couples at the door. And if a gay couple sues for discrimination, they won’t just lose; they’ll be forced to pay their opponent’s attorney’s fees.

Unlike Rep. Esau’s idiotic no-divorce bill, the anti-gay measure will actually become law. Most likely, the federal courts will strike it down as unconstitutional, but that won’t prevent Republicans in Kansas from wasting money defending it.


By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 15, 2014

February 17, 2014 Posted by | LGBT, Marriage | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Wingnut For Everyone”: Nowadays, Every Fringe Group Has Its Republican Politician

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is pretty much detested by women in Virginia — Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who once left his crying wife and their infant child in a car so that he could make an appearance at a fundraiser, currently leads Cuccinelli among women by 12 points — but he’s got the support of some of the men who used to be married to some of those women, according to this Washington Post story. The “fathers’ rights” movement, a small but vocal group of men fighting for deference in the divorce, child support and custody process, is firmly behind Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has represented the former leader of a local group in a custody case, and when he was a legislator he supported the fathers’ rights policy agenda.

Cuccinelli is not specifically, openly pro-fathers’ rights (and to be clear, the No. 1 “fathers’ rights” issue is wanting to pay less child support). His support for their agenda is honestly more about his opposition to legal divorce, something else he doesn’t talk about much anymore.

“If you are sued for divorce in Virginia, there’s virtually nothing you can do to stop it,” Cuccinelli said in 2008 to the Family Foundation, a socially conservative Richmond-based advocacy group. “This law has everything to do with the breakdown of the family. The state says marriage is so unimportant that if you just separate for a few months, you can basically nullify the marriage. What we’re trying to do is essentially repeal no-fault divorce when there are children involved.”

As a state senator in 2005, Cuccinelli offered a bill that would have made it so parents initiating a no-fault divorce could have that action counted against them “when deciding custody and visitation.” The measure never came to a vote, but Cuccinelli won praise from Stephen Baskerville, then-president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, for fighting against the no-fault divorce “epidemic.”

On the one hand, banning no-fault divorce is a strange priority for a modern supposed conservative, committed rhetorically to lessening the intrusion of the state into private affairs. The notion that people ought to be able to associate (or disassociate) willingly without the interference of the government is supposed to be the core belief of these guys, I thought. But on the other hand, banning divorce does make more sense, as a policy priority, than preventing gay marriage, for people whose justification for anti-gay beliefs is a desire to make sure that the “traditional” link between marriage and child-rearing is maintained.

But whether or not Cuccinelli is personally pro-”fathers’ rights,” he has their support and has voted the way they like. He does not have a lot of company — even psycho Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed legislation supported by fathers’ rights groups — but they got Cuccinelli, and he might be the next governor of Virginia.

This is truly a golden age for conservative fringe groups. No matter how obscure — or widely reviled — your pet cause is, it’s now easier than ever to find a Republican politician, often a fairly prominent one, willing to support it, or at least allow you to believe that he supports it. Republican politicians now aren’t just responsive to the desires of the big interests, like oil and gas. Nowadays a pol on the make is willing to fight for almost any crazy cause.

If you’re a “fathers’ rights” guy you have Ken Cuccinelli. If you’re a neo-Confederate you have the Paul family. If you’re a hardcore goldbug, you have, well, the Pauls again, but also sometimes most of the rest of the party, it seems like. If you love dogfighting, you have Steve King. If you’re the government of Georgia you have John McCain, though it’ll cost you. (If you’re the government of Malaysia you have whatever conservative pundits you can afford.)

The hardcore Shariah-fearing Islamophobes have their stalwart allies. The Austrian economists are made to feel welcome by major GOP figures. A party that can make room in its tent for the pro-dogfighting lobby has room for any white person with a crazy grievance. And if it weren’t for the fact that most of what these people want is terrible, this would almost be admirable. Because on the other side, the Democrats barely ever listen to some of the biggest and most “mainstream” elements of their political coalition, like the labor movement and environmentalists. The Republicans indulge everyone, which surely makes being a crazy conservative feel much more satisfying. Unfortunately it also generally leads to horrible laws.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, August 29, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Newt Gingrich’s “Open Marriage” Request Matters

Here’s the problem with yet another men-behaving-badly story that  came out Thursday, the one in which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne  Gingrich, told ABC and the Washington Post that he asked her for permission to have an affair, or as she put  it, an “open marriage.” When she  refused, he divorced her and hasn’t spoken to her since. And this was after he asked his first wife  for a divorce when she was suffering from uterine cancer, in order to marry his  second wife. Gingrich said at last  night’s debate that the “open marriage” story is false, but given his history  of affairs and divorces, Marianne Gingrich’s allegations strike me as  credible. Who knows what the truth  really is between two people, but if I had to pick, I’d believe Marianne  Gingrich’s version over Newt’s version. Her allegations fits with the track record he’s got: you just never know  what’s going to come out of his mouth—including asking for an “open  marriage.”

Anyway, here’s the problem: most voters don’t think divorce is a   deal-breaker when it comes to voting for a candidate. We all know people  whose lives have fallen  apart and whose marriages have collapsed, for  any number of understandable  reasons. And frankly, most of us really   don’t care about candidates’ personal lives or dating habits. But what  voters  do object to in an elected official is an attitude of “the rules  don’t apply to  me.” That’s why we don’t like  politicians who don’t  pay their taxes, or who hire illegal workers, or who use  official funds  for personal expenses. It  explains the lingering resentment many  people had for late Sen. Ted Kennedy after  Chappaquidick, for example.  And while  many misbehaving politicians eventually get caught and  punished for their  deeds, it’s that arrogance that started it all that  gets people so mad.

This also explains why so many people are uncomfortable with the   latest revelations about Newt Gingrich’s past. Clearly he doesn’t think  the rules apply to him at all. Being a rule-breaker may be a good  thing—in terms of innovative solutions, policy proposals, and even  campaign decisions  that defy conventional wisdom—and Gingrich is  certainly that way. But when it comes to questions of character  and  integrity and doing the right thing, the rules are there for a reason.  Too many people in Washington these days put  themselves ahead of all  else. The number of times Gingrich uses the word “I” is  remarkable, and  there’s a reason he’s constantly comparing himself to great  figures in  history. He’s got a  grandiosity, an arrogance about him, that is  striking. His ego is huge.

If it’s true, there’s a sentence in the Post story that says   volumes: “He said the problem with me  was I wanted him all to  myself,” Marianne Gingrich said. “I said, ‘That’s what marriage is.'” On so many levels, Newt Gingrich doesn’t  think the rules apply to him.  He’s big,  too important, too historic a figure in his own mind, to live  by the rules the  rest of us do. In that sense, Newt Gingrich  will  never be one of us.


By: Mary Kate Cary, U. S. News and World Report, January 20, 2012

January 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Newt’s Family Values: A Chicken In Every Pot, An “Open Marriage” In Every Household

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in 1999 asked his second wife for an “open marriage” or a divorce at the same time he was giving speeches around the country on family and religious values, his former wife, Marianne, told The Washington Post on Thursday.

Marianne Gingrich said she first heard from the former speaker about the divorce request as she was waiting in the home of her mother on May 11, 1999, her mother’s 84th birthday. Over the phone, as she was having dinner with her mother, Newt Gingrich said, “I want a divorce.”

Shocked, Marianne Gingrich replied: “Is there anybody else?” she recalled. “He was quiet. Within two seconds, when he didn’t immediately answer, I knew.”

The next day, Newt Gingrich gave a speech titled “The Demise of American Culture” to the Republican Women Leaders Forum in Erie, Pa., extolling the virtues of the founding fathers and criticizing liberal politicians for supporting tax increases, saying they hurt families and children.

“When a liberal talks about values, will he or she actually like us to teach American history?” Newt Gingrich told the women’s group. “Will they actually like young people to learn that George Washington was an ethical man? A man of standards, a man who earned the right to be father of this country?”

Appearing at a campaign event in South Carolina on Thursday, the former speaker called the interview by his ex-wife “tawdry and inappropriate,” and refused to answer any questions about it.

“I’m not going to say anything about Marianne,” he said, as his third wife Callista stood a few paces behind him.

Marianne Gingrich said she was speaking out for the first time this year because she wanted her story told from her point of view, rather than be depicted as the victim or suffer a whisper campaign by supporters of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid.

“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?” she said.

Asked about the timing of the revelations, she said she had had so many requests for interviews that “it was unavoidable.” She said that during a campaign season, “I knew I wouldn’t get through this year without” doing the interview.

The Gingrich campaign spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

In the four weeks after that 1999 phone call, Marianne and Newt Gingrich saw a counselor. During that time, he seemed to vacillate about what he wanted to do. Marianne  Gingrich had learned the name of his then-paramour, Callista — now his wife — though Newt Gingrich never talked about her by name.

Newt Gingrich asked Marianne for an “open marriage” so that he could continue to see whoever he wanted. Marianne Gingrich, who had attended services in a Baptist church with Newt Gingrich, refused.

She said she decided to go public when she heard someone make derogatory comments about her on a radio program.

“Truthfully, my whole purpose was to get out there about who I was, so Newt couldn’t create me as an evil, awful person, which was starting to happen,” she said.

She talked on video for two hours to ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross, an edited version of which will be broadcast on Thursday night’s “Nightline,” and a transcript of which was released today. She laughed when told that some were reporting that she had a “bombshell,” and emphasized that many of her views of Newt Gingrich and his political positions are positive.

In anticipation of the interview, Newt Gingrich told NBC’s “Today” show that his divorce was a private matter. He said his daughters from his first marriage had written a letter to ABC News asking the network to spike the broadcast.

“Intruding into family things that are more than a decade old is simply wrong,” he told NBC.

Newt Gingrich has said that he has asked God for forgiveness, but Marianne Gingrich said he has not spoken to her since the divorce.


By: James V. Grimaldi, The Washington Post, January 19, 2012: Contributions by Nia-Malika Henderson and Alice Crites

January 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Family Values | , , , , | 1 Comment

Newt Gingrich: Hospital Divorce Story Is A Lie, Except That It Isn’t

GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich (oh how I love typing that!) is fighting hard to negate much of the baggage that will bedevil him over the coming year. Like the story of how he accosted his first wife with divorce matters while she was recovering from surgery at a hospital.

To try and rewrite that bit of his sordid history, Newt enlisted his daughter Jackie, who was 13 at the time of the incident, and apparently claims no talk of divorce occurred at that hospital visit.

For years, I have thought about trying to correct the untrue accounts of this hospital visit. After all, I was at the hospital with them, and saw and heard what happened. But I have always hesitated, as it was a private family matter and my mother is a very private person.

So what did she see and hear at that hospital visit?

[H]ere’s what happened:My mother and father were already in the process of getting a divorce, which she requested.

Dad took my sister and me to the hospital to see our mother.

She had undergone surgery the day before to remove a tumor.

The tumor was benign.

As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued.

Notice anything missing? Yeah, pretty much everything that happened at that visit. And there’s a reason she might want to skip any details. They were as nasty as advertised. Here’s her mother recounting the (then-unchallenged) event to a reporter for the Washington Post, Jan. 3, 1985 (ellipses are in the original article):

“He can say that we had been talking about [divorce] for 10 years, but the truth is that it came as a complete surprise,” says Jackie Gingrich, in a telephone interview from Carrollton. “He’s a great wordsmith . . . He walked out in the spring of 1980 and I returned to Georgia. By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said Daddy is downstairs and could he come up? When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from the surgery . . . To say I gave up a lot for the marriage is the understatement of the year.”

Yup. The reality is a lot harsher than the new sanitized version Newt and his daughter are peddling. A Newsweek reporter actually challenged Gingrich on this:

When the subject came up in my conversation with Gingrich, he urged me to read Jackie’s column. I told him that I had, and suggested that the actual story of that day, as recalled in contemporaneous accounts, was more complicated. Jackie, a cancer survivor, was in the hospital for the removal of a tumor, which proved benign. According to the Gingriches’ pastor at the time, the Rev. Brantley Harwell, Gingrich brought his daughters to visit their mother, and while he was there, he began discussing particulars of the proposed divorce settlement—“division of property, alimony, that kind of thing,” Harwell would recall. (Harwell, who recounted his version of events in 1995, died this summer.) A bitter argument ensued, which Jackie later discussed with her pastor and others.

So how does Newt square away his new claim that the hospital story is a big lie, with the fact that it wasn’t?

“I haven’t disputed that there was an angry discussion,” Gingrich says now. “We got into an argument. Now, how many people do you know going through a divorce end up occasionally getting into arguments? That then got spun into its worst possible interpretation.”

Well, so much for claiming that story was a lie.


By: Markos “Kos” Moulitsas, Daily Kos, December 12,2011

December 13, 2011 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 3 Comments

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