Of Marriage, Commitment, Politics and Presidents
By Red Dirt Kelly on January 19, 2012
Early this morning I scanned an article covering details of the ABC interview with Newt Gingrich's ex-wife, Marianne. In the referenced video clip as well as accompanying quotes in a Washington Post article, the former Mrs. Gingrich reports among other things that:
- Gingrich asked for an "open marriage" arrangement,
- that he had been involved in a long-term affair with his legislative aid at that point,
- and that soon after this conversation he moved forward with divorce proceedings even though she had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the doctor had warned about stress-inducing situations.
(Photo: Newt Gingrich in his early days of professorship at the University of Georgia. Courtesy of Andrew Blaznett)
I was in a bit of a hurry and wanted to scan a few other sources, but right before I signed off I quickly noticed a quote that weighed heavily on my mind. Returning to review it again this evening, I now can only find one source for this quote which is interestingly the "Daily Mail" out of the United Kingdom. Here's the sentence:
Last year, she said in an interview: 'He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don't have to be connected.'
At first I wondered about the credibility of the quote because it appears it was pulled from the original article I saw this morning. I looked through eight other sources who reprinted most all the information from the Washington Post article and none of them had this particular quote line, nor anything along the "actions vs ideas" issue.
I can't know if the journalism entities decided to only focus on the new interview information, if there is a problem with the credibility of the quote, or if it was pulled for general editing purposes. But that sentence, I felt, is the core of the big question about Gingrich...and, about ourselves.
Does he believe what he says in public and how he lives have to be connected? And, do we?
Arguably, the U.S. congressional context is designed so that it places a huge strain on any committed relationship. Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate spend a great deal of time disconnected from their spouses and families, from the communities they represent, and from the core of what made them who they are. How long before they are influenced so greatly by the mindset of the City on the Hill that they make compromises? They spend sometimes eighteen hours per day with legislative staff and aides, members who lobby for various interests not only from across the U.S. but even around the world, living on little sleep and in a perpetual state of stress-induced work flurry. In other words, there is definitely means and opportunity, even if the motive is iffy.
And, even IF our legislators are in a fake-world, sequestered from the "Main Street" mindset, does that difference change situations enough to be understanding of why people do what they do? Why they have ethics challenges, extra-marital affairs, get involved in issues that are way too shaky to ever really touch but they touch anyway...blinded by the inability to see the bigger picture?
These are questions for which I don't have answers.
Arguably (I'm using that word quite a bit in this post), Bill Clinton was and is one of the most gifted political leaders of our time. He became very good at foreign policy, he can talk to just about anyone about anything at any time. And, he's quite possibly had more affairs (known to the public) than most any politician who is still looked upon with a semblance of political survey-favor. Is that because he and his wife, regardless of how bad things got, basically kept their conflicts and resolutions behind closed doors?
What about President George W. Bush? Is it okay to have a President who professes to be a recovered alcoholic with an apparently strong marriage? Is it okay to hurt yourself but not your spouse? What about the Obamas? They have, or had, a fairly strong relationship and have been cited by marriage proponents with accolades for raising awareness that marriages can last. Some reports still cite him as "addicted" to cigarettes? So again...hurting self is okay or not okay? Or, somewhat okay but not really important to the national interests and security?
So what about commitment? What does the ability to be a committed spouse have to do with the ability to govern well? A commitment is a commitment, right? Research shows that those who finish high school and don't go on to college, OR those who start and finish college are more likely to stay married than those who start college but quit before finishing. So, is "Commitment" something that is KEY to a person's character? Or, a President's character?
The public certainly seemed to think so when George Bush senior said, "Read my lips..." but then voted for a tax hike "...with his back against a wall."
Or was that trust? And, are trust and commitment related, co-mingled or at the very core almost the same thing?
"Trust" is not as much as an action word as "commitment," but it's a heart issue. For both potential U.S. presidents and for any public figure in whom we .... trust....who has the commitment to do their job and serve our country, would the issue then become something else?
And, of all the considerations regarding marriage, commitment, politics and presidents, who do YOU think should win the election this fall?
Or...do any of those things really matter, and the presidency truly only becomes once again about the economy, stupid?
Find me at the Red Dirt Chronicles...
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