Papa Giuliani

A woman in New Hampshire, who’s been billed in the MSM as an ordinary Mom but is, in fact, someone with a long record of liberal political activism, has thrust Rudy Giuliani’s parenting into the spotlight by stating “”If a person is running for president, I would assume their children would be behind them. If they’re not, you’ve got to wonder.” What an utterly fatuous thing to say, and what a waste of time for Giuliani to have to defend against this type of touchy feely garbage. Let me take a moment here to reprint an American Thinker article I wrote some months ago when I foresaw that the MSM would work this issue. Although I predicted the attack would come based on the Republican candidates’ divorce records, rather than their parenting skills, I think the principles are the same.

Marriage and Politics (first run on April 30, 2007 at American Thinker)

It was only a matter of time before Democratic politicians (as opposed to just late night talk show hosts) began commenting on the fact that the leading Republican candidates have an awful lot of ex-wives floating around. Although he’s carefully vague, one has to assume that, when Howard Dean said of Rudy Giuliani that “His personal life is a serious problem for him,” he was talking about Giuliani’s two ex-wives (not to mention his sordid divorce so that he could marry his current wife), his third wife’s ex-husbands, and his son’s disdain for the whole marriage-go-round.

Many of the other Republican candidates don’t look so good either when it comes to managing their private lives. John McCain is on wife number two and may have started his relationship with her while still married to wife number one (although since his first wife and children have forgiven him, surely we should too). Fred Thompson is likewise on wife number two, and many people will either be envious of or put off by the fact that his second wife is significantly younger than he is. Newt Gingrich also boasts a spotty marital history, marred by the popular (but untrue) belief that he served divorce papers on his first wife while she was hospitalized for cancer treatments. And as with Thompson, Gingrich’s current wife (his third) is a much younger woman. Of the leading names on the Republican side, only Mitt Romney has a clean marital record, having been married to the same woman for 38 years (a commitment that may well have been helped by the fact that, just as he is an extremely handsome man, so too is his wife a very beautiful woman).

In striking contrast to the Republicans, the Democratic frontrunners can boast that they have many fewer marriages between them. Hillary Clinton’s marriage, despite its manifest peculiarities, has lasted 32 years. One can wonder what kept her with a compulsive womanizer for so long, but the fact is that she took her marriage vows seriously, and she and Bill are still together. Barack Obama also has a good track record (aided perhaps by the fact that he’s younger than the other candidates, so hasn’t had as much time to get into trouble). He and his wife have been together 15 years. John Edwards, he of the beautiful hair, has been married to Elizabeth for 30 years. Al Gore and Tipper have been married 37 years.

Usually, when faced with these numbers (both years of marriage and number of spouses), the discussion wanders off into rants about hypocrisy. As in “It’s hypocritical for conservatives to divorce.” Or, “It’s hypocritical for a feminist such as Hillary to put up with a rampant womanizer.” As for the first argument, I don’t know that any of these much-married conservative candidates have ever advocated the end of divorce, and I’m sure all would agree, with themselves as terrible examples, that stable family relationships are good things. As for the second argument, Hillary’s private decisions about love, family and (one assumes) political expediency are hers alone, and should not be used against her in a hypocrisy argument. As the Victorians used to say, “Who knows the mysteries of the human heart?”

I actually would approach this whole marriage thing another way, and (unsurprisingly to those who know my biases) it’s a way that favors the Democrats as spouses, and the Republicans as leaders. I have no doubt but that the Democrats – by which I really mean the male Democratic candidates – are much nicer husbands than the caddish Republicans. I’m sure that, in dealing with their beloved wives, they’re sensitive and thoughtful. They like to talk about their feelings and, in turn, they’re willing to listen when their wives talk about their own feelings. When there’s a big decision to be made in the family, these men make sure that their wives are full partners in the decision-making. They’re probably just dreamy husbands.

The question, though, is whether those dreamy spousal qualities are what we want in a President. That is, do we really want a President who will sit for hours listening to people in the Oval Office, whether employees, Congress people, or foreign leaders, sharing their feelings, while periodically chiming in with his own recitation of emotional moments? Do we want someone who would never be rude enough to end a discussion and simply make a judgment call? Is it appropriate for the leader of the most powerful nation in the world always to take feelings into account when he makes a decision?

I get uncomfortable when I think of our Commander-in-Chief sensitively opining that “I’m worried that it will hurt Kim Jong-Il feelings if we increase sanctions against him for going ahead with his weapon’s program.” Equally awful would be our emotionally open leader reminding his Cabinet team that “You have to understand that Ahmadinejad is throwing out these nuclear threats against Israel because he feels humiliated by their technological sophistication, despite their nation’s small size. And he’s short. We should cut him a lot of slack because it’s understandable that his psyche responds negatively to these wounds.”

You can see why, when I think of an ideal personality for an American president, I don’t think of a New Age sensitive man. Instead, I think of someone who has strong political principles; who is willing to make tough calls (“the buck stops here“); and who does what he thinks is right, not what will make people like him.

These same leadership qualities, of course, tend to make for lousy modern-day husbands. They might have worked in a pre-modern era, when the husband was the head of his home, just as the President is the executive in charge of his country, but they work very badly in today’s world, where husbands and wives are expected to be partners.

No modern woman worth her salt is going to be happy in a relationship with someone who is pretty darn sure he knows what’s right; who is more interested in the big picture (his ideas about family economics, personal job security, etc.) than in what makes her happy; and who doesn’t care if his decisions ultimately rub her, and everyone in the neighborhood or family, the wrong way, as long as he thinks they’re the right decisions. In other words, partnership and leadership are not the same things, and they call for very different qualities. Someone who succeeds in the first arena may be precisely what we don’t need in the second one.

So feel free to consider the candidates’ personal lives when you’re contemplating casting your vote for one or another, whether in the primaries or in the Presidential election itself. Just remember that, merely because one candidate is a devoted husband may not make him a powerful leader (and Americans wisely like strong leaders during times of crisis), while the fact that another candidate is a difficult spouse, although not indicative of his ability to partner sensitively (which is a luxury for peace time), may nevertheless prove the more important fact that he can lead well during a crisis.

(If you think this post deserves prominence on Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Presidential Wire, please click **here**.)

UPDATE: It occurred to me that Romney’s enduring marriage may not be out of synch with the other Republicans when it comes to leadership abilities. My understanding is that, in a traditional Mormon marriage, the man is very much the old fashioned pater familias. If that is indeed the expectation with which the Romneys went into their marriage, and that is the dominant theme for their marriage, there needn’t be much contrast between Romney’s style and home and his style in politics — nor would there be friction in the marriage about the absence of such contrast.

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Comments

  1. says

    “Hillary Clinton’s marriage, despite its manifest peculiarities, has lasted 32 years. One can wonder what kept her with a compulsive womanizer for so long, but the fact is that she took her marriage vows seriously, and she and Bill are still together.”

    Are they? Indeed, were they ever? Bill has behaved as if he were a bachelor, pretty much throughout his marriage, while Hillary has behaved as if her husband were a tactical political asset rather than a spouse of the usual sort.

    There’s pretty good evidence that the Clintons haven’t slept together for several years now. Well, they’re both in their sixties, so perhaps that’s not as significant as it would have been thirty years ago. But how much time have they spent together since Bill left the Oval Office and Hillary joined the Senate? How much time did they spend together during the Clinton Administration — when the cameras weren’t rolling? How often does the Clinton nuclear family get together for any reason?

    Conservatives might divorce as frequently as liberals, but that has no bearing on their attitudes toward their marriages, nor toward marriage in general. As a rule, one ought not to form generalizations from high profile individuals of any description; they tend to be off-axis in many ways.

  2. says

    You said, “Of the leading names on the Republican side, only Mitt Romney has a clean marital record, having been married to the same woman for 38 years (a commitment that may well have been helped by the fact that, just as he is an extremely handsome man, so too is his wife a very beautiful woman).”

    I thought you were going to say, “a commitment that may well have been helped by the fact that they take their religious faith seriously.” That seems to me the much more obvious, important, and self-evidently outstanding fact here in this crowd of people you examine, not the Romneys’ physical attractiveness.

  3. says

    Zabrina, as you can see, I said that in the update I added. It’s not just the religious faith, though, that matters. I think what matters is how that faith views marriage — and Mormons still hew to the old-fashioned idea that marriage is a patriarchy, not a partnership. From that, I concluded that it’s possible that Romney’s public and private leadership abilities don’t diverge much.

    As for your excellent comment, Francis, it is true that Hillary seems divorced in everything but name only. However, the fact remains that she didn’t actually divorce. I suspect her decision was about power and politics, and not about religion or commitment, but the fact is that, for political purposes, she is still married.

  4. Ellie says

    So what if Guiliani’s children are not behind him? The one thing I appreciate about Rudy is his upfrontness about who he is (and isn’t). Why would we expect that the President would have some kind of “Father Knows Best” family dynamic? It is pretty common for over-achieving fathers — be they pastors, therapists, performing artists or leaders of industry — to have off-spring who hate their father’s guts. I think this comes from the single minded drive that made “success” (however defined) for the father the most important thing is his life — more important than his family (or his faith). This all consuming drive also wrecks marriages.

  5. says

    Reagan’s biological child wasn’t behind him, since his politics weren’t Reagan based. Though Reagan’s adopted child, Michael, was behind Reagan.

    These things… happen to the best of us.

  6. Mike Devx says

    Well, the divorces are a factor. The estranged children are a factor. Even children who do not support their father (or mother), who go out of their way to politically oppose them… these are all factors.

    Part of making our choice for President is that we choose a man or woman whom we intrinsically admire and trust. Making a good first choice for spouse is an important indicator of wisdom and good decision-making. For many, sticking through the bad times is an indicator of religious faith and moral conviction. Raising your children well and teaching them to be respectful, and earning their devotion, is another strong positive.

    So, yes, I think these factors exist, and are important. We appear to be able to factor in many other aspects of our favorite candidate, as well, however.

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