Why the “open marriage” charge makes Newt more popular

The rumor on the Drudge Report was that Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife would come out with revelations that would sink his campaign.  It didn’t work that way.  Her interview, along with Newt’s smackdown of CNN’s John King for bringing it up to lead off the last debate, seems to have created a backlash of sympathy.

The biggest revelation was that he had asked his wife for an “open marriage.”  But he didn’t exactly say that.

Marianne Gingrich told The Post that when her husband told her he was leaving, “He said the problem with me was I wanted him all to myself. I said, ‘That’s what marriage is.’ Of Callista, he said, ‘She doesn’t care what I do.’ ”

“He was asking me for an open marriage,’’ Marianne Gingrich said, “and I wouldn’t do it.” She said Gingrich already saw Callista as his first lady, though, telling Marianne, “In a few years I’m going to run for president. She’s going to help me become president.”

Still bad and embarrassing to listen to, but the issue is old-fashioned adultery rather than 1970s-style open marriage, as such.  The above is quoted from an article in the Washington Post about how women are not being particularly sympathetic to Mrs. Gingrich #2:

If anything, Republican women interviewed here today seemed even more supportive than men of the way Newt Gingrich handled debate moderator John King’s question about ex-wife Marianne’s allegation that the GOP presidential candidate had asked her for an open marriage as their union was falling apart in 1999.

They definitely expressed less sympathy for Marianne, Gingrich’s second wife, who told ABC News and The Washington Post that her husband had wanted her to “share” him with Callista, now his third wife, as they were breaking up. Several women noted that since Gingrich was also married, to his first wife, Jackie, when Marianne got involved with him, his infidelity should not have come as a surprise to her.

Kathleen Parker offers an explanation of why digging up transgressions and taking them public can make the accused more popular, as it did also with Bill Clinton:

The more you pick on a person for human failings with which all can identify, the more likely you will create sympathy rather than antipathy, especially if that individual has been forthright in his confession and penitent for his transgression, as Gingrich has been. He was ahead of the curveball this time, with nothing left to tell or for his aggrieved former wife to expose. Thus, her interview and the King question had the feel not of revelation but of a political hit aided and abetted by a salacious press.

Even Bill Clinton, who was less forthcoming and therefore, at least initially, less sympathetic, came to be viewed as a victim following months of investigation and the airing of sordid details only voyeurs could enjoy. Starr, as King, was merely doing his job, yet he became less likable than Clinton among Regular Joes watching television in their kitchens. However nobly Republicans may have considered their mission, everyday Americans — particularly men — saw persecution.

A Catholic friend captures the operative sentiment in terms Gingrich surely would appreciate. When she sees someone succumb to temptation or betray some other human frailty, she says: “I have those weeds in my garden.”

To err is human; to forgive divine. We like that way of thinking because we all need others’ forgiveness. When Gingrich turned to his audience and said that we all know pain — we all know people who have suffered pain — he instantly morphed from sinner to savior, the redeemer in chief. He correctly counted on the empathy of his fellow man, if not necessarily womankind, and won the moment.

But a moment is just that, and projection of the sort experienced by the Charleston, S.C., audience can be fraught with peril. Over-identification clouds judgment, and, though we are all sinners, we are not all running for president of the United States.

via Newt Gingrich and the forgiveness ploy – The Washington Post.

I appreciate all of that.  And I know very well that Christianity is about sin (from which no one is immune) but also redemption and forgiveness.  But I’m still bothered by Newt’s manifest character flaws.  Is that wrong of me?

Conservative liberalism

Jerry Salyer at Front Porch Republic has written a stunning essay on “conservative liberalism”; that is, people who are conservatives while still embracing the assumptions of liberalism (for example, commercialism, progressivism, radical individualism).  Think of a church that claims conservative theology and values while throwing out all church traditions in an embrace of modern culture that contradicts its ostensible conservatism.  Or a conservative small town that replaces its historic downtown buildings with strip malls, in the name of economic progress.  Or someone who claims to be a conservative but whose decisions are actually shaped by that most liberal of philosophies, namely, pragmatism.

Salyer’s piece defies summary, but here is a tiny sample:

I find it increasingly difficult to sympathize with conservative defenders of liberalism, who praise mass culture yet fret over socialism, who worry about relativism for a living yet dismiss concerns about uglification as reflecting the mere opinions of elitist aesthetes. A conservative liberal is somebody who encourages the prevailing progressive view that the past was benighted and is best forgotten, but then demands respect for the Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. . . .

And just what is meant by “ordinary folk?” Does it include the large majority who evidently thought Barack Obama would be a swell president?  Does it include those whose children master the remote before learning to speak? Those who treat birth-control pills as if they were M&M’s, stand assembled outside Toys’R’Us like ravenous zombies in the wee hours of Black Friday, and think dolls dressed like cheap hookers make nice Christmas gifts for little girls? (Of course whenever there’s even the faintest threat that “ordinary folk” might recover a sense of who they are and where they come from, sage passengers on the conservative establishment gravy-train are quick to jettison all traces of populism and denounce the latent nativism, protectionism, and isolationism of ignorant small-town rabble.)

via Who Gets To Be The Czar of Human Evolution? | Front Porch Republic.

Can you think of other examples of liberal assumptions that we conservatives often operate under?  I think this is something we are all guilty of some times.

Postmodernism & pedophilia

Anne Hendershott traces a significant stream of postmodernist scholarship over the last decade that amounts to an academic defense of pedophilia.  After all, so say these scholars, both childhood and sexual morality are nothing more than social constructions.  A sample, though you’ll want to read the whole thing:

The publication of Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex [2003] promised readers a “radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children’s and teens’ sexuality.” The book was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2003 (with a foreword by Joycelyn Elders, who had been the U.S. Surgeon General in the Clinton administration), after which the author, Judith Levine, posted an interview on the university’s website decrying the fact that “there are people pushing a conservative religious agenda that would deny minors access to sexual expression,” and adding that “we do have to protect children from real dangers … but that doesn’t mean protecting some fantasy of their sexual innocence.”

This redefinition of childhood innocence as “fantasy” is key to the defining down of the deviance of pedophilia that permeated college campuses and beyond. Drawing upon the language of postmodern theory, those working to redefine pedophilia are first redefining childhood by claiming that “childhood” is not a biological given. Rather, it is socially constructed—an historically produced social object. Such deconstruction has resulted from the efforts of a powerful advocacy community supported by university-affiliated scholars and a large number of writers, researchers, and publishers who were willing to question what most of us view as taboo behavior.

Postmodern theorists are primarily interested in writing that evokes the fragmentary nature of experience and the complexity of language. One of the most cited sources for this is the book Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-Psychological and Legal Perspectives. This collection of writings by scholars, mostly European but some with U.S. university affiliations, provides a powerful argument for what they now call “intergenerational intimacy.” Ken Plummer, one of the contributors, writes that “we can no longer assume that childhood is a time of innocence simply because of the chronological age of the child.” In fact, “a child of seven may have built an elaborate set of sexual understandings and codes which would baffle many adults.”

Claiming to draw upon the theoretical work of the social historians, the socialist-feminists, the Foucauldians, and the constructionist sociologists, Plummer promised to build a “new and fruitful approach to sexuality and children.” Within this perspective there is no assumption of linear sexual development and no real childhood, only an externally imposed definition.

Decrying “essentialist views of sexuality,” these writers attempt to remove the essentialist barriers of childhood. This opens the door for the postmodern pedophile to see such behavior as part of the politics of transgression. No longer deviants, they are simply postmodern “border crossers.” . . .

It appears that a number of postmodern pedophiles have taken the advice to heart. For a while, we lived in a culture in which man-boy sex was not only tolerated, it was celebrated. And while the furor over the allegations at Penn State and Syracuse reveals that male pedophilia remains contested terrain for most, women-girl sex, because of the power of the women’s movement, scarcely registers on the cultural radar screen.

“The Vagina Monologues,” for example, is still part of the standard dramatic repertory in student productions on college campuses—including Penn State and Syracuse. The original play explores a young girl’s “coming of age,” beginning with a 13-year-old girl enjoying a sexual liaison with a 24-year-old woman. Later published versions of the play changed the age of the young girl from 13 to 16 years old, and the play continues to be performed. Last year’s February production at Syracuse was enhanced by inviting an “all-faculty” cast to perform the play on campus.

via The Postmodern Pedophile « Public Discourse.

HT:  Joe Carter

Bringing down an empire with words

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright who spent 5 years in prison for undermining the communist regime, has died.  After communism in Russia and eastern Europe was so discredited that it fell apart, Havel was elected president of his newly freed nation.

It was the writers who did more than anyone else–yes, more than Ronald Reagan and more than the Pope–to bring down the communist system.  It isn’t enough–though it’s very important–for outsiders to stand strong against an evil empire.  The key to bringing down an evil empire is to turn its own people, including those who run the empire, against it by awakening their conscience to its evil and their complicity in it.

Some words from Havel:

After being unanimously elected president of Czechoslovakia by the newly free country’s Parliament in December 1989, Mr. Havel set the tone of the new era in a speech Jan. 1, 1990, his first day in office. Communism, he said, was “a monstrous, ramshackle, stinking machine” whose worst legacy was not economic failure but a “spoiled moral environment.”

“We have become morally ill because we are used to saying one thing and thinking another,” he said. “We have learned not to believe in anything, not to care about each other. . . . Love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness have lost their depths and dimension. . . . They represent some sort of psychological curiosity, or they appear as long-lost wanderers from faraway times.”

Vaclav Havel, dissident playwright and former Czech president, dies – The Washington Post.

Does our free society now share that moral illness?  What dissidents do we need?

Don’t cheat. Don’t even try it.

Here is a great, eloquent, and right-on discussion of academic dishonesty, in which a professor, who blogs as “Tenured Radical,” imagines what she would say to her college-aged child on the subject, if she had one.  I offer it as a celebration of Finals Week, which students and us professors are celebrating (if you can call it that) this week.  A sample, though you should read the whole post (if you can handle some vulgar language):

Tenured Radical and the returning college student are having a final cup of coffee at the airport while waiting out a flight delay. This is how it would go:

Spawn of the Radical: Esteemed Parental Unit, you have taught at a selective liberal arts college for two decades. What advice do you give for the hellish, final weeks of school?

Tenured Radical: I am so glad you asked, Spawn. (Ruminates briefly.) OK, here goes. First piece of advice? Don’t plagiarize, buy a paper off the internet, pay someone else to write for you, or retype an ancient term paper secreted away in the files of your Greek organization. I will be far more sympathetic if you simply fail the class, or get a bad grade, than I will be if you are hauled up before a disciplinary board and hung out to dry. . .

Spawn: Why? It seems like such an easy and obvious solution to not having done the work for the course. Besides, so many of my friends get away with it.

TR: True dat. And yet, if your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and managed to live, would you do it too? My point is this: because cheating is evidence of rank stupidity, many people do not get away with it. In fact, many people are no better at cheating than they are at doing the work for the course. Others spend time that might have gone into conventional studying devising elaborate systems for cheating (Profs, follow these links and track what your students already know.) It would be far better to fail a course, take an incomplete, or throw yourself on the mercy of the professor than to be expelled from college. As my dear friend Flavia Fescue points out, even though it “breaks her heart” she catches one or two plagiarists every semester and she takes them down. It is part of our job to take you down (think, selling crack on the steps of a police station, ok?) Historiann concurs. . . “In my experience, it never pays to give a plagiarist a break. Hang’em high, regretfully if you must, but hang’em high, friends.”

Spawn: Parental unit, have you ever caught a plagiarist?

TR: Indeed, and those who cheat on exams. Even though there are some who slip through my net, even before Turnitin.com I have always known when I have snagged a plagiarist that I was right, even prior to being able to prove it. And I can always prove it because I am a far better at research than an undergraduate is at covering up plagiarism.

via If I Had College-Age Children, I Would Give Them This Advice for the Final Weeks of School: Don’t Cheat – Tenured Radical – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Tenured Radical and I probably see eye to eye on few things, but we seem to agree on this one.

Yes, it’s possible to get away with it, as so many people do.  But attentive professors can catch it easily, if they take the effort.  (I have lots of small informal writing assignments over the course of my classes, and I get to know each student’s writing style.  I can tell if a paper is written in a different style.  I’m not saying that no one has ever pulled one over on me, but I sure have caught a lot of them in my day.)  And it only takes getting caught once to ruin your whole college career.  What’s significant to note about what Tenured Radical is saying is that now even ostensibly liberal academics like her and her linked colleagues are sick to death, as well as being insulted, by so much academic dishonesty.  So they are adopting a “hang ‘em high” policy.

Please, students reading this from whatever school you attend across this great land, don’t try it.  I mean, it’s wrong in itself, but it could also do you great harm.

HT:  Jackie

How John Stuart Mill changed the culture

Roger Kimball on the legacy of John Stuart Mill:

In 1859, two revolutionary books were published. One was Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The other was John Stuart Mill’s pamphlet On Liberty. Darwin’s book revolutionized biology and fundamentally altered the debate between science and religion. Mill’s book revolutionized the way we think about innovation in social and moral life.

What is your opinion of innovation? Do you think it is a good thing? Of course you do. You may or may not have read Mill on the subject, but you have absorbed his lessons. What about established opinion, customary ways of doing things? Do you suspect that they should be challenged and probably changed? Odds are that you do. Mill has taught you that, too, even if you have never read a line of On Liberty.

Mill’s essay was ostensibly about the relation between individual freedom and society. Mill famously argued that the only grounds on which society was justified in exercising control over its members, whether that control be in the form of “legal penalties” or simply “the moral coercion of public opinion,” was to “prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

This part of Mill’s argument quickly attracted searching criticism. The British judge James Fitzjames Stephen, for example, went to the heart of the problem when he observed that Mill assumed that “some acts regard the agent only, and that some regard other people. In fact, by far the most important part of our conduct regards both ourselves and others.” As for withholding “the moral coercion of public opinion,” Stephen observed that “the custom of looking upon certain courses of conduct with aversion is the essence of morality.”

Stephen’s criticisms of Mill were published in his book Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, which appeared about a decade after On Liberty. Many of the criticisms are devastating. Intellectually, Stephen made mincemeat of Mill. But that has hardly mattered. Mill’s doctrines have taken the world by storm, while Stephen has receded to become a footnote in intellectual history.

Why? One reason is that Mill said things that people wanted to hear. Mill seemed to be giving people a permanent vacation from the moral dictates of society. How often have you heard the argument “It’s not hurting anyone else” put forward as a justification for self-indulgence?

But it was not simply what he said about the relation between individual freedom and social control that made On Liberty such an influential tract. Much more important was the attitude, the emotional weather, of the book.

On Liberty is only incidentally a defense of individual freedom. Its deeper purpose is to transform the way we regard established morality and conventional behavior as such. In brief, Mill taught us to be suspicious of established morality not because what it says is wrong (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t) but simply because it is established.

Think about that. The tradition that Mill opposed celebrated custom and established morality precisely because they had prevailed and given good service through the vicissitudes of time and change; their longevity was an important token of their worthiness.

Mill overturned this traditional view. Henceforth, the customary, the conventional was suspect not because it had failed but simply because if was customary and conventional. . . .

Granted that every change for the better has depended on someone embarking on a new departure. Well, so too has every change for the worse. And surely, [David] Stove observes, there have been at least as many proposed innovations which “were or would have been for the worse as ones which were or would have been for the better.” Which means that we have at least as much reason to discourage innovators as to encourage them, especially when their innovations bear on things as immensely complex as the organization of society.

The triumph of Mill’s teaching shows that such objections have fallen on deaf ears. But why? Why have “innovation,” “originality,” etc., become mesmerizing charms that neutralize criticism before it even gets started when so much that is produced in the name of innovation is obviously a change for the worse? An inventory of the fearsome social, political, and moral innovations made in this century alone should have made every thinking person wary of unchaperoned innovation.

One reason that innovation has survived with its reputation intact, Stove notes, is that Mill and his heirs have been careful to supply a “one-sided diet of examples.” It is a technique as simple as it is effective:

Mention no past innovators except those who were innovators-for-the-better. Harp away endlessly on the examples of Columbus and Copernicus, Galileo and Bruno, Socrates and (if you think the traffic will bear it) Jesus. Conceal the fact that there must have been at least one innovator-for-the-worse for every one of these (very overworked) good guys. Never mention Lenin or Pol Pot, Marx or Hegel, Robespierre or the Marquis de Sade.

via Roger’s Rules » Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.