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January 20, 2012

Friday Annoying Debate Question

So.... what did you all think of Newt's response to the question about his ex-wife's open marriage allegations?

I'm specifically interested in 3 things:

1. How would you have responded?

2. What do you think of the merits of his response? Was this an off limits topic, or is it relevant? If you think it was off limits, are such stories always off limits or would they be less objectionable to you if the media didn't hype sex scandals involving Republicans and soft pedal sex scandals involving Democrats?

3. Did Newt's response make you think better or worse of him?

Posted by Cassandra at January 20, 2012 01:55 PM

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Comments

(1) I wouldn't have been so eloquent, but the content would have been basically the same.

(2) I don't see why that should be a debate question. The debate should be limited to the "issues", and that topic is not an "issue."

(3) Made me think better of him. I actually prefer Newt to Mitt, but then, my favorite candidate already left the race. But I'd vote for Sarah, Marco, or Alan in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Rex at January 20, 2012 02:28 PM

1. How would you have responded?

Something along the lines of "I can't believe we're talking about this" and asking where this same scrutiny was in 2008 or even 1992.

2. What do you think of the merits of his response?

He is right that this was accepted as true from the beginning and he wasn't so much as asked about it until the debate which is the absolute wrong place for it.

Was this an off limits topic, or is it relevant?

I have mixed feelings. Character does matter and Newt exudes something that makes me uncomfortable. I think he's a smart guy but he's a beltway insider for life.


3. Did Newt's response make you think better or worse of him?

To my surprise, better. Rather than rolling over and taking it, he ripped off the mask of "objectivity" and rightly so. I would have gone on a long rant about the dire situation our country is in and then contrasted that with allegations from a scorned wife.

Posted by: JustMe at January 20, 2012 03:01 PM

1) I would have been blunter, and probably less eloquent, but he said what I could have wished to say. Especially calliing out King's cowardice for trying to duck his own responsibility in the matter. Incidentally, to CNN's credit, they've made available unedited video of the entire exchange .

2) It would have been a valid question in the near-term aftermath of the event in question, and maybe on his announcement of his candidacy. But not after that. It's just a smear campaign after that.

3) I'm always down with Gingrich when he's calling out the NLMSM. I wish the other candidates had the same brass. Incidentally, I thought Romney's answer in King's continued attempt to pump his sewage was good: Romney wanted to move on to substantive issues. I do have questions about Gingrich's reliability from a volcanic volubility perspective.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at January 20, 2012 03:14 PM

One other thing: I couldn't make your clip play in Firefox or IE. A small problem; I watched the debate.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at January 20, 2012 03:17 PM

(1) I probably would have been much nastier to the "moderator." I'd never be successful as a politician since my low opinion of the press would sink me. I think Mr Gingrich handled it well.

(2) If the media could convincingly pretend it was objective, I wouldn't consider the topic off limits. This particular event was a rehash of old news, so it was unnecessary in my opinion.

(3) I don't have all that high an opinion of Mr Gingrich, but I thought his response was excellent.

Posted by: Pogue at January 20, 2012 03:21 PM

I've not inserted my boots in my mouth for many a moon at here at VC, so here goes. A view from the rural, knuckle-dragging contingent.


1. It's hard to say since I've never been in the position of having an ex-wife, much less running for any thing resembling public office, but I would hope if I were in such a spot, I might clearly convey the same general idea with as much restraint.


2. Being carbon dated to an era close to that of the creation of dirt, I've always considered the personal affairs between the two people in a marriage to be their business.

Anyway, I assume most folks older than 20 years of age, know more than a few couples who did not succeed in living happily ever after with their mate. And being forced to watch on the sidelines as a few those marriages dissolved, I've come to conclude that the fault of the failure was, as often as not, due not so much to either person, but instead due to the resulting chemistry of the two being together. Or, as Commander Obvious would point out, he said/did versus she said/did stuff, to any but the principles, is just that.
That, and as the average LEO knows, domestic disputes are a good place for an interloper to lose their top-knot.

Finally, absent any violence being visited on one spouse by the other, or within the confines of a contested divorce hearing, the details of a failed marriage are, at least in my mind, not something the public ought to think they are entitled to know.

*glances at the current dreck passing for TV programming and the ratings of such, also considers that we are talking about people who voluntarily enter the public arena, then thinks, ah <expletive deleted>, never mind...*


With the Funk & Wagnall entry on divorce being covered, my opinion leads me to say:


2A: spot on

2B: yes

2C: Should not matter if the adults are free, 21, of sound mind, and not coerced in any way.


3. No change.


*returns to the root cellar of hovel and begins chanting:
I will not break the 11th Commandment.
I will not break the 11th Commandment.
I will not break the 11th Commandment.

Posted by: bthun at January 20, 2012 03:36 PM

"Or, as Commander Obvious would point out, he said/did versus she said/did stuff, to any but the principles... er, make that principals, is just that.

Yup, you guessed it, I still can't afford a proofreader. =:^}

Posted by: bthun at January 20, 2012 03:46 PM

I was OK with him saying "No" at the beginning. Had he left it at that, I would have thought more of him.

But there have been lots of debate questions that questioned past behavior, the intent of which is to impeach credibility and/or address the issue of trustworthiness and character. Newt has certainly not scrupled to raise those kinds of issues himself. So I don't think the question was off limits at all and the outraged histrionics were a bit much, I thought. My husband was in the kitchen during this part and actually walking back in the the room shaking his head and saying, "Really?".

Which was my reaction - the more he talked, the lower my opinion of him sank.

I agree that the press is anything but unbiased. It's hard to imagine them asking a similar question of Bill Clinton, for instance. But over the years I have heard LOTS of conservatives chide the press for not doing just that: raising character issues and rumors. Therefore, it seems to me that the question was not off limits on the merits.

Here's what I would have said (assuming I had thought about it in advance, which doesn't seem like much to ask):

"I am not going to discuss this. The broad outlines of my marital history are common knowledge. The particulars are between me and my ex-wife. I am sorry she felt it necessary to go public with her side of the story, but I will not compound that mistake by retaliating in kind."

Berating the moderator was (IMO) not Presidential and he lost me when he got personal with King. If he wanted to make a statement about media bias, he could have done it in a way that addressed the issue generally:

"We're here tonight to discuss issues of national importance. The dissolution of my marriage is not one of those issues. Rumors about Bill Clinton's personal life were everywhere during his run for the Presidency but I don't recall the media raising them during a debate. Rumors about Barack Obama's personal associations with former terrorists like Bill Ayers were everywhere in the runup to the 2008 election and not only did the media NOT ask about them - they attacked anyone who wanted to know more. Media coverage should be even handed and apply the same standards whether the candidate is conservative or liberal."

One of the things I dislike most about Obama is when he gets on his high horse and starts lecturing people. Newt does that too, and he has the same disdainful, bullying tone. I don't care for it when Obama does it and I like it even less in a Republican."

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2012 03:55 PM

Glad you commented, bthun :)

I often find myself on the opposite side of these questions, but I like to hear people's reasons for coming down where they do.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2012 03:56 PM

"Glad you commented, bthun :)"

Thank you. You are always a most gracious lady. =:^}


Please add me to the list of those who are very happy to see M'lady throw open the shutters of the Villainous Company Emporium of Fine Ideas and declare it, once again, open for business.

"I often find myself on the opposite side of these questions, but I like to hear people's reasons for coming down where they do."

Even knuckle-dragging Neanderthals can recognize the pain carried by men and women long after a marriage fails.

<mumbles> a sibling and a couple of good friends experienced particularly ugly divorces<mumbles>

Plus, not knowing anything about the details of Newt's marital relationships, I can only imagine that my inner hostile might have slipped out had I been in Newt's place.

But then my code of appropriate behavior is undoubtedly a century or two out of date. Not to mention that I have no desire to run for public/elective anything as I could/would not countenance the prodding/probing of not only my personal bid'ness but especially that of Walkin' Boss and the chilluns.

One of the Knuckle-dragger's rules of civil interaction:

If you're minding your personal bid'ness, you ain't minding mine.

Posted by: bthun at January 20, 2012 04:35 PM

...he lost me when he got personal with King.

With all due respect, Ma'am, King is the one who made it personal with his sniveling attempt to say, "Don't blame me, it's them other guys brung it up. I'm just repeating the rumors." He deserved to be called out for that.

...I don't think the question was off limits at all ....

Were it timelily raised, it would have been legitimate. However, it was carefully and cynically timed to attempt to influence a Republican primary in which the Progressives have a vested interest in "guiding" the outcome. Just as they tried to do in New Hampshire, where the Dems came out in (relative) droves to try to influence that outcome.

If you're minding your personal bid'ness, you ain't minding mine.

But yours is so much more interesting than mine. I already know all I care to know about mine....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at January 20, 2012 05:05 PM

Don't get me wrong - I was mildly shocked (and disapproving) as soon as I heard the question.

I just thought his response was waaaaay over the top :)

I guess I'm of the Southern school that finds a cool, civil, and brief refusal to be baited, followed by a put down delivered with a heaping helping of sang-froid to be far more effective that huffy uber outrage. It leaves the opponent hanging out there on that limb all alone, whereas the moment Newt started histrionically berating King, he climbed out there on the limb with King.

My gut reaction normally would have been to sympathize with Newt even though I don't like the guy one bit.

But let's face it - he had plenty of time to prepare for this question and had already had one encounter with the press (notably, he refused to respond there, too). To me, the whole thing seemed overdone.

This is not a guy who should be shocked... shocked I tell you!!!!!!! at Washington politics or the antics of the press. He would have been far more sympathetic to me had he refrained from going postal on national TV.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2012 05:32 PM

Judged as a piece of political communication, it was brilliant and beautifully executed. The base will have been thrilled to see him get out his Bowie knife and go after the moderator like that. He will have thus rallied his base, and likely intimidated future journalists from asking similar questions.

As a personal matter, however, I think I would have tended to respond much as you yourself suggest, Cassandra. But then, neither you nor I have ex-spouses who hate us (perhaps because of that very instinct).

On the other hand, neither of us is likely to be elected President.

Posted by: Grim at January 20, 2012 05:50 PM

He would have been far more sympathetic to me had he refrained from going postal on national TV.

I guess that's the difference between your Southern upbringing and my Midwestern one. I didn't think he went postal. He didn't even raise his voice, as Santorum did a couple of times when he was feeling put upon and not whining about it.

This is not a guy who should be shocked... shocked I tell you!!!!!!! at Washington politics or the antics of the press.

I don't think he was. I think he was driving a point home to an audience broader than just his base, however clumsily beyond that base, as well as sending a message that some Republicans were done being patsies for the NLMSM.

As to intimidating future journalists, he might have intimidated King, though I doubt it. He certainly didn't intimidate Juan Williams a week ago. In fact, Williams insisted on being as obtuse after that exchange as he was during it.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at January 20, 2012 06:05 PM

Judged as a piece of political communication, it was brilliant and beautifully executed.

I would replace "communication" with "theater", but otherwise I agree with everything in your comment Grim.

That is what bugged me - it seemed calculated and phony both to me and The Unit. I think I had that same feeling of having my intelligence insulted that you experience with Romney.

All I know is that in a mere matter of seconds I went from sympathetic to disgusted and turned off. I realize it played well to the crowd, but what his demeanor conveyed to me is that he isn't one bit sorry for being a serial jackwagon.

Also, what was up with him using his daughters that way? I would expect a father to shield his children from the fallout of the divorce, not enlist them in his defense. To be fair here, his ex-wife is even more to blame for going public but he didn't have to compound the injury by dragging his daughters into the spotlight.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2012 06:08 PM

1. With much less tact than even Mr. Gingrich afforded the situation. Which is why I will never run for public office and rarely go near a microphone.

2. It's not relevant to a debate on the issues. While I do believe that character matters, history has shown us that it doesn't matter much when it comes to successfully running this country. And we won't even go near the former Mrs. Gingrich's credibility, or lack thereof.

This country is in a tailspin on a variety of levels - not the least of which is financial. I don't care what Mr. Gingrich did or did not do in his personal life prior to running for office (as long as no laws were broken) at this point. I don't care what any of them did in their personal lives prior to running for office - as long as the elected person can fix this mess.

Let's right the ship. THEN we can paint it.


3. Didn't watch the debate. Don't care. My opinion of Newt is that he has more baggage than United Airlines. And that might very well be a huge stumbling block for many. But he also has a very firm grasp on the Constitution (something I cannot say about our current President) and experience which may (or may not...depends on the perspective) help him navigate the Presidency better than others. But everyone has "stuff" - beware the person who has no "stuff". So none of this has affected my opinion of Newt. All it did was sink my opinion of CNN and John King...if that was possible.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at January 20, 2012 06:16 PM

"I realize it played well to the crowd, but what his demeanor conveyed to me is that he isn't one bit sorry for being a serial jackwagon. "

On one level, I enjoyed him jumping on King. It gratifies the lizard portion of the brain. As such it does make great theater though it's probably not significant beyond that. He has slapped down the media a couple times now with a generally positive reaction among republicans. I expect we'll see more of it, maybe from some of the other candidates if they think they can pull it off.

Posted by: Pogue at January 20, 2012 06:40 PM

"I guess I'm of the Southern school that finds a cool, civil, and brief refusal to be baited, followed by a put down delivered with a heaping helping of sang-froid to be far more effective that huffy uber outrage."
That would be the Southern School for Finishing Fine Ladies.

The Southern School for Managing Marginally Malevolent Male Incorrigibles I attended while growing up only demanded that I preface the opening gambit to the offender by clearly asking in a loud voice, Whudyousay?!

Posted by: bthun at January 20, 2012 07:52 PM

The school I attended permits a literal rather than a rhetorical Bowie knife, under the right circumstances. Sadly, the custom has fallen into disuse in the broader society.

Posted by: Grim at January 20, 2012 10:04 PM

Is Newt the perfect candidate? Feck no. But this goes a long way to explaining his current popularity.
"The math is clear. While negative ads can be effective if run in huge numbers -- as in Iowa -- what the voters are craving in the debates and on the stump is someone who can look liberals squarely in the eye and tell them why we are right and they are wrong. The American conservative base has had to put up with being called stupid, racist, greedy and unfair for decades by not only the Democrats but the vast majority of the media. The pent up frustration of these decades is magnified by the fact that George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain would not or perhaps could not confront this.
In fact, rare is the Republican candidate at any level who refuses to put up with this and fights back. When they do, they become sensations. Even Chris Christie and Donald Trump -- neither one a real conservative -- earned the love of the Republican base by simply deigning to fight back. Marco Rubio and Allen West are far more popular and well known than they have any right to be simply because they refuse to accept the argument on liberals' terms. They fight. They elicit the roar.

You have made your arguements for Romney quite eloquently, as you always do, but I just don't see him as being willing to fight for his lunch money much less our liberty, country or Constitution. Now, given that, will I vote for Romney should he win the nomination? Without a doubt.....ABX. But it will be the same exact vote that I cast in 2008 -- nose held to keep from wretching all over the ballot so as to make sure it can be clearly counted and not left to swing in the progressive wind like a half-punched chad.

Posted by: DL Sly at January 22, 2012 01:03 PM

"The American conservative base has had to put up with being called stupid, racist, greedy and unfair for decades by not only the Democrats but the vast majority of the media. The pent up frustration of these decades is magnified by the fact that George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain would not or perhaps could not confront this."

Yup. At one time the prevailing opinion among the Right and probably among many of the Independent tribe was the GOP rep was expected tp always act as the adult in the combative and contentious battle of wills with the juvenile Dems. Nowadays, I suspect, and Newt's resurrection in SC post debate, seems to confirm that a GOP candidate must also bring a willingness to break out the Napalm, which brings Lt. Col./Congressman Allen West to mind for some reason.

"what debate did these folks watch? Do they not pay attention to the crowd reaction? Do they not know what it indicates?"
It does seem that a sizable portion of the GOP electorate, aka the red meat crowd, ain't handing over the lunch money no mo, at least not without a fight. Unless my view from the rural cheap seats is awfully skewed, that portion seems to be growing quite large in number.

Posted by: bthun at January 22, 2012 01:48 PM

My ideal candidate would have no skeletons in the personal character closet, combined with an ability to stand up for limited government and a free market in the face of an ignorant public and a hostile press. There is no such candidate in the GOP nomination process. If I have to choose, I'll go for someone who isn't afraid of being caricatured as greedy and heartless by every smug, bullying, preening establishment press flunky who gets to shove a microphone in his face.

But I'm surprised to find myself defending Mr. Gingrich, who has two deadly strikes against him for my personal tastes: a weird approach to marital commitment, and a willingness to attack a fellow Republican for being a heartless capitalist. It just goes to show you how frustrated I am with Romney for being unwilling or unable to defend the political values I care about.

Nevertheless (as always, and chanting the 11th Commandment along with bthun), I will certainly support Romney in a general election if need be. Because the fact is that I suspect Romney does care about at least some of the political values that are important to me, even if he hasn't the skill or the guts to say so, whereas the incumbent is actively hostile to most of them.

Posted by: Texan99 at January 23, 2012 11:35 AM

1) I have no idea. I've never been in the situation (and pray God I never am), and cannot for the life of me imagine what it must be like to stand up there KNOWING they're going to bring it out. Even knowing it's coming (rather than be blindsided), it's got to hurt to have to talk about.

2) I think his response, calculated as it was (and as it should be, there's no excuse not to prepare for such a thing) it was exactly what he needed to say. He got the audience behind him, he even got to appear magnanimous by defending his opponents on stage, and he deflected the focus from himself to the media. It was skillfully done.

Was it an off limit topic? I'd say so. His marital infidelities are all but legendary at this point, needing more scandalous detail adds nothing and as Newt (rightfully) pointed out, was dredged out right before the primary for political effect. Now, in Herman Cain's case, I think it WOULD have been on topic as it was NOT common knowledge that he was a philanderer. Bear in mind, I was a Cain supporter. For me, the difference between it being on and off topic is "does it add new information about the candidate that changes what we know about him/her already?" At this point, more information about Bill Clinton's affairs would add nothing. Information about any HILLARY had would.

3) Not a whit. Oh, of course I think he demonstrated his political acumen, and I think he'd do fine as President, but I did not pull the lever for him on Saturday, because he's an oath-breaker. A habitual one in fact. Yes, if he gets the nomination, I'd still vote for him over Obama, but lesser of two evils and all that.

Posted by: MikeD at January 24, 2012 10:26 AM

1) I don't know how I would have handled it not being the kind of person who would need to handle something like that.

2) The character issue is certainly on-topic. I person who would lie to his spouse would lie to you too. That said, the character question wasn't really the one asked. If the moderator had asked him something along the lines of "ABC has recently run an interview with one of your ex-wives where she makes some allegations about your character. Given your admitted history of breaking your promises of fidelity to your wives, why should the American people trust that you won't break your promises to them?" To me, that would have been a question relevant to the job of President and asked within that context.

It's really a question that should have been asked long before then and one that really does deserve a serious answer.

"Your ex says you're a scumbag. Are you?" doesn't really come across as the same thing to me. It comes across more like an attempt to needle someone you don't like than an honest and cogent question.

3) Not really. I'll admit, as a matter of political theater I rather enjoyed watching a MSM asshat being forced to, well, wear his ass as a hat. That being said, Newt is The Muscle and The Muscle is useful, they have their place, but they don't usually make a very good Boss.

Newt would be better served, and would likely better serve us as VP than POTUS. He would be free to vocally make the case for conservatives (in as much as he really is one) without tying Romney to Obama's "I don't understand why those angry mobs of knuckle-dragging redstaters who bitterly cling to their guns and racism and took Science out of its rightful place all for the benefit of the Ayn-Rand-Worshiping-Chinese-Toy-Loving-Minions-of-the-Richest-1% and who might have well have shot Gabby Giffords themselves keep acting stupidly by not seeing just how amazingly brilliant I am and not falling down to worship every idea that comes our of my head don't want to be civil?" schtick.

We've seen what 3 years of an ideological bombast with no executive experience gets us and it ain't pretty.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 24, 2012 06:15 PM

Yu-Ain, I think your item #2 is just about perfect.

Actually, the whole comment is. Well said.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 25, 2012 07:46 AM

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