Rep. Christopher Lee is a married Republican congressman serving the 26th District of New York. But when he trolls Craigslist’s “Women Seeking Men” forum, he’s Christopher Lee, “divorced” “lobbyist” and “fit fun classy guy.” One object of his flirtation told us her story.
On the morning of Friday, January 14, a single 34-year-old woman put an ad in the “Women for Men” section of Craigslist personals. “Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?” she asked, inviting “financially & emotionally secure” men to reply.
That afternoon, a man named Christopher Lee replied. He used a Gmail account that Rep. Christopher Lee has since confirmed to be his own. (It’s the same Gmail account that was associated with Lee’s personal Facebook account, which the Congressman deleted when we started asking questions.)
By email, Lee identified himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist and sent a PG picture to the woman from the ad. (In fact, Lee is married and has one son with his wife. He’s also 46.)
Not the best of days for Rep. Chris Lee, R-NY, a second-termer from a relatively safe seat. He did not sleep with a woman he sent a shirtless picture to, after seeing her Craigslist ad. He merely lied about his job, age, and marital status.
Married Rep. Chris Lee resigned Wednesday afternoon three hours after the publication of allegations in Gawker that he sent flirtatious photos — including one where he was naked from the waist up — to a Washington-area woman he contacted through the Craigslist personals section.
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness,” Lee said in a statement.
“The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”
He earlier declined to comment on the story, telling Fox News Wednesday afternoon, “I have to work this out with my wife.”
Here’s Gawker’s post laying out the evidence, replete with shirtless pics and the obligatory nod at “hypocrisy” because Lee supports DADT and opposes federal funds for abortion and is therefore guilty of “publicly scrutinizing others’ sex lives.” If you’re wondering whether this means the seat will flip to the Democrats, probably not: His district has a Cook PVI of R+6 and has been represented by a Republican for all but 16 years dating back to … 1857.
Update: Why did Lee resign when more prominent Republicans, like Vitter, have survived infidelity scandals? Did he simply feel duty-bound? Or was it the fact that that photo of him with his shirt off is so goofy that it would follow him around forever if he hung on?
There must be a lot more below the surface, and the quick resignation was to get us to move on. I’d like to know what inspired the desperation. Or was it that he got no support from his GOP colleagues in Congress. Perhaps he was told, quite clearly, that they didn’t want to burn any political capital defending him. If so, I think that was probably an excellent choice. They can’t want him as the torso face of the party for the next month.
The developments were more than a little surprising, not only because of Lee’s spectacularly dumb actions, but also because he resigned so quickly — Republicans, especially those caught up in sex scandals, generally don’t step down.
Indeed, if we’re measuring controversies on the Scandal Richter Scale, Lee’s story doesn’t seem nearly as serious as some of his Republican colleagues. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) got caught with prostitutes, refused to resign, sought re-election, and won. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) carried on a lengthy extra-marital relationship with one of his aides, who happened to be married to another one of his aides. Ensign’s parents tried to pay off the mistress’ family, and the senator arranged lobbying work for his mistress’ husband. He refused to resign, and he’s running for another term, too. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) got caught seeking sex in an airport bathroom, and even he didn’t resign.
Lee’s story is certainly sleazy, but based solely on what we know so far, it pales in comparison to some of these other Republicans’ scandals.
So, why’d he resign while the others didn’t? It’s speculative, of course, but it’s possible there was far more dirt, and Lee quit to avoid further humiliation. Maybe Republican leaders who tolerated the previous controversies didn’t want any distractions, so they demanded Lee’s resignation.
Or maybe it’s just the simple fact that we live in an era when images have more of an impact than than anything else. Vitter, Ensign, and the like were at the center of ugly controversies, but there’s no single photograph to be aired over and over again, the way there is with Lee’s topless photo of himself.
Visuals, in other words, resonate.
As for the month-old 112th Congress, David Dayen had this eye-opening observation: “Number of House resignations this year: 2. Number of pieces of legislation signed into law: 0.”
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.
All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.
Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.
This weekend, I came across “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua. Since I have a Chinese mother, I assembled my face into a self-righteous smirk and began to read. But—woe is me!—my Chinese mother’s a fraud.For Amy Chua revealed that my Chinese mother (maiden name: Lily Chua) failed her ethnicity by failing to slave-drive me with the “screaming, hair-tearing explosions” necessary for raising a superior child. Consequently, I am not a math genius who performs open heart surgery and violin concertos simultaneously, but a blogger who spends her days contemplating Katy Perry’s breasts. I learned arithmetic not by “every day drilling,” but the way every red-blooded American does, by typing equations into my TI-86 during marathon sessions of Drugwars. (Maybe I got the “sneaky Chinaman” gene instead of the “obedient Chinese daughter” one?) And my mother and I never had showdowns like this:
Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. […] When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.
“The Little White Donkey,” just like Amy Chua’s husband, a stupid caucasian ass named Jed who lacks her superior Asian childrearing skills:
“Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated.”
Reading Amy Chua’s article, I am sad as a broken fortune cookie. If only my Chinese mother had humiliated me in newspaper articles that would plague my dating life forever—maybe I, too, could have performed piano solos in Carnegie Hall, like Amy Chua’s daughter did, according to Amy Chua. How unlucky I am: I have never hated my mother.
My only solace: that Irish-American father’s inferior academic genes came packaged with superior genes for drinking.
That said, Amy Chua appears to have absorbed a few American parenting skills, like the incessant upper-class need to one-up every other upper-class parent in the tri-state area. Mommy bragging: The virtue that unites us all.
Chua’s mindset and methods—bolstered by faith in Chinese family tradition—pose a useful challenge for an era haunted by a helicoptering ethos as hard to shake as it is to like. Here is an alternative to the queasy hypocrisy of typical hyperparents, buffeted by shifting expertise that leaves them anxious about overpressuring even as they push. Chua breaks through all that. She is a crusader invigorated by practicing what she preaches: the arduous work she believes necessary to do anything well, child-rearing included. Her exacting program isincredibly time-consuming and burdensome, for her as much as her kids, and is bound to look outlandish to others. (While teaching, writing her second book, and traveling constantly, Chua types up elaborate practice instructions, which freak out one of her law students when he stumbles on them—and which are to be found on pages 163-165.) But precisely because Chua slaves away as hard as her girls do, one thing her program is not is guilt-inducing. In the end, her ordeal with Lulu teaches Chua humility and proves her daughter’s very healthy autonomy—and inspires next to no regrets.
Let’s hope a furor over the book doesn’t change all that. Boris Sidis lived to regret his boastful diatribe, or at least his wife did, lamenting poor Billy’s interlude in the spotlight, which complicated an already rocky transition to adulthood that ended in a lonely retreat. “Educators, psychologists, editorial writers and newspaper readers were furious” with her husband, Sarah Sidis wrote. “And their fury was a factor in Billy’s life upon which we had not counted.” Norbert Wiener, who battled depression to become the future founder of the field of cybernetics, was devastated as a teenager when, browsing in a magazine, he learned that his father, Leo, had claimed his son’s successes as his own, while blaming failures on the boy. Proselytizing and prodigy-raising are a fraught mix.
In a coda to her book, Chua loosens up, describing how she gave her daughters the manuscript and welcomed them as collaborators. The wise girls are wary about getting roped in. “I’m sure it’s all about you anyway,” Lulu says. As they hunker down to criticize, and make her revise, revise, revise, Sophia, now 17, issues a warning well worth keeping in mind if, or when, the mommy wars erupt over Chua’s provocative portrait. “It’s not possible for you to tell the complete truth,” Sophia tells her mother. “You’ve left out so many facts. But that means no one can really understand.” Let’s not forget that it’s only how the girls themselves understand their mother’s methods that really counts in the end.
It did not escape my attention that “Jewish” was not on Chua’s list, and furthermore that her softie foil in the essay was her husband, who is identified as Jed—and is presumably why their daughters can be intimidated with threats of withheld Hanukkah presents. (Minimal Internet research reveals that Jed is, like his wife, a Yale Law School professor and a published author; his last name is Rubenfeld.) Most American Jews are comfortably assimilated, although Chua could probably forge a Sino-Soviet alliance with a few Russian-speaking recent arrivals. But even in the early twentieth century, when Jews were known for toughness (see Siegel, Bugsy; Rosenbloom, Slapsie Maxie) the stereotypical Jewish mother used what Joseph Nye would call soft power, wrapping specific and restrictive ideas about her children’s future in a nurturing bosom. This blend of stubborn guidance and smothering affection has produced successful doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It has also inspired characters from Sophie Portnoy to Estelle Costanza (who, though technically not Jewish, qualifies, too), envisioned by creative children scarred by their childhoods.
Some children, Chinese and otherwise, may respond well to “Chinese mothering,” and I hope for their sake that Chua’s two daughters are among them. But it’s simply not possible that every child becomes “the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama.” And not every child is well served by forcing them to try. Some children will fail with tragic consequences, others, if we are more fortunate, with literary ones, finding humor and meaning in stories of suffering. In a perfectly plotted world, one of Chua’s girls will, according to plan, become the concertmistress of a world-class orchestra, and the other will avenge herself by novel or memoir—and sell more books than her mother and father combined.
Chua’s tone is arrogant but filled just the same with bullseye observations, and I spent a long time trying to untangle the sincere from the deadpan. So much of the piece is an accurate reflection of a specific brand of hard-ass Asian parenting. But would other people be able to sense the gleeful embellishments in her piece, the way she seems to relish insulting and threatening her kids to get them to perform? And then I doubled back: was I being too charitable to read it as exaggeration?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Internet, one of my aunties sent the piece around to other women in my family last night. “Thought you might enjoy this,” my auntie wrote to other mothers. “Were you raised by a Chinese mother … or are you perhaps one yourself?”
My mother was horrified at the piece, called it embarrassing and terrible and outrageous, said that she resented the fact that Chua used the term “Chinese mother,” even with the disclaimers at the opening that not all Chinese mothers deserve the title, and some non-Chinese mothers could be admitted to the club of harsh, ultra-strict parenting.
Like Chua, my parents sacrificed a great deal to raise me and my siblings–they make for great stories now that we’re all adults. My mom would hand us math workbooks to occupy us during car rides the way other parents hand their kids Pop Tarts or carrot sticks. She, like Chua, packed our violins in the trunk of the minivan so we could practice even while we were on vacation and forbade sleepovers and weeknight television well into my high school years. I struggled mightily with math and science and my mother would wake me up at 6 am on weekends so we could go over math drills together for hours. Letting me fail was not an option to her, though I occasionally wished she would have. Thanks to her, I didn’t.
There are many, many bizarre and debatable notions in the memoir extract that Yale law professor Amy Chua published in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, in which she argued that screaming at one’s children to do drill work and depriving them of entertainment or social contact with their peers are the secrets to why Chinese people raise smarter and more successful children than regular decadent Americans do. A working-class Jamaican-immigrant mother, for instance—who would be an honorary “Chinese mother,” according to Chua—might be surprised to learn that good, hard parenting means spending a week at the piano, going “right through dinner into the night,” threatening and yelling at a seven-year-old girl to force her to learn a difficult piano part. Not everybody’s boss gives out flex time as readily as Yale Law does.
But mostly, as with so many child-rearing success stories, the biggest question Chua raises is: what makes you so sure you’ve succeeded? God bless Chua’s daughters, but according to some simple arithmetic and the pictures accompanying the Journal piece, they’re considerably younger than, say, 60. Or 40. Or even 25. There’s plenty of time yet to find out what fruit all those years of rigorous “Chinese” alpha parenting—no sleepovers with friends, Chua brags, no personally chosen extracurriculars, no musical instruments other than piano and violin (sorry, Yo-Yo Ma; your parents weren’t Chinese enough)—will really bear. Marv Marinovich wouldn’t let his son eat Big Macs, either. Discipline and high standards, all the way. “I don’t know if you can be a great success without being a fanatic,” was how he put it
In the week since The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of the new book by Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, under the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” Ms. Chua has received death threats, she says, and “hundreds, hundreds” of e-mails. The excerpt generated more than 5,000 comments on the newspaper’s Web site, and countless blog entries referring in shorthand to “that Tiger Mother.” Some argued that the parents of all those Asians among Harvard’s chosen few must be doing something right; many called Ms. Chua a “monster” or “nuts” — and a very savvy provocateur.
A law blog suggested a “Mommie Dearest” element to her tale (“No. Wire. Hangers! Ever!!”). Another post was titled “Parents like Amy Chua are the reason Asian-Americans like me are in therapy.” A Taiwanese video circulating on YouTube (subtitled in English) concluded that Ms. Chua would not mind if her children grew up disturbed and rebellious, as long as she sold more books.
“It’s been a little surprising, and a little bit intense, definitely,” Ms. Chua said in a phone interview on Thursday, between what she called a “24/7” effort to “clarify some misunderstandings.” Her narration, she said, was meant to be ironic and self-mocking — “I find it very funny, almost obtuse.”
But reading the book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” it can be hard to tell when she is kidding.
“In retrospect, these coaching suggestions seem a bit extreme,” she writes in the book after describing how she once threatened to burn her daughter’s stuffed animals if she did not play a piano composition perfectly. “On the other hand, they were highly effective.”
In interviews, she comes off as unresolved. “I think I pulled back at the right time,” she said. “I do not think there was anything abusive in my house.” Yet, she added, “I stand by a lot of my critiques of Western parenting. I think there’s a lot of questions about how you instill true self-esteem.”
I have the opposite problem with Chua. I believe she’s coddling her children. She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.
Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group — these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.
Yet mastering these arduous skills is at the very essence of achievement. Most people work in groups. We do this because groups are much more efficient at solving problems than individuals (swimmers are often motivated to have their best times as part of relay teams, not in individual events). Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon have found that groups have a high collective intelligence when members of a group are good at reading each others’ emotions — when they take turns speaking, when the inputs from each member are managed fluidly, when they detect each others’ inclinations and strengths.
Participating in a well-functioning group is really hard. It requires the ability to trust people outside your kinship circle, read intonations and moods, understand how the psychological pieces each person brings to the room can and cannot fit together.
In a letter to the New York Post, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld responded to the critics of her mother’s recent Wall Street Journal piece, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” which details the numerous restrictions Chua imposed upon her two daughters during their childhood. Among many other things, Chua has been blasted for forbidding her daughters from attending sleepovers and calling one of her girls lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent, and pathetic for playing a piano piece incorrectly.
In “Why I Love My Strict Chinese Mom,” Chua-Rubenfeld says outsiders don’t know what her family is actually like.
“[Outsiders] don’t hear us cracking up over each other’s jokes,” Chua-Rubenfeld wrote. “They don’t see us eating our hamburgers with fried rice. They don’t know how much fun we have when the six of us — dogs included — squeeze into one bed and argue about what movies to download from Netflix.”
Though it was “no tea party” growing up under all Tiger Mother’s rules, Chua-Rubenfeld claims to be more independent as a result of her rigid upbringing.
“I pretty much do my own thing these days — like building greenhouses downtown, blasting Daft Punk in the car with Lulu and forcing my boyfriend to watch ‘Lord of the Rings’ with me over and over — as long as I get my piano done first,” Chua-Rubenfeld wrote.
Chua-Rubenfeld may have thicker skin than her mother’s critics think. Chua has received lots of flak for rejecting the “not good enough” birthday cards her daughters made, but Sophia writes that she wasn’t all that offended.
Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up. Fisher:
A 27-year-old Pennsylvania woman is suing Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, alleging that she was sexual assaulted by a Disney employee dressed up as Donald Duck. She says the incident took place at Disney World in 2008 and that it caused her post-traumatic stress disorder. Her $50,000 lawsuit, which says Donald Duck grabbed her breast then “made gestures making a joke indicating he had done something wrong,” contends negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional distress. But how likely is it that this is legitimate? Observers are looking at the details of the case, and at Disney’s history, to evaluate her case.
While visiting Epcot Center in Florida, a Pennsylvania woman alleges that a Disney employee dressed as Donald Duck grabbed her breast and molested her after she sought an autograph.
After the alleged groping, Donald Duck made gestures–apparently with his snowy white hands—“indicating he had done something wrong,” according to a lawsuit filed last month by April Magolon. The Upper Darby woman, 27, was visiting Epcot with her children and fiancé in May 2008 when the incident reportedly occurred.
Magolon, pictured at right, is suing Disney for negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional distress, and is seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages. The entertainment giant has petitioned to have the lawsuit, which was filed in Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas, transferred to federal court in Philadelphia.
According to Magolon’s complaint, she has suffered “severe physical injury, emotional anguish and distress including, but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder” as a result of the run-in with Donald Duck. She also contends that the incident was “one of a long line of continuing, long standing, similar prior incidents” involving the groping of patrons by costumed Disney employees.
Yeah, we’ve heard some pretty crazy things about those freaks in the costumes, but most of the time, we’ve also heard they can’t see a thing out of those giant heads! Maybe it was just a misunderstanding.
Then again, Donald Duck always has seemed a bit shifty to us!
The legal papers includes a helpful list of other Disney character transgressions, like the time Tigger molested a 13-year-old girl. In other news, a guy just wrote a memoir about dealing drugs while costumed as Winnie the Pooh at Epcot, and how his co-workers were furries who liked to have kinky sex in their costumes. (And he’s not the first Disney character to dish: a former Disneyland Pluto wrote a play a few years back about much the same stuff.)
Gawker seems to think so. Yesterday evening, it posted an item asking: “Who are the strange people in the furry costumes at Disney World, and are they pervs? After Donald Duck grabbed her boob, a 27-year-old is suing Disney.” The woman’s complaint, according to Gawker, “includes a helpful list of other Disney character transgressions, like the time Tigger molested a 13-year-old girl. … Moral of the story: Men who wear masks are not to be trusted.”
Readers of the item soon began posting their own allegations. One recalled: “When I was in High School the Shamu at the Sea World in Ohio freaked me out. He kept giving me these big bear hugs that were really hard and rough. He also kept my face covered with his fins while he was doing this. Very creepy. I can understand why this lady was totally offended.” Another agreed: “Similar experience in high school with a crash test dummy at Disney (near the test track). Creepy.” A third added: “When my family visited Magic Mountain in the 70s, a horny person dressed up as a grape pinched my dad’s ass and then scampered away.” A fourth wrote: “UGH! I remember going to Disney with my brother and sister. I was like 16 and they were like 12 and 10—so I was confused that all the characters seemed to want to kiss ME on the cheek and hug ME more than my siblings.”
We’ve seen this pattern before: an allegation of groping, followed by a bunch of other people recalling similar abuse. The initial charge makes the rest of the claims credible. But sometimes the allegations, and even the triggered memories, are false. That’s what happened to Tigger. Don’t let it happen to Donald.
Gawker bases its description of the Tigger case—”the time Tigger molested a 13-year-old girl”—on the complaint against Donald, which was posted yesterday by the Smoking Gun. The complaint alleges:
9. This incident is one of a long line of continuing, long standing, similar prior incidents that have occurred on Defendant’s various resort premises. … 10. Authorities in Florida received 24 more complaints in the week since a Walt Disney World employee was charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl and her mother while dressed as the character ‘Tigger’ in 2004. 11. Numerous of those cases were deemed credible enough to be investigated by the Orange County Sherriff’s office. 12. One of Defendant’s employees, Michael Chartrand, was arrested and charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and one count of simple battery. 13. In that case the sheriff’s office received a complaint that the costumed character had touched the girl and her mother inappropriately while their pictures were being taken. 14. According to an incident report, Chartrand fondled the breasts of the girl and her mother while posing for pictures at the Magic Kingdom’s Toon Town. 15. Despite knowledge of these continuing, long standing, similar prior incidents, the Defendant failed to act to ensure the incidents would cease. …
Hmmm. Incident reports, charges, investigations—so how did the case turn out? Since the complaint against Donald curiously omits this part, and since Gawker didn’t bother to look it up, let’s check it out ourselves. Answer: Chartrand was acquitted. The case seems to have been a total scam. The girl’s mother planned to sue Disney for money and lied to prosecutors about her plans. The cops conned Chartrand into writing an apology to the girl even though he had no memory of her, much less groping her. The girl’s stepfather testified that nothing untoward had happened. At trial, the defense attorney put on the Tigger outfit to show jurors how severely it limited its occupant’s vision and range of motion, making the alleged groping impossible.
Al and Tipper Gore, whose playful romance enlivened Washington and the campaign trail for a quarter century, have decided to separate after 40 years of marriage, the couple told friends Tuesday.
In an “Email from Al and Tipper Gore,” the couple said: “We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate.
“This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further.”
The e-mail was obtained by POLITICO and confirmed by Kalee Kreider of the office of Al and Tipper Gore. Kreider said there would be no further comment.
So who would have thought that Bill and Hillary would outlast Al and Tipper? The Clintons’ marriage was — is? — famously complicated. The Gores’ marriage — well, except for that overwrought convention kiss — seemed pretty normal. Almost, you might say, “Love Story.” “It was just like everyone else melted away,” Tipper wrote of their meeting at his high school prom.
They survived four kids, their son’s accident, her depression, his loss.
You would have thought they were past whatever hump it is after which marriages can be deemed solid. There is something deeply unsettling about their decision to separate, because the pairing seemed so stable and so sensible — not two peas in a pod as much as two pieces that fit together.
I’ve known Al and (less well) Tipper Gore since the early 1980s, and always thought that their marriage was the quirky, unstable leftover of their youths in the capital. Gore was as “federal” as you could get, the princely son of a senator living at the Fairfax Hotel and commuting up Massaschusetts Avenue to prep school at St. Albans. Tipper was all local, the fun-loving daughter or a well-to-do Arlington, Va ., businessman (and who gave the young couple the suburban house they lived in). It had to have been thrilling—and an act of teenage rebellion for them both—when they literally crossed the river for each other.
But the driven Gore—whose father reared him with the expectation that he would be president—was, after a fitful start (reporter, theology student)—focused intently on a political life. His wife, by contrast, always seemed unsettled in the role of the Good Wife, the dutiful, careful, and absorbed political spouse.
She did her best. In the old days, the Gores used to have a Christmas party at their Arlington home when their kids were young; Gore staffers would dress as Santas and elves. Al tried to enjoy these events (even though he wasn’t much for easy social chatter), but I always thought that Tipper, genial as she was, seemed a bit nonplussed by the use of her home for such a mix of public, political, and private life.
Tipper loved to take photographs at events—a way to express herself artistically but always a way to distance herself from them.
The two sometimes could seem yoked together like the figures on a wedding cake. When, as vice president, they hosted Halloween parties, they dressed in elaborate costumes (provided by the Walt Disney Co.) that some years completely hid their identity as individuals. It was a kind of goof on the whole enterprise: guests had their pictures taken with “hosts” no one could identify. I didn’t think the Gores were enjoying themselves in the heavy armor of costumes.
Forty years together, and now this. I remember thinking around the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that the Gores were so very different from the Clintons, whose marriage seemd like a business deal more than anything else. If the Gore break-up really isn’t about adultery on either side, then it seems that the failure of their marriage could be the cost of being a famous public figure. If Al is on the road here, there and everywhere, he’s not at home being a husband. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming him, necessarily. I don’t have any reason to put the blame on him, and I do hope that people who don’t like Al Gore as a politician and as an environmental advocate won’t take advantage of his personal crisis to whack on him. Still, if Al and Tipper Gore did grow apart over the years, surely his prominence and associated globetrotting was a major contributing factor in this sad end to their marriage. At least that’s what friends of their are anonymously telling the press.
Perhaps the love faded away through the years, like a slowly melting glacier. We suppose these things just happen sometimes. But while the Gores may never be the same again, we prefer to remember them at the peak of their love: making out in front of everybody at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
It’s New York Times wedding pages meets tabloids: Adam Wheeler, a tale-spinning student who managed to lie his way through Harvard and part of a Rhodes scholarship application, has the blogosphere equally delighted and horrified. Tuesday’s Boston Globe story detailed Wheeler’s stunts, which included faked resumes, recommendations, SAT scores, transcripts, plagiarized papers, and more. He managed to win grant money and prizes until English professor James Stimson, reviewing Wheeler’s Rhodes scholarship essays in his senior year, smelled a rat. Now, Wheeler’s fakery exposed as he faces criminal charges, the media scavengers are on the prowl.
A former Harvard student was indicted Monday for falsifying information in his applications to Harvard and for several scholarships.
Adam Wheeler, 23, was indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. Wheeler was allegedly “untruthful” in his applications to the University and in scholarship applications, according to a statement released Monday by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.
As a senior in September 2009, Wheeler allegedly submitted fraudulent applications for the Harvard endorsement for both the United States Rhodes Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship.
His application packet included fabricated recommendations from Harvard professors and a college transcript detailing perfect grades over three years. Wheeler’s resume listed numerous books he had co-authored, lectures he had given, and courses he had taught, according to authorities.
Wheeler’s transgressions came to light when a Harvard professor noticed similarities between Wheeler’s work and that of another professor during the application review process for the Rhodes Scholarship. The professor then compared the two pieces and voiced concerns that Wheeler plagiarized nearly the entire piece.
Wheeler’s file was referred to University officials, who decided—upon discovering the falsified transcript—to open a full review of Wheeler’s academic file. Wheeler was invited to present his case at a disciplinary hearing convened by University officials, but decided to await the decision at his home in Delaware rather than attend the meeting, according to the press release.
He falsely claimed to have perfect SAT scores, to have prepped at Andover, and to have attended MIT. (Why would you lie to make yourself seem even more insufferable? Isn’t the mere fact of being a liberal arts student at Harvard enough?) Wheeler is also believed to have stolen some $45,000 in grants, scholarship, and financial aid by acquiring it under false premises. He even applied for Fulbright and Rhodes Scholarships—and is thought to have lied there, too:
His application packet included fabricated recommendations from Harvard professors and a college transcript detailing perfect grades over three years. Wheeler’s resume listed numerous books he had co-authored, lectures he had given, and courses he had taught, according to authorities.
Wheeler also had some successes: The English department awarded him the Hoopes and Winthrop Sargent Prizes in 2009, as well as a grant for academic research. Brilliant, lying, Ivy League manipulators—is there an alumni club for that?
This morning the Times had a small item on Adam Wheeler, a Delaware native who faked his way into Harvard who managed to con the university out of $45,000 in financial aid. (He falsely said that he had perfect SAT scores, for instance.) He now faces 20 criminal charges, including identity fraud and falsifying an endorsement or approval. In fact, Adam Wheeler recently applied for an internship at the magazine; specifically, an internship for our literary section. We did not accept him. Click here for a PDF of his rather remarkable two-page resume, in which he claims that (a) he’s contracted to write several books; (b) he can speak French, Old English, Classical Armenian, and Old Persian; and (c) he’s in demand on the lecture circuit.
The most hilarious take of the day goes to the New Republic staff, bragging that they’d recently rejected Wheeler’s application for an internship:
We here at The New Republic are not so easily duped.The line has been excised. A subscriber in TNR’s comments notes that “for the New Republic to boast of its scam-busting acumen makes as much sense as, oh, Mark Souder preening himself on his devotion to family values… in an interview with his mistress.”
1. Obviously, everyone should start lying on their college applications now. Wheeler claimed on his Harvard application not only that he had a perfect SAT score, but that he had attended MIT and Phillips Academy Andover. All things that are very easily checked, but which clearly weren’t in this case.
2. If you have a sketchy friend whose lying you just try to ignore, there might be a deeper problem. You know that pal you have that sometimes tells you stories, like that one about how he kissed Anne Hathaway after getting drunk next to her in first class on a flight to Istanbul, that just don’t add up? Well, he could be lying about everything. Listen to this Wheeler anecdote, from the Post:
A former friend from Bowdoin, Nick Dunn, told the Post that he first realized there was something phony about his pal during a trip the two took to New York City in 2006. “We were walking around New York and ran into an old classmate of Adam’s, I guess from high school. And the classmate said, ‘Oh, Adam, how’s MIT?’ “He said, ‘Oh, it’s great!’ And we were like, ‘What? You don’t go to MIT!’ ” Dunn said, “He’s definitely been disingenuous with people for a while,” noting that Wheeler also bragged that he attended the University of Chicago.
Sounds crazy, right? But if this was your sketchy friend who comes up with weird claims semi-regularly, you might have just let this slide. Don’t! Some of the smartest people are the most shifty. Ask him what dorm he was in at Andover, and see if he knows that football chant that ends with, ” … you’re gonna pump our gas someday!”
3. Handsome men get away with things more easily. Actually, this isn’t anything new, but we just wanted to point out that he’s pretty cute.
4. Know your limits. Wheeler would have probably made it out of Harvard in the clear had he not made outrageous claims on his Rhodes application and plagiarized his essay. You’ll notice it’s only people who have personality disorders who compare themselves to Icarus.
5. Realizing you are about to graduate with a useless English degree can make you do pretty desperate things. Like make up fabulous lies in order to keep yourself in grant money and prestige. Or become a blogger.
You may recall that during the most perilous months of 2008 and early 2009, there was a vigorous debate about how the government should fix the financial system. Some economists, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and The Times’s own Paul Krugman, declared that we should follow the example of the Swedes by nationalizing the entire banking system.
They argued that Wall Street was occupied by the walking dead, and that no matter how much money we threw at the banks, they would eventually topple the system all over again and cause a domino effect worldwide.
I certainly never said anything like that, and I don’t think Nouriel did either. First of all, I never called for “nationalizing the entire banking system” — I wanted the government to take temporary full ownership of a few weak banks, mainly Citigroup and possibly B of A. I defy Sorkin to find any examples of me calling for a total takeover.
And the argument was never that “no matter how much money we threw at the banks, they would eventually topple the system all over again”. Again, where did I say that? The argument was always that if we were going to rescue the banks — and we were — taxpayers should get the potential upside as well as the potential downside.
If you want to say that the advocates of nationalization were excessively pessimistic about the prospects for a light-touch bank strategy, fine. But caricaturing their position, making it sound far more extreme than it actually was, is definitely not OK.
As New York noted this past winter, Andrew Ross Sorkin is somewhat of a polarizing figure at the Times. A number of his fellow reporters are jealous of his success, unconvinced of his reportorial skills, and suspicious of his fawning attitude toward sources. And this morning, Sorkin made a new enemy at the Times, when in an amazingly credulous column (even for him) lauding the effectiveness of the bailout, he declared confidently that “some economists, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and The Times’s own Paul Krugman, declared that we should follow the example of the Swedes by nationalizing the entire banking system.”
This did not please Krugman, who equally disdains imprecision and being referred to, even obliquely, as wrong. So the graybearded Times columnist did what he always does when he gets angry: He padded over to his computer and wrote a somewhat blistering rebuttal on his Times blog. The resulting post, unsubtly headlined “Andrew Ross Sorkin Owes Several People An Apology,” takes issue with Sorkin’s statement and makes clear that the person who is owed an apology is Krugman. “I certainly never said anything like that, and I don’t think Nouriel did either,” he wrote. “I never called for ‘nationalizing the entire banking system’ — I wanted the government to take temporary full ownership of a few weak banks, mainly Citigroup and possibly B of A.”
John Hempton somewhat misunderstands my point, but that’s OK. I should have been clearer — and he and I actually seem to be mainly in agreement.
I was not saying “nationalize all the banks”; I was saying do what the Swedes did — in tandem with a guarantee on bank liabilities, take the banks with zero or negative capital into receivership. It’s really important that you do this: if you offer a blanket guarantee on the assets of a bank that’s already underwater, you (a) are very likely to take a large hit on taxpayers’ money, without any share in the upside (b) create a huge moral hazard/looting incentive.
Is he picking nits?
We don’t think so. Winding down banks that are technically insolvent is not the same thing as nationalizing all the banks.
If taxpayers are footing the bill for rescuing the banks, why shouldn’t they get ownership, at least until private buyers can be found? But the Obama administration appears to be tying itself in knots to avoid this outcome.
Later, on February 23, 2009, Krugman noted:
What Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman — and a staunch defender of free markets — actually said was, “It may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring.” I agree.
And just how were Krugman’s views characterized by other publications back then? Two headlines:
“Obama Should Temporarily Nationalize U.S. Banks, Krugman Says” – Bloomberg
See how one word changes everything?
The closest he might’ve come in context to noting something resembling Sorkin’s piece is this, from a March 2009 Newsweekprofile of him:
Krugman’s suggestion that the government could take over the banking system is deeply impractical, Obama aides say. Krugman points to the example of Sweden, which nationalized its banks in the 1990s. But Sweden is tiny. The United States, with 8,000 banks, has a vastly more complex financial system. What’s more, the federal government does not have anywhere near the manpower or resources to take over the banking system.
But (1) that’s Sweden, not Switzerland, and (2) Newsweek doesn’t specify what kind of takeover he’s referring to in the piece, only writing about it in vague terms as a “takeover.”
DECISION: Krugman. To be fair, we didn’t look into what Nouriel Roubini might’ve said, but unless Sorkin comes up with something better on Krugman, in that respect, he was wrong. Not only was he wrong, but his attempt to shell-shock readers by calling someone out in his own building backfired, miserably, and in doing so, likely just threw his “haters” both in and outside of the Times some fuel for their fire.
We contacted both Times executive editor Bill Keller for quote on the matter, we didn’t hear back. New York Times spokesperson Robert “Call Me Bob” Christie declined to comment.
Big time beef at the New York Times! Paul Krugman, chief beard-wearing columnist, took to his blog to attack Andrew Ross Sorkin, chief young reporter who will one day be an investment banker. Krugman says Sorkin mischaracterized Krugman’s position in his column today. He says Sorkin “Owes several people an apology.” First and foremost, Paul Krugman! In any case, this simply must end in a celebrity boxing match, which we will be happy to set up guys, just let us know.
As you know, I’m a big fan of yours. I just want to point to some of the source material I had consulted for the column.
You quoted part of my column that said, “Some economists, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and The Times’s own Paul Krugman, declared that we should follow the example of the Swedes by nationalizing the entire banking system.”
On your blog, you wrote, “I certainly never said anything like that, and I don’t think Nouriel did either.”
Just so there is no confusion, I based that passage on what you and Mr. Roubini had said and written during the crisis about a Swedish-style nationalization of the banking system.
Mr. Roubini began an Op-Ed in The Washington Post by writing, “The U.S. banking system is close to being insolvent, and unless we want to become like Japan in the 1990s — or the United States in the 1930s — the only way to save it is to nationalize it.” Later in the piece, he added, “We believe that, if applied correctly, the Swedish solution will work here.”
On your blog on Sept. 28, 2008, after reading a piece by Brad DeLong, an economist, which you linked to, you wrote, “Brad DeLong says that Swedish-style temporary nationalization is the right answer to a financial crisis; he’s right.”
In your column on Feb. 23, 2009, you asked, “Why not just go ahead and nationalize? Remember, the longer we live with zombie banks, the harder it will be to end the economic crisis.”
I appreciate that you may have articulated the details of your views differently, or more specifically, in other columns and forums. And I appreciate that you could quibble with my words. But I do think it is clear that both you and Mr. Roubini had pressed for a Swedish-style nationalization. (By the way, at the time, I had thought the Swedish model was a pretty interesting approach, too.)
Again, I love reading your column and the bailouts are certainly an issue that is the subject of much debate.
Now, I’m pretty sure Krugman doesn’t need my help in a duel-to-the-death, but I went and read the full text of both columns Sorkin linked to. And in both cases the authors make it explicitly clear that when they say “nationalization” they are talking about temporarily putting only specific insolvent banks into receivership. Sure, you can cherry pick a sentence from the lead paragraph and ignore the lengthy explication that comes afterward, but excuse me for my naive impertinence: I expect better from a New York Times reporter.
How would nationalization take place? All the administration has to do is take its own planned “stress test” for major banks seriously, and not hide the results when a bank fails the test, making a takeover necessary. Yes, the whole thing would have a Claude Rains feel to it, as a government that has been propping up banks for months declares itself shocked, shocked at the miserable state of their balance sheets. But that’s O.K.
And once again, long-term government ownership isn’t the goal: like the small banks seized by the F.D.I.C. every week, major banks would be returned to private control as soon as possible. The finance blog Calculated Risk suggests that instead of calling the process nationalization, we should call it “preprivatization.”
It is of course true that Krugman advocated a more forceful approach to the banking system than that ultimately chosen by the White House. History has yet to rule on whether the Obama administration will get away with the path of least aggressiveness. It would not have taken much rewriting of Sorkin’s original column to make his same point. But Sorkin was sloppy, and made a factually incorrect claim that Krugman had recommended “nationalizing the entire banking system.”
Hey, no big deal. People make mistakes like that all the time. But when called on it, proper form demands that you admit what you got wrong. The classic formulation for this might be something along the lines of “My statement that Krugman demanded the complete nationalization of every bank in the United States was inartful, but my main point still holds.”
Instead, Sorkin dug in and cited evidence that proved his opponent’s point. And careless sloppiness suddenly becomes willful disingenuousness.
I am not an economist or a business writer, but I have always understood nationalization to be a government takeover, not guarantees to creditors.
Sorkin did not address Krugman’s contention that he misstated Krugman’s reason for supporting the nationalization of some banks. Krugman has had “20 reasons,” Sorkin said.
Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, who is in charge of the Op-Ed page, where Krugman’s column appears, said, “Paul does not favor a Swedish-style nationalization of the banking system because they would fail no matter how much government threw at them. He never did.”
Bill Keller, the executive editor, who has responsibility for the Business section, where Sorkin works, said he had not reviewed the record, but if Sorkin got it wrong, “he – and we – should correct it, of course.”
Krugman and Sorkin told me that they talked Thursday. Sorkin said the conversation was “very cordial.” Krugman called it “not much fun.” They agreed that they disagree on the definition of nationalization.
I think the right thing to do is to simply acknowledge that, in trying to quickly summarize Krugman’s nuanced position, Sorkin over-simplified and got it wrong. Krugman did not call for the nationalization of the entire banking system, and, unless Sorkin can produce a citation to the contrary, he did not say it was necessary because otherwise the banks would fail again and cause a worldwide domino effect.
Sorkin said he is going back to his editors to discuss whether some sort of clarification is needed.
The winner is Nobel-winning economist and crotchety columnist Paul Krugman. The loser is Dealbook wunderkind Andrew Ross Sorkin, who got a slap on the wrist in today’s New York Times Corrections page.Lest you forget (or didn’t bother to follow this feud in the first place) Sorkin said Krugman is dumb because he wanted to nationalize the U.S. banking system, so Krugman said am not and did not, but Sorkin said yuh-huh you did because Krugman’s position was the temporary nationalization of banks, but Sorkin thought he meant nationalize forever. Anyway, mom finally stepped in to settle this fight once and for all. And it’s Professor Krugman for the win! In a Timescorrection dated April 17, 2010:
The DealBook column on Tuesday, about the possibility of the government’s making a profit on its bailout of banks, overstated the position of the economists Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini, at the height of the financial crisis, on nationalizing banks. While both supported guaranteeing the liabilities of the banking industry and a temporary government takeover of certain failing institutions, they did not recommend nationalization of the entire banking system. (Go to Article)
Seven Muslims were arrested Tuesday for trying to kill yet another Muhammad-doodling European cartoonist. Among them was Colleen LaRose, a blond-haired green-eyed suburbanite who met her co-conspirators on YouTube and online forums, under the name JihadJane. According to a federal indictment, the 46-year-old LaRose began her jihad in June of 2008 when, under the username JihadJane, she commented on YouTube that she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” Muslims. She began corresponding with like-minded people in South Asia and Europe, two of whom advised Jihad Jane to take advantage of her imperviousness to racial profiling so they could attack a target CNN identifies as Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who earned a fatwa for depicting Muhammad astride a donkey.
Colleen LaRose, the Pennsylvania woman who authorities say called herself ”Jihad Jane” and used the Web to recruit others for violent attacks around the world, was “the weird, weird, weird lady who lived across the hall,” neighbor Eric Newell tells the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call. ”We always called her the crazy lady.”
Newell, the neighbor, says in the Morning Call that LaRose, 46, “was mostly notorious for getting drunk and getting into fights.” The newspaper adds that “Newell’s wife, Kristy, said LaRose talked to her cats all the time. But they never heard her discuss politics or extremist plots.”
Here is The Jawa Report’s exclusive report* from the person who notified the FBI about Colleen “Jihad Jane” La Rose’s online activities in support of terrorism.
There have been so many media inquiries made to The Jawa Report and YouTube Smackdown about our involvement in the “Jihad Jane” case. We here at The Jawa Report and the YouTube Smackdown Corps were involved to varying degrees in tracking and “smacking down” her various YouTube videos and accounts. By “smacking down” we mean we helped with an organized campaign to “flag” terrorist propaganda videos uploaded to YouTube in an effort to have those videos removed.
Howie and Stable Hand at the Jawa Report, for instance, were much more active in following Colleen — who in addition to calling herself “Jihad Jane” also used the name “Fatima LaRose”.
Andrea, Sabby, The Bartender, Celebrimbor, & Lam from the Smackdown Corps also followed Jihad Jane over the years. And Star CMC was instrumental both in the Corps and in enlisting the help of members of the Free Republic forum for various YouTube smackdowns.
But one individual in particular decided that Colleen’s pro-terrorism videos and statements crossed a line last year. I think we all thought of Colleen as pathetic and perhaps deranged. But at some time a year or more ago she also caught this person’s attention and they made the judgment that Colleen was also dangerous.
Ms. LaRose is white, with blond hair and green eyes, according to the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to share details of the case and spoke only on the condition of anonymity. …
The indictment refers to e-mail messages in which a conspirator, citing how Ms. LaRose’s appearance and American passport would make it easier for her to operate undetected, allegedly directed her in March 2009 to go to Sweden to help carry out a murder.
But the Department of Homeland Security insists on singling out citizens of mostly-Muslim “terror-prone” countries for additional airport screening, a move that would not have caught shoebomber Richard Reid (British citizen, Jamaican heritage); would-be-underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab at the time (Nigerian citizen, lots of time spent in the U.K.; and now Jihad Jane (American citizen, white as the driven snow, and we know white people can’t be terrorists). But ethnic profiling is great at humiliating and infuriating dignitaries of countries like Pakistan, whose assistance is absolutely crucial to an ultimate defeat of al-Qaeda.
So why are the Feds downplaying the case? And why is much of the mainstream media playing along? Most important, why is she going to do less jail time than many petty thieves?
The reason is that everyone (even Joel) is in thrall to the same false notion, expressed most succinctly by a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza after 9/11: “There’s no relationship between immigration and terrorism.” In other words, let’s just let in the good Mexican illegal aliens but keep out the bad Arab illegal aliens. But until we realize that, under modern conditions, national security is impossible without comprehensive immigration control, we’re going to keep seeing stories like Jihad Jane over and over again. She is, in the words of the Tancredo ad everyone felt superior in pooh-poohing, “The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.”
US Representative Patrick Kennedy has decided not to seek reelection, capping a dramatic year for the Kennedy family and probably leaving it without a member in Washington for the first time in more than six decades.
Kennedy made the decision based on “some personal struggles,’’ including the death in August of his father, Edward M. Kennedy, according to a Democratic official briefed on the decision. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Patrick Kennedy has not yet made a formal announcement.
That announcement is expected to come Sunday, when a TV advertisement taped by Kennedy is set to air in Rhode Island. In that tape, circulated by the media last night, Kennedy says his “life is taking a new direction, and I will not be a candidate for reelection this year.’’
In the two-minute ad, with soft music playing in the background, he says he wants to continue working to help those with depression, addiction, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patrick’s announcement showed up on his website late Thursday and will be broadcast as a TV ad in Rhode Island on Sunday. Kennedy invoked his family’s legacy and said he’ll remain committed to public service, but with “a new direction,” perhaps with non-profits. Though Patrick’s staff denies his retirement is related to his father’s death or last year’s stint in alcoholic rehab, the video alludes to “difficult” years, and a source told Politico “you can’t deny that it’s [his father’s death] had an impact on him.” Or maybe he’s just sick of politics—Patrick has held elected offices since the age of 21.
A representative told Politico Patrick “wouldn’t rule out” running for another office in the future. Though Patrick’s district is considered solidly Democratic, Republicans were grooming a strong challenger. Analysts and Rhode Islanders are left scratching their heads.
More to the point, though, the Kennedys represent the past, and not just because of their family name. For the first time in post-WWII history, the Democrats have a progressive in the White House while Democrats control both chambers of Congress. But when Democrats tried to force a progressive agenda of government control of health care, energy, and manufacturing through Capitol Hill, a funny thing happened: the country didn’t thrill to the dawning of Camelot Aquarius. Instead, the lurch leftward prompted a nationwide reaction of opposition to government control and skyrocketing debt and federal spending. Barack Obama has tried to pass himself off as a return to Camelot (with the help of certain so-called journalists eager to do the same), but as it happens, the country not only didn’t want a return to Camelot, they didn’t want to turn into Europe, either.
The Kennedy name no longer carries the cachet it once did, and the progressive agenda their family espoused has been exposed as the same old Euro-style socialism that failed over the last few decades on the Continent. Patrick Kennedy’s exit will be just the acknowledgment of a legacy long ago run down to empty.
Camelot of course ended a long time ago, with an assassin’s bullet, followed by a second assassination. Ted Kennedy, to give him his due as a dynastic flag-bearing pol, weathered the scandal of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death and his own failure to win his party’s presidential nomination, and came back as one of the nation’s top powerbrokers who, despite his flaming liberalism, actually managed to effect some bipartisanship. Patches, hurtfully described by a columnist at my newspaper as the “runt of the litter of the runt of the litter” (Howie Carr, “Hey Patches, Did You Hear The one About … ” Feb. 6, 2010) , showed no signs of having that kind of fight, skill or charm, and it didn’t help that he had the msifortune to have been handed his fiefdom in an era when substance-abuse-related incidents require swearing off. Party hacks cite the poor climate for Democrats and the Coakley loss. Patches himself cites the old man’s death last August, which in dynastic terms, is weird. “The King is dead!” lament is supposed to be echoed by a lusty “Long live the King!”
He wouldn’t have been the first Kennedy to lose. His dad did that to Jimmy Carter in 1980 … talk about low points … and so did his cousin, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, in the 2002 Maryland governor’s race. Nor is he the first to take a powder. His cousins Max and Joe did that, removing themselves from consideration in Massachusetts congressional and gubernatorial races in the 1990s when things looked dodgy. Then there was that senatorial trainwreck, when JFK’s daughter couldn’t even manage a handoff in New York. He is the first sitting Kennedy to say “uncle,” though, and cede a seat without a fight … before the fight’s even started … rather than have it taken from him, so that’s a new low for the clan.
So is that the last whimper of America’s power political dynasty, all off to good works at associated foundations? For the foreseeable future, though you never know if Joe II or RFK Jr. will want to take another stab at it in Massachusetts or New York. I wouldn’t put money on it. It’s easier at this point to imagine a Bush being elected. There’s the next Generation K … there was that plucky pre-teen at Ted’s funeral … and if anyone pops up, it will be interesting to see if the Kennedy charm, the trademark Kennedy chompers, the Kennedy smarts, and more than any of that, the Kennedy legend has any life left in it. Or if the lot of them are politically, as done as the Pendragons.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy has come out swinging against the man who now sits in the Senate seat his father held for 47 years. Telling a blog for the Hill newspaper that Senator Scott Brown was “in the tank for the Republicans,” the Rhode Island Democrat called Brown’s candidacy a “joke.”
The putdown is a familiar one for the Kennedy family. Forty-eight years ago, a thirty-year-old Ted Kennedy heard the same taunt from his primary opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward McCormack: “If his name was Edward Moore, with his qualifications — with your qualifications, Teddy — if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke. But nobody’s laughing because his name is not Edward Moore. It’s Edward Moore Kennedy.” Kennedy, after all, had never held a steady paying job, save for a two-year stint in the Army, prior to winning the Senate seat. At Harvard he had been kicked out for cheating and at the University of Virginia’s law school he had led police on drunken high speed chases. The young playboy’s appearance on the Senate floor a day after his election must have struck observers then the way Senator Paris Hilton would appear to us today.
Though the shoe fit for Ted Kennedy back in 1962, the “joke” tag seems an odd one for Senator Scott Brown. Brown’s father didn’t buy him the election. The president and the attorney general aren’t his brothers. His grandfather wasn’t the mayor of Boston. A family friend wasn’t appointed placeholder senator for his benefit. A product of a broken home, Brown and his mother briefly relied on welfare. He is a graduate of the public schools and used ROTC, and a much publicized semi-nude spread in Cosmopolitan, to help fund his education. Scott Brown is the anti-Kennedy.
Instead of the advantages of name and money enjoyed by the Kennedys, Scott Brown faced a 31-point deficit in the polls less than two months before his election. Brown could not look to his party for a single statewide or federal office holder from Massachusetts. So pathetic had the Massachusetts Republican Party become that it fielded opponents in just four of ten House races in 2008, not eclipsing the 30 percent mark in any of those contests. Both houses of the Massachusetts General Court have been in Democrat hands for more than a half century. Yet, Brown managed to paint the bluest state red (if for only one election).
Patrick Kennedy’s outburst seems less reflection of Brown’s candidacy than projection of the eight-term congressman’s own woes. In May of 2006, Kennedy infamously crashed his headlights-off Mustang into a Capitol Police barrier. Appearing drunk to some officers at the scene, the congressman claimed he was “late for a vote” — at 2:45 a.m. Kennedy nevertheless avoided a field sobriety test and received a ride home. The obligatory rehab stint followed, which was followed by yet another one last June. Atop bouts with cocaine, alcohol, and OxyContin, Kennedy has battled bipolar disorder.
In retrospect, I think I should have figured out that something like this was in the works when I ran into Patrick Kennedy a few months back at a Capitol Hill restaurant. We talked a bit about Ted Kennedy’s funeral, and then he began to describe how he was struggling with the loss. It wasn’t getting easier, he said. He felt lonely in Washington in the absence of his father and mentor. He had tried hard to convince his cousin Joe to run for the Massachusetts Senate seat that had been held for so long by Kennedys. The weight of that political legacy was a burden he hadn’t expected–or wanted–to bear alone. As Patrick told Rhode Island magazine: “It’s pretty simple in this respect: I went through something that caused me a great deal of soul searching and self-reflection. Right now, a personal life is of greater value. Emotional connections that are real and loving and personal just trump everything else.”
He was a college sophomore the first time he ran for office; only 26 the first time an television interviewer asked him whether he would like to run for President. (He answered yes.) His father made no secret of his hope that someday Patrick would serve beside him in the Senate, as his brother Bobby once had. And yet, even though the Kennedy name had propelled Patrick, he never seemed to wear it with the ease of the earlier generation. Speechmaking still terrified him when he came to Congress in 1995. House colleagues recall they could see his hands shaking across the chamber. And he had to wage his struggles with mental illness and substance abuse in public, where they only seemed to confirm his family’s darker storylines.
This would not have been an easy re-election for him. A recent poll had showed him with 62% disapproval among Rhode Island voters, and only 35% saying they would vote for him again. But West notes that Patrick had already raised more than three-quarters of a million for his campaign coffers, and says, “I think he would have won.”
But what would he have lost? Perhaps his last chance to discover who Patrick Kennedy really is.
Safe to say that after having his official spokesman lie to the press to cover the affair, Sanford’s career in national politics has just ended. It’s a shame that it came to this, but Sanford brought it on himself.
I don’t know if Sanford is a culture warrior or not, I’m assuming you would have to be as a Republican and chair of the RGA, but for whatever reason, I have to say I like the guy more than I did yesterday, even if he is a hypocrite. He is standing up there, owning his mistake, is not being evasive, and just laying it all out for everyone, and clearly this is a tough thing for him and his family. It is remarkably refreshing.
You know what, though? Even if you cry about how you are a terrible person, on the teevee, and even if there was “a sparkin’ thing” between you and your Argentine Firecracker that you just had to deal with, by flying back and forth to South America to fuck her, leaving your family and, er, entire state of South Carolina to fend for themselves, well you are still a piece of trash. Hope your dumped wife gets everything you’ve ever (and will ever) earn, Mr. soon-to-be lobbyist. Sanford-Santelli 2012!
Gov. Mark Sanford is admitting to an affair with an Argentinean woman. Normally I think that this stuff should not be public business, but his conduct over the last week made that rule completely untenable.
This dramatic news conference was the first time I had ever watched him, and he came across as a very sincere, humble, and impressive person. If you come across this well on the worst day of your life, you must be doing something right. Is his political career “over”? I frankly don’t care about that. I’m just glad to have seen somebody standing up and doing the right thing, being honest about sin and responsibility.
First Ensign, then the “Crying in Argentina” press conference. If Republicans want a presidential candidate who lives clean and whose family hasn’t been involved in tabloid scandals, it might soon be Mitt Romney by process of elimination.
In a sane country it would be none of my business who Sanford was was having an affair with, and in a sane country gay people would be allowed to get married no matter what people like Sanford think about it.
John Hawkins offers the unsolicited advice that he might as well step down as governor while he’s at it. He adds, “Sanford was a rising star in the Republican party and it was really sad to see him throw away his promising political career this way.”
Indeed. I’d add: At least we’re finding out now rather than in the midst of the presidential race.
Under different circumstances I think he could have survived this, but it’s a quirk of our politics that voters don’t mind cheating as much as they do inept cheating. Infidelity makes you a cad; unannounced week-long disappearances and rambling confessional pressers about the new lady in your life makes you a cad and erratic, and Americans don’t dig erratic in their would-be presidents. Word on the street via Geraghty is that if he doesn’t resign the state legislature will move to impeach him. Not sure what the grounds would be — dereliction of duty for dropping off the map for a week, maybe? — but I doubt he’ll have to be pushed like Blagojevich was.
At the rate we’re going, I’m starting to think Obama might run unopposed in 2012. Exit question: Think The One’s happy that his big health-care infomercial tonight has to compete for headlines tomorrow with Sanford and Iran?
Few people realize it yet but there’s a fascinating rift opening between those who think Sanford’s a pure scumbag for cheating and those who sympathize with a guy who pretty clearly has fallen in love. The boss is firmly in the first camp, and for once she has some lefties on her side: Witness this piece at Trueslant by Michael Roston, bowled over by the eloquence and dignity displayed this afternoon by Sanford’s wife Jenny. In the second camp: No one yet, but given some of the cooing I’m seeing over Sanford’s love letters to his mistress and the obvious depth of affection he has for her, it won’t be long before he has his qualified defenders too (e.g., “He shouldn’t have cheated, but…”). Which is more forgivable, a roll in the hay or an affair of the heart? The latter’s a graver threat to his marriage but it also suggests that he wouldn’t have hurt his wife unless he felt very, very deeply.
Exit question: So we’re all agreed that “hiking the Appalachian trail” is now officially sexual slang, yes?
Mark Sanford, Republican governor of South Carolina and slave to passion, confesses that his extramarital dockings were more numerous than originally recorded in the public ledger. Understandable. When you’re in a scented tropical daze, time and space begin to undulate and dissolve until it’s hard to keep track of particulars. Yet this was not an erotic fugue state of unclouded bliss for Sanford. No one could argue that his strayings didn’t exact a psychic toll.
I know we’ve covered it but the key bits really have to be heard to be believed. The part where he talks about his “soulmate” is where I finally reached my Don Corleone/Johnny Fontane “you can act like a man!” point. I’m almost surprised he didn’t break into song. The guy’s clearly a wreck, and his judgment’s sufficiently impaired that he thinks three-hour interviews with reporters about his love life are a good idea.
Don’t Cry For Me, South Carolina
Mark Sanford admits to an affair with an Argentinian woman.
Talking Points Memo
At The Corner,
EARLIER: Break Out The Milk Cartons!
UPDATE: Ezra Klein
Jonathan Tobin in Commentary
UPDATE #2: Allah Pundit:
UPDATE #3: Reihan Salam
UPDATE #4: Erick Erickson
Mickey Kaus in Slate
Allah Pundit again:
UPDATE #5: David Frum
John Dickerson in Slate
UPDATE #6: Danielle Crittenden
UPDATE #7: The worm turns: more time with Maria and more women?
UPDATE #8: The Sanford story continues:
Lucy Morrow Caldwell in The Corner
Mark Steyn in The Corner
Michelle Cottle at TNR
Joan Walsh in Salon
UPDATE #9: Maureen O’Connor at Gawker
Filed under Political Figures
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