IOKIYAR: John Edwards/Newt Gingrich Edition

John Edwards is caught in an affair.  He is now disgraced, somewhat pathetic, and basically unemployable.

Newt Gingrich is caught in an affair.  This follows him serving his first wife with divorce papers when she was in the hospital with cancer.  He is a bestselling author, conservative savant, multimillionaire, and potential Republican presidential candidate.

Discuss.

UPDATE: A reader points to “Diaper Dave” Vitter, heavily favored to win re-election in Louisiana.  So much for the theory advanced by some that it’s because Gingrich’s infidelities were so long ago, or because Edwards ran on more of a “pro-family” ideology (which actually he didn’t).  No — it must be something else.  Well, Edwards’ infidelity produced a child.  Yes, that must be it!  As Republicans repeatedly say (especially to conservative Catholics), infidelity is okay if you get your birth control right.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

21 thoughts on “IOKIYAR: John Edwards/Newt Gingrich Edition”

  1. Edwards has an out-of-wedlock child, Gingrich doesn't (we assume). Edwards was the VP nominee in a contested election, Gingrich has never officially run for president. Edwards gave the impression of physical vanity, Gingrich gave the appearance of intellectual vanity. Edwards is a Democrat, Gingrich is a Republican (oh, that's your point, too).

  2. Gingrich is a grotesque charicature of a southern republican politician so nobody bats an eye at any awful or rediculous thing he says or does.

    Edwards is an articulate and reasonable man who espouses ideas of how to improve things for average people so he is held to a higher standard of conduct.

    And then maybe it's just that nobody even wants to think about Newt 'doing it' so just don't even go there.

  3. Nobody ever really claimed that Gingrich was a particularly good man when it happened, and like Karl said, he didn't have an out-of-wedlock child with all the intense soap opera that happened with Edwards.

    On top of that, I think there's "time" and "intellectual" factors here. Gingrich's affairs happened more than ten years ago, and after his defeat he did go quiet for a while, mostly focusing on writing his books. But the fact that he was writing and the like eventually allowed him to reclaim a position.

    Can you say the same for Edwards? Nobody has ever really claimed he is an intellectual heavyweight, and I have a hard time imagining him taking the Gingrich path back to influence.

  4. Right, good point Brett – the media made a circus out of the out-of-wedlock child. Plus, so long ago, and all that. See, Zasloff? That's the fundamental difference here. And there you are going on as if the issues here turned on some sort of unprincipled distinction.

  5. The Edwards scandal would have been a cause for crushing democratic defeat in the '08 elections if he had been nominated (inevitably the even more intense attention from the nomination would have uncovered the affair and out-of-wedlock child right when it would have caused the most damage).

    Considering Spitzer's slow but steady comeback to public life, I wouldn't count Edwards out just yet.

  6. Following up on others' accurate comments here, Edwards platform was one based majorly on a moral, family-first sort of platform. Also, there was a lot of positive noise being made about the steadfast election-year support of his terminally-ill wife.

  7. Edwards is an empty suit, who ran heavily on his cute family. He had policy positions put together for him by others. He was a resume candidate, with few accomplishments. And he was running for a position where there was a closely divided electorate, so his hypocrisy and cruelty to his wife would be enough to tip the election to the other guy. A better counter-example to Gingrich – who no one thinks is an intellectual lightweight, who has real accomplishments, who slogged forward for years in the Reep quest to take the House – would be Clinton. Again, accomplishments, strategic thinker, no one whether they like him or hate him thinks him an empty suit. And Clinton has survived his Lewinsky problem and is taken seriously again, as is Gingrich.

  8. Clinton is a special case because Ken Starr and the House Republicans who impeached Clinton were so extreme in their overreaction to Clinton's transgression that they made his transgression appear trivial.

  9. I still think the reigning champion of IOKIYAR has to still be George W Bush. An advocate of the Vietnam War, he used connections to get into the champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard, then went AWOL for a year – but in 2004 he benefited from attacks on the military record of his war hero opponent. A supposed advocate of private industry and disdainful of government involvement, he ran a couple of businesses into the ground, getting bailed out by his daddy's friends each time, and engaging in obvious insider training that was ignored by his father's SEC. He made his big money when his family connections got him a small piece (later oddly transformed into a larger piece) of a baseball team, which under the circumstances was a license to print money through government-recognized monopoly and especially by using the government power of eminent domain to build a new stadium and in the process gain control of swathes of nearby land to develop. And, of course, he was an admitted drug user and alcohol abuser well into his adulthood, even as his father had a prominent role in the "Say No To Drugs" administration. And all of this just to describe his malfeasance before his disastrous time in office, in which the only thing worse than his plausibly legal actions were his manifestly illegal and even unconstitutional actions.

    To be fair, I haven't heard about any sexual improprieties. So maybe he's not the right counter-example to Edwards.

    More topically, on Edwards, I've never cared too much about what politicians do in their private lives, so long as it's consensual, respectful, and sincere. Clinton's dalliance with an intern doesn't look too good on those scores; neither does Spitzer or Vitter (is prostitution consensual and respectful? and the hypocrisy of a morality crusader or anti-prostitution prosecutor soliciting is hardly sincere). Oddly, Mark Sanford looks pretty good by that score (not great, and inappropriate for an executive to be unavailable, but seemingly sincere, and respectful of his partner). My problem with Edwards, dating to long before the Rielle Hunter allegations, was always with his sincerity: sometime after the 2004 defeat a standard-issue DLC Southern Democrat went into a phone booth and came out in a cape and tights claiming to be Super-Liberal, Defender Of The Oppressed. As a pose, it was clearly focus-grouped and campaign-consulted to within an inch of its tenuous grip on life, and it was fairly clear that the best his supporters could hope for was that if he repeated his Ultra-Progressive spiel often enough and with enough canned sincerity, he might come to believe it about himself.

  10. "…Gingrich – who no one thinks is an intellectual lightweight." I have been watching the Newtster closely since his first unsuccessful run for Congress waaaay back in the 1970s. Many of us thought he was a lightweight then; it is now an indisputable fact. He has stated that what he wanted most in this world was to be Speaker of the House. Granted, he got there and did a lot of hard work in the process. But, really? Who but a lightweight starts out with that as his ultimate goal, even if the Speaker is third in line of succession to the Presidency? Come to think of it, maybe that is why Nancy Pelosi makes wingnuts foam at the mouth.

  11. Most people pinpointed it. The difference is that John Edwards had a child who we plotted to disown. I'm not going defend Newt or anyone else who participates in marital infidelity. I personally think it's a disgrace and a real tragedy whenever it happens. But what kind of sick human being denies his own child?

  12. Last May, speaking about Obama, Gingrich said, "The secular socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did." Now those are clearly the words of an intellectual heavyweight.

  13. Gingrich did not serve divorce papers to his wife while she was in the hospital. He went to the hospital to discuss the divorce, which is pretty much exactly as heartless.

  14. But what kind of sick human being denies his own child?

    A common enough kind. Because each case differs, it’s always possible to argue that, say, Edwards really is worse than, say, Strom Thurmond (or Thomas Jefferson or Gingrich or whoever — the list is long). There were, among Thurmond’s apologists, people who were involved in 2000 in spreading the (false) rumor that John McCain had an illegitimate child. They no doubt told themselves some sort of casuistic story to justify their disparate judgments. But taking things as a whole, it seems obvious that partisan considerations play a large unacknowledged role in the way we morally judge others. This is also true of people who emphasize their uprightness in matters of sexual morality.

  15. Both Edwards and Gingrich are multimillionaires, and I'm sure that Edwards won't have any problem finding a high-paying job at a law firm. Also, I don't think Mr. Gingrich is a serious contender for the presidency. Newt might think so himself. What's left over is Gingrich as a best-selling author and Republican savant, which I guess he is, kind of like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, except not as prominent. Whatever you think of his intellectual, he was the ideological leader of the GOP for some time. Edwards never had a comparable standing among the Democrats.

    The problem with this whole IOKIYAR thing is that a single pair of examples isn't enough to prove anything. You need a statistical sample, and some reasonably objective set of standards for evaluation. Without these (and even with them) you run into bias, which often translates into partisans thinking that their own side is getting a raw deal. Go to any conservative blog, and you'll likely read a colors-reversed version of IOKIYAR. For example, Bill Clinton's philandering was well known when the Democrats gave him the nod. In fact, he kind of admitted it himself on 60 Minutes. Has the GOP in recent years nominated somebody with a similar history? I think not. I can "prove" anything I want by selecting those examples that support my argument.

  16. I'm with Warren – I don't care what people do or have done as long as it's "consensual, respectful, and sincere." I do, however, think the "respectful" part ought to include one's treatment of one's spouse. Kicking one's wife when she's down with a serious illness just sticks in my craw. What I hate most, though, is hypocrasy. The louder and more public it is, the more I hate it, and when it comes to sexual "morality" and "family values" the Republicans certainly are the ones who do most of the pontificating, preaching, and condeming. The wingnuts in Republican politics and their tame pundits and ordained friends often appear to pretty much hate anything to do with sex in its many manifestations, except, of course, for that practiced within middle and upper class heterosexual, married, church-going white families with 2.8 kids, soccer moms, and maybe a dog. They abhor gays, pre-marital sex (abstain, darn-it, don't learn how to be safe!) and condemn adultery loudly, especially when an inherently sinful "socialist" is caught. Except, of course, when one of their own is exposed. They're amazingly quiet when that happens, and therein lies the hypocrasy that disgusts me.

    I am not an admirer of Newt, but I have to grudgingly admit that I don't remember him riding the holier-than-thou religious hobby-horse to his Republican stardom, while Edwards most certainly did use his cute family to enhance his own cuteness. And threw in the "pity" enhancement for his wife's illness as well. I think Newt's treatment of his wife says a great deal about his character, and Edwards' treatment of all the women and children involved in his disaster says even more about his. So if I claim to hate hypocrasy – and I do – then I have to say in this case that between these two bozos, Edwards gets my "worst slimeball" award.

  17. What exactly is wrong with a politician's using "his cute family to enhance his own cuteness"? In an ideal world in which we had an intelligent electorate, I suppose that politicians would discuss only the issues, and would never display or mention anything irrelevant to the issues, such as their families. But, in this world, do you demand that of Edwards? Or is that he wasn't supposed to act as if he loved his wife when he was cheating on her? Whose business is that? Also, I don't recall his exploiting his wife's illness. To equate photo ops with one's family with "riding the holier-than-thou religious hobby-horse" is ridiculous. Edwards' family, after all, was cute, so at least he wasn't hypocritical in showing them off, whereas Gingrich is certainly not holier than anybody.

  18. Those people who are doubting Gingrich's record as a Culture Warrior, and thus his hypocrisy, really ought to recall his thoroughly vile comments in response to the Susan Smith tragedy.

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