I've been enjoying the new reality show Sex Lives of the Rich and Heinous, starring the 2012 GOP presidential contenders. In the latest episode, people everywhere held their breath as the fate of the free world fell into the hands of a single woman: Gloria Cain. Would she tell her husband that he was a scoundrel and to get his hound-dog ass home? Or would she make a personal sacrifice for the greater good and not allow a beehive of scurrilous rumors to derail the "Cain Train," thus depriving a grateful nation of the entertaining pizza magnate who last month was the Republican front-runner?
After the Cains' "face-to-face," it looked like Gloria was about to do her best Tammy Wynette impersonation and stand by her man, but alas, the Cain Train has pulled into the station and drawn its brakes. The press conference began with a prayer from Alveda King, the right-wing niece of Martin, before the Cains entered hand-in-hand with the crowd chanting "Gloria," like it was a Van Morrison concert. But Gloria just smiled and waved while Herman continued to deny a boatload of charges of sexual impropriety, blamed it all on the elitist media, and claimed that politics was "a dirty, dirty game." I suppose the devil made him grope those women. After all, "9-9-9" is just "6-6-6" upside-down.
Just before Cain returned to Georgia to face his wife, he claimed that "stupid people are ruining America." Here, I agree with you, Bubba. Only a fool would launch a candidacy for president with a virtual harem of accusing women claiming sexual abuse just a tabloid's phone call away. Yet Cain seemed oblivious to mounting charges of inappropriate sexual conduct, harassment, assault, and, finally, a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Who does this guy think he is, Bill Clinton? At least Clinton acknowledged his serial infidelities as "problems," but Cain insisted his 13-year fling with a Georgia woman was merely one of a generous businessman helping out a friend in need. I wanted to test that theory in real life, so I told my wife, Melody, that I've had this secret gal-pal for many years, and because times are tough, I've been paying her car note and utilities. Before I could scream that the friendship was strictly platonic and it was only my compassionate nature speaking, Melody was headed for the knife drawer, muttering something about a Lorena Bobbitt. I explained that I only kept it quiet so as not to burden her with all those canceled checks made out to "Gigi," but I guess my wife isn't as understanding as Mrs. Cain.
Michele Bachmann defended Cain, saying that "he brought much energy and good will to the race." Of course, Bachmann also said that a woman should bear her rapist's child and that her religious belief requires her to be "submissive to her husband." The Stepford Candidate was in Iowa, stumping to overturn the state law recognizing same-sex marriage, when a student asked her why gay people shouldn't have the same rights to marry as heterosexual couples. Bachmann patiently explained that, according to her Oral Roberts University law degree, "All of us have the same civil rights, but we must follow the law." Ergo, gay men and lesbians do have the same rights as everyone else, only they must marry someone of the opposite sex. So, a gay man marrying a straight woman is completely acceptable in Bachmann world.
No sooner had I washed the stench of the John Edwards affair from my nostrils than here comes a resurgent Newt Gingrich. The ethically challenged Gingrich is being hailed as the "probable nominee" by many pundits, including Gingrich himself, who recently intimated that this just might be God's plan. Only, Cain and Bachmann said the same thing, so I think God is just messing with them.
For those with a short memory, here's a brief, documented, and sourced highlight reel of the life of Newton Gingrich, defender of family values and the sanctity of marriage. Gingrich married his high school geometry teacher, Jackie, when he was 19 and she was 26. Jackie paid Newt's way through college all the way to his Ph.D. They had two daughters. Gingrich conveniently avoided the Vietnam War, which he supported. When Newt acquired political ambition, he brought divorce papers to his wife's hospital room while she was recovering from uterine cancer. After being granted the divorce, Newt refused to pay alimony and child support until his hometown First Baptist Church had to take up a collection to support the deserted family. Regarding his wife, Gingrich was quoted as saying in an article featured in The New York Times: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president. And besides, she has cancer."
Newt's second wife, Marianne, maintained a separate residence for six years of their 20-year marriage. Newt asked for a divorce from Marianne by phoning her on Mother's Day 1999, after indulging in a six-year affair with his current wife, Callista, she of the golden helmet of hair. During their clandestine assignations, Gingrich led the impeachment of Bill Clinton and stacked up 84 charges of personal ethics violations, resulting in a $300,000 fine and his ultimate resignation from office.
Newt was also an enabler. If he had not led the government shutdown of 1995, Monica Lewinsky would never have delivered that pizza. Somehow, it all gets back to pizza. And if Callista has a half-million-dollar a year jewelry habit, Newt might not be able to afford being president. I'm reminded of the line by comedian Steven Wright, who said of a friend, "He's gotten himself a trophy wife, only I don't think it was for first place." Still, the rabid right wing hails Gingrich as a man of "big ideas," like child labor and apprentice school janitors. Slavery was a big idea; it just wasn't a good idea. Gingrich bragged in an interview last week that he was among the primary architects of supply-side, trickle-down economics during the Reagan era. So the joke's on us. Shouldn't we at least get some Tiffany cuff links, or something?
Randy Haspel writes the blog "Born-Again Hippies," where a version of this column appears.