PRUDEN: A soap opera for our time

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This hasn’t been much of a presidential primary campaign, but even yellow-dog Democrats have to concede that it’s a first-class soap opera. We haven’t had sexy scenarios like this since Bubba was a boy.

The Republicans pretty much have put to rest the canard that only Democrats know how to have fun. Herman Cain furnished pizza with really crispy crust and Rick Santorum even brought condoms back into the conversation. Rick Perry became an Aggie joke. Newt Gingrich has given an entirely new meaning to “baggage call.”

Any upright Mormon would look dull and colorless in a crowd like this one.

Michelle Obama, who was never proud of her country until it elected her husband president, now complains (without naming names) that she has been stereotyped (in a new book by a New York Times reporter) as “an angry black woman.” She could learn about anger from Marianne Gingrich.

Almost any man or woman who has ever gone through the fun of a divorce knows about angry ex-spouses and thirsts for revenge, even if it’s a thirst never acted on. Mrs. Gingrich-once-removed single-handedly removed her ex from the road to the White House, or at least shoved him closer to the slough of deep despond where presidential dreams and wishes go to die.

Mrs. Gingrich No. 2 questions in an interview with ABC News whether her ex has “the moral character” to be president. You hardly have to be an ex-wife to understand why. She says Newt wanted an “open marriage” so he could have the equivalent of two wives at the same time, even if one of them would be called “wife” and the other “mistress.” This, she said, was after Newt admitted that he had been conducting a six-year affair with a congressional aide. She was shocked, she said, when she learned that Newt and the aide who would turn out to be Wife No. 3, had been canoodling “in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington.”

This is such steamy stuff that Newt decided it was the better part of survival, if not exactly valor, to decline to answer any questions about it from ABC News. He gave the “Today Show” on NBC a gallant demurral that he would “not say anything negative about Marianne.” What else could a gentleman do? He sent his two daughters (by Wife No. 1) to deal with the tangled web he weaved from the day when first he practiced to deceive. “I’ll let my daughters speak for it,” he said. “I’m not going to comment beyond that because I’m focused on the big issues that concern the American people, which are the current challenges we have, largely because of the failure of the Obama presidency.” This was exactly how Bubba talked.

And we thought it was the Mormons who dream of furnishing a little nest with surplus wives in an out-of-the-way place.

Newt and his men are counting on Bubba having put to rest constituent concerns about the marital ethics and morality of men who would be president with a couple of private pastries on the side. South Carolina is a likely place to test the theory that we’ve all moved beyond caring. South Carolina is full of Baptists, Methodists and other evangelicals who prize the faith ‘n’ family Newt has been preaching about for months.

Naturally, the only “ethics” anyone in the news business is talking about is whether it’s “ethical” for ABC News or any other news organization to run such a story on the eve of destruction. The Drudge Report reveals that “a civil war” erupted inside the network’s executive suite over the timing of the detonation of the Gingrich bomb. Any time journalists talk about “ethics” it gives everybody the creeps, but ABC News is only doing what news organizations are supposed to do - report the news as accurately and as quickly as it can. Neither ABC nor any newspaper nor newsmagazine has a responsibility to look after the interests of a candidate or his campaign.

The only winner in all this is the luckiest man in the Grand Old Party. Who wants to ask Mitt Romney about his taxes or investments when they can go after Newt with questions about his wives and how he discards them when someone younger and healthier comes into view? Only the few feel confident asking questions about taxes, deferred income, investment credits and other arcana of high finance, but everybody is an expert on intimate matters of what the squeamish call “gender.” Politics has become gendery indeed.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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