Rightly or wrongly, Americans admired Hillary Clinton for standing by her man. She may have protested loudly that she would never do it, but when the time came, she remained loyal to her husband.
Whether she was following her personal ethic or political expediency, she demonstrated good character.
Now that we are tall talking about “open marriage,” it is fair to say that Bill and Hillary had an open marriage. We can reasonably say the same about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, though, less flamboyantly so.
In these cases the women in question maintained their loyalty to their husbands. And they remained discreet.
In our therapy-addled age discretion is out of fashion. It should not be. Speaking about the Clinton marriage, James Taranto notes: “But what saved Bill and Hillary Clinton's political careers was their discretion about their own relationship.”
We cannot say the same about Marianne Gingrich. Whatever her motives—and they are surely not good—Marianne Gingrich has betrayed marital confidences.
Since these confidences were shared by only two people, it is difficult to know who is and is not telling the truth.
Of course, we should not speak ill of the ill, but there is nothing noble or honorable about betraying a confidence.
It was not noble when Princess Diana did it; it is not honorable when Marianne Gingrich does it.
Marriage requires an extremely high level of trust. Even if you have lived a life of utter probity your spouse will know things about you that can easily embarrass you.
They need not be criminal acts. They might simply be personal peccadillos. When revealed in public they will cause embarrassment. Anyone who reveals them will be taxed with indiscretion and disloyalty.
When a society accepts as a matter of course that a spouse can and should reveal sordid details of a marriage, it damages the institution of marriage.
Won’t more people think twice about that marital commitment when they see how many people praise marital disloyalty?
As it happened, Newt Gingrich also betrayed his wife by going back on his vows. He has admitted as much.
Was his responsibility mitigated by the fact that Marianne Gingrich was voluntarily spending more and more of her time apart from her husband when it happened? Does it matter that she seemed to want to be living a separate life? I will leave that for you to decide.
When a marriage breaks up, it is never very clear who is at fault.
If Marianne Gingrich is acting out of a righteous sense that she was betrayed, her own public pronouncement makes her look embittered and vindictive.
Regardless of her motives, hers is a political action. It has political significance, and perhaps political consequences. It is designed to damage her ex-husband’s presidential campaign.
And now, inevitably, Marianne Gingrich’s credibility is also at issue.
James Taranto noted yesterday that while she claimed on a couple of occasions that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, thus, a year before her divorce from Newt Gingrich, an AP story from July, 2000 offers a different picture:
The AP reported: “Marianne Gingrich disclosed Tuesday that she has suffered from neurological problems that could be a precursor to multiple sclerosis.
The ex-wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sought treatment in September 1998 at the Emory Clinic for tingling in her right hand, said a statement released by Emory with her permission. Tests showed an inflammation in her brain.
"Such an episode could represent a single event, perhaps related to a viral infection, or be a forerunner of multiple sclerosis," said her neurologist, Dr. Barney Stern.
She was treated with a two-week supply of steroids but did not begin long-term drug therapy, which is sometimes recommended in such cases.
"We hope that as more and more time elapses, the possibility that she will develop definite multiple sclerosis becomes less and less," Stern said.
One understands why her memory might be faulty. She remembered the first time that MS was mentioned as a possible diagnosis; therefore she dates the onset of her illness from that moment.
Since her physician, an objective third party tells a different story he casts doubt on her credibility.
Emotional intemperance can easily undermine objectivity.