Is the US Ready for Another Divorced President?

One of the most unique things about the US political system is the rather lengthy primary season. When a person decides to run for president, the race starts nearly two years before the voters actually go to the polls. This election cycle it’s the Republicans only who are putting on the primary show and it’s interesting to see that the frontrunner today is a twice-divorced, three-times married man. Of course, we are talking about Newt!

A couple of months ago, the political talking heads couldn’t say (argue) enough about Rick Perry and Mitt Romney: which was the frontrunner, which was more electable, and which one actually had the stuff to win back the White House from the Nation’s first black president. Now those same pundits are focused on Newt Gingrich, and most have anointed him the frontrunner. But there’s one big problem for Mr. Gingrich in the arena of public opinion and that’s his marital status. It seems that maybe the American people are not yet ready for another divorced president.

President Reagan is thus far the only one to make it to the oval office having a divorce and second marriage under his belt. Since his marital woes took place in the 1940s long before the Internet and 24-hour news channels, there’s scant information about what went down during his 8 year marriage to actress Jane Wyman. In fact, when his autobiography, An American Life, was published in 1990, a Washington Post reporter wrote: “Why, for example, are Reagan’s eight-year marriage to Jane Wyman and their eventual divorce dismissed in a single paragraph containing precisely 48 carefully innocuous words?” We don’t know much about Mr. Regan’s divorce other than it came shortly after the death of the couple’s premature baby. There’s no salacious innuendo, no scandalous photos, and not too long after the divorce Mr. Regan married his “soul mate” Nancy Davis.

Now we have Mr. Gingrich and the terrible tales about his alleged callous disregard for his sick ex-wives. Some have said that he trades in his old wives for younger and healthier models. (Both of his ex-wives suffered from medical conditions – uterine cancer and MS – prior to the divorces.) Stories abound about his infamous hospital bed visit to wife number 1 when he reportedly asked for a divorce/delivered divorce papers as she was recovering from surgery. While at the same time, it’s alleged that he was already embroiled in an extra-marital affair with his soon to be 2ndwife.

She then fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis after which he divorced her for wife number 3. And, for lack of a better way of putting it, there are reports of numerous indiscretions during and in between said marriages. It’s a pretty tangled web of marital problems and infidelities. That seems to be the striking difference between Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Reagan – improprieties abound with the former and no whiff of scandal for the latter.

When you read the comments made by so many people on the hundreds of stories about Mr. Gingrich it seems that there’s a resonant theme. People say they question Mr. Gingrich’s character. The open-ended question seems to be that if Mr. Gingrich failed to be truthful and steadfast in his marriages, why would he act in any different manner with the American people? Maybe it’s true that America isn’t yet ready for a second divorced president. We’ll check back in a few months to see what’s happened with Iowa and New Hampshire.


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