The Woody Wallow And 'Family Values'

Posted: August 31, 1992

AUSTIN — My first chance to catch up on Woody and Mia. What a wallow! Holy cow.

In this sunny political season, when the Republicans are working to make ''family values" an issue - since they haven't got anything else going for them - poor Woody and Mia, on top of all their other problems, are now being sucked into the political vortex.

U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich, a thoroughly nasty man, said in the course of introducing President Bush this weekend, "I call this the Woody Allen plank. It's a weird situation, and it fits the Democratic Party platform perfectly. If a Democrat used the word family to raise children in Madison Square Garden, half their party would have rebelled, and the other half would not vote. Woody Allen had non-incest with his non-daughter because they were a non-family."

I know, I know, the sophisticated media cynic is supposed to take a statement like that in stride, insisting it's all just your normal political exaggeration, innuendo and smear. I'm such a sissy, I was stopped cold by it.

There have been, in our great nation, murderers who were registered Republicans, child abusers who were registered Republicans and so forth. Are the Democrats now entitled to describe the Republicans as a party of murderers and child abusers? I don't think so. It's a logical fallacy, a reverse syllogism and also a really fetid thing to do.

I'm trying to remember anything like it: Democrats occasionally like to associate Republicans with Wall Street, on the theory that no one likes Wall Street, and when all those Nixonites were being sent to prison after Watergate, the Democrats used to put out posters with pictures of all the convicted ones on them.

I'm still stopped by Gingrich. He is talking about the Democratic platform that was both criticized and hailed in New York for being terribly moderate and inoffensive, isn't he? I guess we're supposed to accept Gingrich's version of the Democratic convention instead of what we actually saw.

Time magazine has a long thumb sucker this week about family values as though it were a real issue. Family values did not create the deficit: It was Ronald Reagan who cut taxes and spent $2 trillion on the military. Family values did not create the health insurance crisis that plagues this country. Family values are not responsible for the recession. Family values didn't engineer the savings and loan mess.

Look, George Bush has not been the education president. He has not been the environmental president. He did not create 15 million new jobs (short by 14 million). We read his lips, and he raised taxes anyway. And this is not a kinder, gentler nation after four years of Bush. Unless you count Newt Gingrich, of course. Those are political issues.

I don't know why so many families fall apart. A lot of it is economic

pressure, of course. I've always thought too damn many people got married in the first place: Now there's something we need to put a seven-day hold on. And most civilized countries do have a much better family-support system than ours - day care, natal leave, parental leave for when kids are sick and so forth.

Being a working mother is, I believe, the toughest job in America. Women work, not as Marilyn Quayle implied, because they "choose to have fulfilling careers," but because they have to. And most of us have lousy jobs for lousy pay. You can look it up in the census stats.

One popular notion is that the women's movement led to the decline of the family, that it caused women to leave their families to "find themselves" or whatever. Bound to be some truth to that, but if you look at Barbara Ehrenreich's early work on divorce trends in the '50s and '60s, what you see is the women's movement developing in response to men leaving their wives and children to go off with younger women. Hate to get into one of those men vs. women finger-pointing matches, but the numbers still say it is typically the man who leaves the wife and kids - and a lot of the louses never even send child support.

I still don't see what the Republicans are offering to help with any of this. They haven't even mentioned any of the proposals to set up a national computer bank to track down fathers delinquent with their child support. Maybe they think we'll vote for them as role models. For eight years, we had the Reagans, one of the most dysfunctional families in America. The Bush children are absolutely average on divorce, and so what? Divorce is rotten, but a really bad marriage is even worse for the kids, not to mention the couple. The Quayles are an interesting counterpoint to the Republican contention that we should take alarm at the thought that Hillary Clinton will be advising her husband. Mrs. Quayle was her husband's campaign manager. Mrs. Quayle's office is right next door to her husband's, and according to his staff, she is in there all the time (see the Woodward/Broder Washington Post piece). Compared to Marilyn Quayle, Mrs. Clinton fades into the woodwork.

The Constitution says the purposes of government are "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." Not sure where family values fits in there. Perhaps it is just that I am offended by the idea that people's personal misery would be exploited for political gain - even Woody and Mia's.

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