Monday, June 28, 2004

KERRY'S DIVORCE AND THE GOP. Get ready for the next John Kerry media feeding frenzy. Following the court-ordered release of Illinois Republican Senate candidate (make that former candidate) Jack Ryan's seamy divorce papers, anti-Kerry forces are now demanding the same treatment for Kerry and his first wife, Julia Thorne.

According to Drudge, the push may come from the Tribune Company, which was in the forefront of the Ryan case because of its ownership of the Chicago Tribune. The company also owns Boston's WLVI-TV (Channel 56), which would give it legal standing. Not to rely on Drudge, but does anyone doubt that the media and the Republicans would love to see Kerry's divorce records made public, just to find out what's in there?

I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to the Ryan's case, other than to share everyone's amusement at the sex-club allegations. Until this morning, I hadn't realized they'd been released by a judge, Robert Schnider. Good Lord - what was Schnider thinking? And of course, even though Schnider's ruling only pertains to his jurisdiction, it's going to be pretty easy to make the case that what's good for Ryan is good for Kerry.

If Ryan and his ex-wife wanted their sealed records to remain sealed, that should have been respected. Voters should have been trusted to make what they would of the Ryans' refusal to go public.

Same with Kerry and Thorne.


alkali said...

I doubt that the Ryan decision will be particularly influential: the rules on impoundment of judicial records vary enormously from state to state. More influential will be the SJC's decision in the Boston Herald v. Sharpe case (relating to a dispute over whether to unseal the divorce records of Dr. Richard Sharpe and his late wife Karen after her murder) and the decisions by various judges of the Superior Court in the church abuse cases. Those decisions tilt very strongly in favor of unsealing.

If I advised Kerry, I would tell him to get his ex-wife's permission to set up a room where journalists can review the records subject to some limitations (e.g., no making copies, no direct quotes -- I understand Kerry has done this with certain medical records already, and that it is standard practice in presidential campaigns). Setting up such a system would protect Kerry's privacy and give him an argument that there is no particular public interest in putting the documents in the public record, because it wouldn't add anything material to what journalists have available to them already.

total said...

The Ryan case might not have much legal significance, but in terms of PR it has quite a bit. Conservative media will push this issue relentlessly making the case that what's fair in Ryan's case should also apply in Kerry's. Let's just hope there's no dispute over Kerry taking his first wife to sex clubs.

Anonymous said...

> I would tell him to get his ex-wife's permission to set up a room where journalists can review the records subject to some limitations

Why should Kerry's selected the media mandarins be given special access?

The gatekeepers have proven themselves untrustworthy.

It's either on the web or he's hiding something.

Anonymous said...

I think it was sleazy for teh press to go after Ryan that way, and I think the judge was scum for releasing divorce records that both sides wanted sealed. (Note, I am divorced, and my ex-wife and I were VERY careful to make sure nothing appeared in our divorce settlement that we wanted kept private.)

However, it happened. The Democrats all kept quiet while it happened to a Republican. Now it's time for it to happen to Democrats. LOTS of Democrats. Starting with Kerry.

Greg D

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons for going after Ryan's divorce records is that he was not, previously, a public figure. He has no record of public service, no voting record, etc.

Kerry does. There's plenty of information from Kerry's Senate career, his Vietnam service, his post-war activities, etc. that people may, and will, use to judge whether they want to vote for him. The same can't be said of Ryan.

I also think Ryan was done wrong, but it doesn't follow that unsealing Kerry's divorce file is the right thing to do.

Frankly, I'm more interested in how Kerry got the Roman Catholic Church to annul his marriage, which lasted almost 20 years and produced children. The annulment means the marriage basically never happened. How can that be?

Dexter Westbrook

Anonymous said...

Typical - when something bad is happening to a [fill in the blank, Republican in this case], the other party ither actively encourages it or stays silent. Later, when th sam thing is happening to one of their own, they cry foul. Or reverse the order.

While it seems to have been noiceably more Democrats pulling that than Republicans (notice the big yawn regarding allegations against Schwarzeneggar - didn't we already decide that this stuff doesn't matter [Bill Clinton]? Oh, but that was a DEMOCRAT, this is an EEEEEEVIL REPUBLICAN. Yawn.), the Republicans do it, too, unfortunately.

While I think, in this case, the records should remain sealed (generally speaking), if they're going to be unsealed for some, unseal them all across the board. Thbat's the only fair thing to do. I'm big on the rules applying equally to all.

Even if Kerry DOES manage to kep his records sealed (and mayb even more so), it will look bad and be leveraged by the Republicans as much as the media will let them (which isn't nearly as much as it would be if he were Republican, but still...).

Anonymous said...

Do we even know if Kerry's divorce files are sealed? Jack Ryan's files were not sealed for a whole year, then he asked the Judge to seal then when he wanted to run for office (but Ryan said it was to "protect" his child). Most divorce files in Illinois (and California) are never sealed. I don't care about the allegations in the file that were made public. I do care somewhat that Jack Ryan lied about what was in them (claiming there was "nothing embarassing"), but mostly that he tried to hide behind his child to keep embarassing allegations out of the limelight. Republicans never had any decency about their allegations made against Clinton about his private life. The "lie" about Monica wasn't a lie until the witch hunt forced him to testify about it under oath - then it became impeachable. Ryan lied about what was in his personal past too. Arnold did not (but the party didn't turn against Arnold like it did against Ryan - probably because Arnold had a chance to win, Ryan never did). I wish Ryan had stayed in the race, so the people could have decided what was important. I hate this system that is making it impossible for most people to even consider contributing by serving in office.

Anonymous said...

[in re to the annulment question:]

Some marriage tribunals seem less rigorous than others. Annulments seem to (but may not) be easier to come by when you are wealthy or influential. (cf Joe Kennedy - whose the tribunal granted an annulment to because he lacked "due discretion", a euphemism for being an immature person lacking good judgement... and this guy is a politician)

Kerry married Heinz in 1995, and applied for the annulment in 1997, after his first wife had asked for an increase alimony and/or child support, in a move that was seen at the time as retaliatory. I don't know for sure that the annulment was actually granted, but it wouldn't suprise me.