Another Obama appointee scandal?

posted at 10:13 am on March 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama really knows how to pick quiet appointments, doesn’t he?  The New York Times recalls that his choice for Secretary of the Navy, former Mississippi governor Ray Mabus, created a national scandal during his divorce a few years ago by surreptitiously taping a marital-counseling session conducted by his minister and playing it in court.  His wife later sued the church, and is appealing the dismissal:

President Obama’s nominee for secretary of the Navy was involved in a divorce that drew national attention for his secret taping of a conversation between his wife and his family priest that he used against her in court proceedings.

The nominee, Ray Mabus, is a former governor of Mississippi and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Mr. Mabus, a Democrat, was a strong supporter of Mr. Obama in the campaign last year.

In 1998, as Mr. Mabus and his wife, Julie (now Julie Hines), sought to work out their marital problems, he surreptitiously recorded a meeting the couple had with the Rev. Jerry McBride, a mutual friend.

Mr. Mabus had told Mr. McBride in advance that he had been advised by a lawyer to tape the conversation, according to court records. Neither man mentioned the recording to Ms. Hines. During the session, she admitted having an affair and told her husband, “I will hate you till the day I die, and I will tell my children.”

An expert psychiatric witness for Mr. Mabus referred to Ms. Hines’s recorded comments as evidence that he should get legal custody of the couple’s two daughters. The judge in the case awarded legal custody to Mr. Mabus and split physical custody between him and Ms. Hines.

Hines didn’t keep quiet about it.  She conducted a media tour in 2002 to discuss the implications for privacy.  And she has a point, at least regarding the church; the minister’s decision to play along with Mabus in that instance is a fairly stark betrayal, even if it isn’t actionable under the law, which the Mississippi Supreme Court still has to determine.

However colorful this may be for Mabus, I don’t think it’s material to his appointment.  People do strange and embarrassing things in divorces, just as they say terrible things to each other in marital counseling sessions (which is why McBride should be ashamed of his role in this situation).  It’s not even in the same league as Tim Geithner’s tax evasion, or Bill Richardson’s pay-for-play scandal, or even Vivek Kundra’s theft conviction.  It didn’t break the law, and it didn’t have anything to do with Mabus’ conduct on the job.  That makes it, in my mind, a non-issue.

Mississippi Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, both Republicans, say they support Mabus and will see him through to confirmation.  Unless something else arises that shows Mabus engaged in illegal or corrupt conduct, that’s the right decision.


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Comment pages: 1 2

ManUFan on March 31, 2009 at 12:01 PM

I’m not a big fan of infidelity (or infidels). I personally don’t think cheaters deserve families, but that was for the court and the couple to work out. My issue is that the wife was told it was a counseling session to work out their issues and try to save the marriage. It would seem an appropriate and safe place to discuss feelings, even very hostile ones. The priest knew and advance and help set her up. Regardless of her sins, the priest should not have betrayed her that way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/30/us/woman-sues-priest-over-secret-tape-recording-used-in-custody-battle.html?n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%20Topics%2FSubjects%2FS%2FSuits%20and%20Litigation

As for his tactics being useful, I expect the libs to make full use of his slimy tricks. Now that the war on terror is over, the Dems can focus their anger on their real problem; religion and family.

Laura in Maryland on March 31, 2009 at 2:39 PM

And if she’s such a horrid person, what’s it say about his judgment that he married her and chose her to bear his children?

NoDonkey on March 31, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Good point and, I would say, checkmate.

MB4 on March 31, 2009 at 2:28 PM

And I would say, look at your own post, the one just before the one I quoted. Not only do people make erroneous judgments in their youth, but people change, too.

Mabus was, obviously, in a tough position – and apparently not one of his own making (of course, you women won’t believe that, but there’s no report of it). So, the big question is what he did to protect himself and his family (see my previous posts).

Look, I’m no fan of Obama, and I really know nothing about Mabus except what’s been reported on this issue (doubt you do, either). If taping was legal, and he was protecting himself and his family (apparently McBride – a clergyman – agreed with him; oh wait, I forgot: he’s a male, so that doesn’t count), it’s moral in my book.

ManUFan on March 31, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Not only do people make erroneous judgments in their youth

How “youthful” was this guy if he was married and fathering children?

The Navy has 18 year old “youths” that sign enlistment contracts for five years, to work in the engineering plants on aircraft carriers. They sleep in bunks on ships, go on international deployments, etc.

When they screw up, the Navy can give them a dishonorable discharge and effectively ruin the remainder of their life.

Seems to me, we owe them a Secretary of the Navy who is a little more above reproach.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2009 at 2:52 PM

ManUFan on March 31, 2009 at 2:41 PM

This isn’t about your divorce. We’re talking about the responsibilities of the clergy. This one isn’t even a grey area.

No wonder your ex left you.

Laura in Maryland on March 31, 2009 at 3:23 PM

I think it goes to the issue of character and judgment. The guy brought his wife to their pastor under the guise of working things out and then taped her without her knowledge and used it against her. Seems like an “ends justify the means” sort of move to me. IMO, we have enough of that in Washington already; we certainly don’t need more. How about we just elect and appoint people who are above reproach, or at least shoot for that as a standard? Without that, we quickly end up with TurboTax Timmy.

PersonalLiberty on March 31, 2009 at 3:31 PM

How about we just elect and appoint people who are above reproach, or at least shoot for that as a standard?

Exactly. This sort of “that’s why pencils have erasers” mentality is exactly why we’re in this mess.

Standards have continually slipped and we’ve cut so many corners we’ve got nothing left but circles.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2009 at 4:21 PM

And if she’s such a horrid person, what’s it say about his judgment that he married her and chose her to bear his children?

NoDonkey on March 31, 2009 at 2:25 PM

You have GOT to be joking. My Dad married my Mom and they remained married for 30 years. They divorced after he found out she was doing some serious off the wall behavior. People change, or you find things out about your spouse that maybe even SHE didn’t know about herself at the time of marriage. You know, I’m as opposed to Ogabe as anyone else, but you know how many Americans you’re going to win over with your above line of reasoning? Maybe in the double digits. Get over yourself and your moral high-handedness. Divorces happen.

quikstrike98 on March 31, 2009 at 4:24 PM

The guy brought his wife to their pastor under the guise of working things out and then taped her without her knowledge and used it against her.

O RLY?!

My ex wife forced me to go to counselling because she loved being free to berate me in front of someone who was forced to listen to her tirades for an hour–and me as a captive audience as well. Then we’d go home and she’d throw crap at the kids and hit me. I’d really like to get hold of whatever it is you’re smoking. It obviously makes you feel so very morally superior to everyone else who’s had family difficulties.

quikstrike98 on March 31, 2009 at 4:28 PM

The SecNav should have better…discretion than has been displayed. Yes, compared to the other sterling appointments The One has made, this is small potatoes.

But that’s what we get when we say character doesn’t matter. If a person can be trusted with little things, s/he can be trusted with bigger things. If the man is willing to sacrifice the presumed confidentialty of a counselling session, one wonders what else the man is capable of sacrificing.

I R A Darth Aggie on March 31, 2009 at 4:39 PM

You know, I’m as opposed to Ogabe as anyone else, but you know how many Americans you’re going to win over with your above line of reasoning? Maybe in the double digits. Get over yourself and your moral high-handedness. Divorces happen.

Oh, I agree. Most Americans agree with you. And look where that’s gotten us.

We used to have standards and we used to believe in things, but that all went out the window during the fabulous 60′s.

Since then, we’re all Oprah-ized and we all understand when we all screw up our jobs, our lives and our country.

You’re exactly right, what we need is more and more tolerance.

Tolerance equals voting by the millions for an affirmative action, unqualified neo-Marxist dope of a “president” who had more red flags in front of his candidacy than you could shake a stick at. But hey, he’s black and makes pretty speeches so what could possibly go wrong?

I’m tired of being “tolerant” of screw ups. This guy is going to be Sect of the Navy, not chairman of the Garden Committee. I have a hard time believing that they can’t find someone else who is qualified.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2009 at 4:42 PM

I’m tired of being “tolerant” of screw ups. This guy is going to be Sect of the Navy, not chairman of the Garden Committee. I have a hard time believing that they can’t find someone else who is qualified.

NoDonkey on March 31, 2009 at 4:42 PM

I’ll laugh and laugh when life doesn’t work out the way you planned it, and you find yourself hiring a divorce lawyer. Or presented with papers. With your obvious tolerance of others’ shortcomings, I’m surprised you haven’t already had it happen to you.

quikstrike98 on March 31, 2009 at 4:57 PM

Comment pages: 1 2