“George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”
What fresh insanity is this? It’s not even a story about politics in the bedroom. It’s not even the saucy love triangle of the District’s beloved bald eagles Liberty and Justice with their third wheel, Aaron Burrd. It’s a marital mess, and the president of the United States just put himself in the middle of it. And the weirdest thing of all about the Conways: They’re both conservatives who started out on the same page about Trump and then diverged in fairly dramatic fashion.
This is how it used to go in the nation’s capital, when it came to complicated marriages:
“Oh. She’s in a mixed marriage, isn’t she?” a parent said to me at school drop-off years ago, after the mom in question raced past us, on her way to work at a well-known publication, across the street from her Republican-appointee husband’s office. “They must have great sex.”
A mixed marriage is one of those D.C. cultural curiosities, normally a red and blue pairing, a Capulet and a Montague, a fiery, bipartisan union that means every Sunday brunch is their own, private, “Meet the Press” panel, and it’s passion, not politics, that keeps them together.
Americans aren’t that into these kinds of mixed marriages; just look around your own peer group to verify that.
Numbers tell us this, too. In 2016, voter records in 30 states showed that at least 70 percent of American households headed by registered voters are a political match, according to research by Eitan Hersh, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University, and Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at the data firm Catalist.
The rest of the households are mixed marriages, but most of them are an independent hitched to a D or an R. The rare Republican/Democrat union is less than 10 percent, according to those numbers.
The ultimate mixed Washington marriage used to be the Mary Matalin/James Carville show, which stood as the pairing of political opposites, a lesson for all of America that we can disagree on politics, but back at home, we’re all human, in love and arguing over the toilet seat and loading the dishwasher.
But this latest D.C. marriage show — the triangle of the Conways and Trump — is dark dysfunction, not lovable sitcom. A twisted reality show that’s appalling to watch.
The Conways are both Republicans, both big players in Washington. He went after President Bill Clinton as one of Paula Jones’s lawyers. She founded her own polling firm and became a sensation as one of the conservative female stars of the pundit circuit, along with Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Barbara Olson.
The Conways backed Trump together until Trump’s travel ban in 2017, something that George Conway did not support. And that’s when he began publicly critiquing his wife and Washington looked on in awe — with a little bit of respect — that they seemed to be handling it so well.
They’ve got four kids. Of course, they’re keeping it civil, people thought, though we hungered for insight into how.
Last summer, Kellyanne Conway gave us a little when she told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris that “I feel there’s a part of [George Conway] that thinks I chose Donald Trump over him. Which is ridiculous. One is my work, and one is my marriage.”
And that seemed to be that.
But then it got extremely personal this week, when George Conway posted the medical definitions of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on Twitter after Trump unleashed a flock of inflammatory tweets over the weekend.
Trump responded with the “loser” tweet and then, Kellyanne Conway did it. She chose Trump over her husband.
On Thursday morning, she declared that she wasn’t going to follow her husband’s advice and resign.
“What message would that send to the feminists everywhere who pretend they’re independent thinkers and men don’t make decisions for them?” Conway said during a morning television appearance on Fox Business Network. “They can talk it, and I can walk it. I can live it.”
She said she appreciated the way Trump was defending her: “[The president] is protective of me, that’s what people really should take from this. I’m not being asked to choose between my marriage and my job. Donald Trump has never made me feel that way.”
This kind of can-this-marriage-survive spectacle isn’t entirely new to Washington. We can reach back to the Nixon administration — as we do so often these days — to find the battle between a vocal spouse and a surly president.
Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon reelection campaign director and former attorney general John Mitchell, was already known as the “Mouth of the South” when Nixon put a hired security detail and ex-FBI agent on her.
Martha Mitchell was in her bedroom while the couple was on a campaign trip to California when she learned who was arrested in the Watergate break-in and immediately got on the phone with Helen Thomas, from United Press International.
The security detail, Stephen King, “rushed into her bedroom, threw her back across the bed, and ripped the telephone out of the wall,” reporter Winzola McLendon wrote in her biography of Mitchell, according to a Newsweek story about King. “The conversation ended abruptly when it appeared someone took away the phone from her hand,” Thomas reported. “She was heard to say, ‘You just get away.’ ”
Which might be sound advice for George Conway.
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