Jun 26, 2007

Second consecutive front-page story on Rogers divorce attempts to clean up his image

If yesterday’s front-page story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on the announcement that U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is divorcing from his wife of 17 years wasn’t enough coverage, today’s edition also featured a front-page story on the pending divorce.

Usually, newspapers will follow up a story that it got out the door in a hurry on a tight deadline before all the facts were known, but this story seems to focus only experts telling us not to worry that this will not hurt Rogers bright, political future. A friend recently remarked to me that the initial story looked more like obituary complete with an admiring review of his career while ignoring the hypocrisy of his previous stands on marriage and privacy.

Today’s story has well-known state political pundit Bill Ballenger, editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, assuring us that a divorce is not a political liability unless it’s a messy one. Rogers' name has been tossed around as a possible candidate for either Governor after Gov. Jennifer Granholm is term-limited or for Senator when veteran U.S. Senator Carl Levin retires. But Ballenger added, “I'm not sure he's viewed as quite as hot a commodity as he was in 2004.”

Over the years the P & A has been Rogers biggest cheerleader, and it appears this follow-up story may be an attempt to shore up Rogers political fortunes or merely a follow-up to explore facts that were not available before. Just six months ago editor and former conservative Republican House candidate Buddy Moorehouse told us “Rep. Mike Rogers, our congressman, who is destined for something much, much bigger. Mark my words.”

Allan Filip, chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, conveniently used the excuse that he didn't want to comment on the situation out of respect for the Rogers' privacy, but I’m not sure how not commenting on Rogers' political future compromises his privacy.

Matt Evans, chairman of the county Democrats, had the best take on the situation while also agreeing with Ballenger that a divorce alone is not a big deal. But he said that Rogers couldn’t escape the Republican platform of so-called family values.
"The fact of a divorce in and of itself does not carry a stigma, nor should it," Evans said. "But there's a great deal of situational ethics when it comes to family values in the Republican Party."

What really stuck me about this story was when I remembered a Rogers campaign commercial that aired last summer and fall when Rogers was locked in the tightest race since he won a squeaker over former state Sen. Dianne Byrum by a mere 111 votes in 2000. What made it even more memorable for me was that it was filmed right in my neighborhood in Howell’s West Street Park.

The commercial has a bride and groom getting married facing a minister with their backs to the camera, and Rogers is apparently the best man. Rogers turns around to face the camera and talks about the so-called “marriage penalty” in the U.S. tax code. He ends the commercial by making a joke about his wife says how it's tough being enough married to him without the “marriage penalty.”

It seems ironic that he is now making a plea “for respect for their privacy,” but it was a campaign issue and position. It’s also ironic that we have a party and a politician telling us who we can and cannot marry, but he now doesn’t want to talk about his marriage. It’s about a political party stating we must preserve the sanctity of marriage when individually they can't preserve their own marriages.

This is what he said about marriage on March 12, 2004 in the National Review:
"The marriage of a man and a woman is a sacred union and a fundamental element of building strong families and a strong nation," Rogers said.

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