North Dakota grows a lot of durum wheat. You’ve surely eaten it in your noodles. North Dakota is first in the nation in exporting sunflower products. It also ships out sugar beets and other wholesome foodstuffs.
Years ago, however, we sent a rather toxic export south to Okalahoma. Having made a career as an economist, he wandered onward to Texas and thence to Washington, DC, schlepping the sludge of free-market fundamentalism, religious intolerance, and general mean-spiritedness wherever he went.
That unfortunate export was Dick Armey, who turned up this week on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program insulting Joan Walsh, the editor-in-chief of Salon.com:
I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife cuz I surely wouldn’t have to listen to that prattle from you every day.
Joan Walsh had a great, real-time comeback: “Well, that makes two of us.”
Henry – who also posted the video – tried and failed to determine whether our pal Dick actually has a wife. He consulted Wikipedia, which was so sadly worthless, you have to wonder if it was sanitized by Dick’s own people.
But Henry: If you want to know something about a North Dakotan – even one in the diaspora – you ask another North Dakotan. Because we know each other. And if we don’t, we know someone who knows someone. That’s me: well-connected at the top levels of North Dakota society, and shamelessly willing to dish. It’s all hearsay, of course. But that’s what you’re here for, right?
So I happened to know that Dick Armey went to Jamestown College. (This is confirmed by his online hagiography.) That’s where both my parents got their degrees (my dad in music, my mom in English and bridge … but mostly bridge). They weren’t classmates – Dick is too young for that – but Mom taught school with a woman who knew him directly.
From that connection, I knew that Armey had been married – I think to a gal from North Dakota – but at some point he dropped his first wife. My mom’s friend was indignant about this, but I don’t know the details, and Mom’s not clear on them anymore, either. I seem to recall hearing he traded Wife #1 in for a younger model, but I’m not certain.
At any rate, even if I’ve gotten every insinuation wrong, there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around. According to the Religious Freedom Coalition of the Southeast, Dick distinguished himself by preaching fundie “values,” but prior to his political career, he allegedly sexually harassed some of the students he taught … and traded up to a second wife who just happened to be a former student.
Dick Armey’s “documented conduct along the lines of the President’s” was reported in the May 4, 1995, Dallas Observer. Three women who had been students when Armey was a professor at North Texas State University went on the record to document Armey’s “inappropriate” behavior. Susan Aileen White (who earned a master’s in economics from the institution), Anna Weniger (who subsequently acted as an economist for the New Mexico legislature) and Anne Marie Best (a future economics professor at Lamar University) all took offense at Armey’s inappropriate behavior toward female students. Weniger left the university for several months, partly because of Armey’s actions.
Not all the women at North Texas State were offended by the professor’s advances. Armey’s current (and second) wife had been one of his students.
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of their report, but the hypocrisy sure rings true, based on what my mom’s friend told her.
Or, as my mom said to me on the phone last night: “Well, from what she said, he’s just an asshole.” Coming from my mom – who is literally a former church lady – that’s salty language. And for that allegation, Dick Armey’s political career provides evidence galore.
So Henry, is there a Mrs. Armey? I’m not sure if there’s currently one. But if there is, I sure wouldn’t blame her for kicking him to the curb.
P.S. You have no idea how much self-control it cost me not to play with – nay, diddle with! – Rep. Armey’s first name in this post. I’m trying to act like a grow-mutt. I was doing pretty well until, oh, ten seconds ago.
Update, 1-31-09, 12:30 a.m.: Salon has a much better sourced account of Dick Armey’s misogynist misadventures. It largely confirms my version, except that his first wife, Jeanine Gale, was the one who filed for divorce. Makes perfect sense, if she’s a smart woman and he is, indeed, an asshole. The money quote from Salon:
Armey’s brother Charley, who has stayed close with his first wife, says Jeanine Gale, who had a master’s in education and taught school, was “a women’s libber” who didn’t put Armey’s needs first. Armey’s second wife, Susan, his brother says, is nearly the opposite.
No wonder poor Joan Walsh – and I – will never stand a chance!