The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 10-18-2003, 09:41 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Can a First Lady divorce the President?

Some friends and I last night were discussing various president's pecadillos and wondering why no First Lady ever dumped her husband. Off the top of my head I know that FDR, JFK and Clinton cheated on their wives. I'm not sure about LBJ (he had an affair while a congressman and married the woman but I'm not sure how he behaved while in office). Perhaps there were other presidents diddling women other than their wives but I don't know.

One possibility that came up (and the reason for this thread) was whether a woman could sue the president of the United States for a divorce. We all had a vague notion that the President is immune to civil suits while in office (correct me if we were wrong about that). We also figured a divorce constitutes a civil suit. As such, if the president is unwilling to give his wife a divorce (or vice versa if a woman were ever president) is the woman just SOL till he leaves office?

Note: We realized there can be many other reasons for a wife to stay with her husband. She might forgive him, she might simply like the power of being first lady and unwilling to give that up and so on. IIRC Eleanor Roosevelt held FDR's affair over his head (blackmail) and pushed FDR into some social reforms Eleanor wanted to see happen that FDR likely would not have done himself. At least that's a story I heard.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 10-18-2003, 10:14 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 23,442
No, there was a case against Clinton (Paula Jones, maybe) that said the suit could proceed while he was president.

And from my reading I'd say the Roosevelt story is nonsense, spread by one of their enemies.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 10-18-2003, 10:21 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Quote:
Originally posted by Exapno Mapcase
No, there was a case against Clinton (Paula Jones, maybe) that said the suit could proceed while he was president.
I thought the Paula Jones thing (if that's the one) was allowed to continue because the issue occurred before he was president. Even then I thought this was open to debate whether he could be sued. I'm still pretty sure the president is generally immune from civil suits while in office (maybe even criminal prosecution but I don't know and certainly these things can wait and get the president upon his leaving office either via impeachment or normally).

As for Eleanor I got the story from some feminazis who weren't so much opposed to FDR as they were fans of Eleanor. Generally these women were well eduactaed and didn't usually make stuff up but considering the source I'll accept it may well be untrue till I hear better confirmation.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 10-18-2003, 10:28 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Quote:
Originally posted by Exapno Mapcase
No, there was a case against Clinton (Paula Jones, maybe) that said the suit could proceed while he was president.
I thought the Paula Jones thing (if that's the one) was allowed to continue because the issue occurred before he was president. Even then I thought this was open to debate whether he could be sued. I'm still pretty sure the president is generally immune from civil suits while in office (maybe even criminal prosecution but I don't know and certainly these things can wait and get the president upon his leaving office either via impeachment or normally).

As for Eleanor I got the story from some feminazis who weren't so much opposed to FDR as they were fans of Eleanor. Generally these women were well eduactaed and didn't usually make stuff up but considering the source I'll accept it may well be untrue till I hear better confirmation.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 10-18-2003, 10:45 AM
Jake4 Jake4 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
But if she succeeds in divorcing her President-hubby, who gets the house?





Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 10-18-2003, 11:01 AM
Walloon Walloon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
Posts: 12,780
The U.S. Supreme Court, in their unanimous decision for Paula Jones in Clinton v. Paula Jones, said,
Quote:
The principal rationale for affording certain public servants immunity from suits for money damages arising out of their official acts is inapplicable to unofficial conduct. . . .

Petitioner's effort to construct an immunity from suit for unofficial acts grounded purely in the identity of his office is unsupported by precedent.
That the alleged misconduct occurred before Clinton became president is only mentioned in passing; it does not seem to have been important in the Court's decision.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 10-18-2003, 11:14 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Walloon:
I'm no legal expert but reading what you quoted gives me the impression a wife could sue the President for divorce as it is not related to official acts he has done as regards the office of the President (getting a blowjob in the Oval Office I don't think counts). I would also gather that if the President punched me for no reason I could sue him.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 10-18-2003, 12:49 PM
CrazyCatLady CrazyCatLady is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
That's how I would interpret it. The family of someone who died in the Gulf War couldn't sue George Bush for wrongful death for sending the guy over there, because that was an official act. He was acting as the POTUS, not as George Bush. If, however, he walked up and punched me, he would be acting as an individual, not as the office he holds.

As for the FDR thing, I did a research paper on Eleanor Roosevelt in high school. All the sources I could find agreed on two facts: FDR died in the company of his mistress, and Eleanor was a driving force in a lot of the social policies he set. Most of the stuff I read put it more in the view of her making suggestions over the dinner table than blackmail, but that may have just been more flattering to her. I don't know.

I have to wonder, though, how she could have blackmailed him, as I was under the impression that his indiscretions were pretty public knowledge anyway. If everyone already knew, she couldn't have very well threatened to call in the press. What would the threat have been? The stigma of divorce, maybe?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 10-18-2003, 01:57 PM
Mr. Evil Breakfast Mr. Evil Breakfast is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 73
CrazyCatLady, I have never heard that FDR's dicking around was public knowledge. To me, public knowledge implies that the general populace was aware of the fact that FDR was unfaithful, which is something I have never seen proof of.

Whack-A-Mole,

LBJ most certainly dicked around on Lady Bird.

Nixon had an affair with a close associate of Mao's.

Isenhower was banging the shoes off of his secretary all through WWII and continued to do so after he got in the White House.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 10-18-2003, 02:06 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Regarding Presidential affairs, there was Dwight Eisenhower's long affair with his WAC driver, Kay Summersby. That lasted from WWII all the way thru his 2 terms as President.

And to go way back, Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave Sally Hemings is well documented -- there are living Hemings descendents whose DNA connects them to the Jeffersons.

Some more info is available here .
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 10-18-2003, 02:12 PM
Earl of Sandwhich Earl of Sandwhich is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Evil Breakfast
[B]Isenhower was banging the shoes off of his secretary all through WWII and continued to do so after he got in the White House.
Eisenhower did not have a sexual relationship with that woman.
__________________


If you fall asleep on the couch in a house where a woman is present, there will be a blanket or a coat covering you when you awaken.

-George Carlin
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 10-18-2003, 02:22 PM
Walloon Walloon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
Posts: 12,780
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Evil Breakfast
Nixon had an affair with a close associate of Mao's.
Cite?
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 10-18-2003, 02:27 PM
Bricker Bricker is online now
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 43,591
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Evil Breakfast
Nixon had an affair with a close associate of Mao's.
That's not true. Nixon never had such an affair.

- Rick
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 10-19-2003, 05:24 AM
bienville bienville is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Quote:
Originally posted by t-bonham@scc.net
And to go way back, Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave Sally Hemings is well documented -- there are living Hemings descendents whose DNA connects them to the Jeffersons.
A connection that shouldn't be so hard to prove! I knew it all along.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 10-19-2003, 05:46 AM
thatDDperson thatDDperson is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Re: Can a First Lady divorce the President?

Quote:
Originally posted by Whack-a-Mole
[
I'm not sure about LBJ (he had an affair while a congressman and married the woman but I'm not sure how he behaved while in office).
Hello?? He married the woman?? He and Lady Bird married before he went to Congress, she's still alive, and they never divorced. I don't think bigamy was among his vices, though screwin' around on Cousin Claudia Alta was one of them...

She actually loved the man, and stayed with him no matter what. Bless her heart, she married a schoolteacher and ended up as First Lady, something she never wanted.

Personally, i'da done blowed his butt off with a shotgun...
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 10-19-2003, 06:52 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Greenbelt, Maryland
Posts: 11,776
In some sense, this is a really strange question. The First Ladies who stayed married despite their husbands' infidelities did so for the same reason that most married woman then, especially fairly well-off ones, stayed married even if their husbands were unfaithful. Did you honestly think that fifty to a hundred years ago that there was less adultery? People screwed around then just as much as now, even though there was less divorce. People didn't get divorced as much because there was too much social embarrassment involved in divorce, even in those places where it was legal. The people who weren't well-off sometimes simply ran off with their lovers, leaving their spouse to spend the rest of their life calling themselves "widows" or "widowers," even though many people knew that their spouse wasn't really dead. Others simply decided to do their best to publicly ignore the adultery. The more well-off the couple was, the harder it was for them to get divorced because it involved so much social and financial problems. Besides, a First Lady had even bigger problems with divorcing her husband. She knew that she would be destroying his political career if his adultery became public, and she respected him enough politically (even if not personally) that she didn't want to do that.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 10-19-2003, 01:52 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 23,442
Quote:
Originally posted by t-bonham@scc.net
And to go way back, Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave Sally Hemings is well documented -- there are living Hemings descendents whose DNA connects them to the Jeffersons.

Some more info is available here .
This keeps coming up so it is important to note that the affair is neither well documented nor does any solid proof exist that Jefferson fathered any children at all by Sally Hemings. While some groups have concluded that the 1998 DNA analysis of descendents other members of the Jefferson family along with other evidence indicates that Jefferson was the father of Sally's last child, Eston, other groups have come down hard on the other side.

The Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission Report on the Jefferson-Hemings Matter has this to say:
Quote:
Executive Summary of The Scholars Commission Report

The question of whether Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children by his slave Sally Hemings is an issue about which honorable people can and do disagree. After a careful review of all of the evidence, the commission agrees unanimously that the allegation is by no means proven; and we find it regrettable that public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people. With the exception of one member, whose views are set forth both below and in his more detailed appended dissent, our individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false.

In an effort to provide further clarification of our thinking about these issues, several members have written statements of individual views, which are appended to this report. They are the views of the scholars whose names appear thereon, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other members of the group. Although academic or other affiliations of members are listed for purposes of identification, nothing in this report is intended to reflect the opinion of any college, university, foundation, or other entity with which members of the group may currently or in the past have been associated.

Our dissenting member believes that there is not sufficient evidence to state conclusively one way or the other whether Thomas Jefferson fathered any children by Sally Hemings. Based upon the totality of the evidence that does exist, he finds the argument for Jefferson's paternity in the case of Eston Hemings somewhat more persuasive than the case against. He regards the question of the paternity of Sally Hemings's other children as unsettled.
No matter what the scholars say, most people today who have heard of the matter probably believe that Jefferson had an affair with his slave. Most people probably believe the story about Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, too. There's probably nothing about Kennedy or Clinton that people won't believe.

We've moved from a cultural belief that people as distinguished as the presidents weren't guilty of sins to a belief that any rumors about them were true.

I expect that the truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 10-19-2003, 02:21 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Greenbelt, Maryland
Posts: 11,776
Thomas Jefferson was not cheating on his wife during his Presidency. He was a widower by the time he was elected. He never remarried, so whatever his relationship with Sally Hemings was, it wasn't adultery.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 10-19-2003, 09:42 PM
Walloon Walloon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
Posts: 12,780
To further complicate the issue, Sally Hemings was Martha Jefferson's half-sister. Martha's father, John Wayles, was also Sally's father, by one of John's slaves.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:37 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.