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For Better or for a Couple of Months

From The Scrapbook

Nov 14, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 09 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook, which is a strong believer in the institution of marriage, couldn’t help but notice the collapse of the 72-day-old union of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries last week. Readers will be forgiven for not necessarily recognizing the name of either the groom or bride​—​he’s a second-tier professional basketball player, she is difficult to characterize in a single phrase​—​but anyone who has stood recently in a supermarket checkout line or watched cable television should be aware of their glittering nuptials (Lindsay Lohan attended!) and the now-disputed price of the 20.5-carat wedding ring ($2 million). 

Photo of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine

Newscom

Anyhow, after all the fabulous parties and sponsored accoutrements and exclusive coverage of the ceremony near Santa Barbara, it turns out that Miss Kardashian and Mr. Humphries are less compatible than they might have hoped. And so she has filed for divorce, he has publicly complained that he still loves her, and the bride’s mother has set the record straight on the value of the wedding ring (“It was not $2 million; it was less than half of that”). 

Another celebrity marriage gone with the wind.

But not so fast. Somewhat to The Scrapbook’s surprise, the public reaction to this high-profile domestic calamity has been not sympathy, or even humor, but anger​—​directed especially at the bride, who has been accused of staging a “sham” wedding, and breaking the heart of poor Mr. Humphries, in order to harvest some impressive swag and publicize whatever it is she does.

The Scrapbook is puzzled by the public indignation, and for two historic reasons. First, in the realm of high-profile celebritydom, enduring marriages​—​say, unions lasting longer than five years​—​are the exception, not the rule: For every Bob and Dolores Hope there are two dozen Jennifer Lopez and fill-in-the-blanks. And while the Humphries-Kardashian merger was exceptionally brief, even by those standards, it was hardly unprecedented. 

In fact, being of a certain age, The Scrapbook was reminded of two other famous marriages that ended before the bills were paid. In 1952 the glamorous Metropolitan Opera stars Roberta Peters and Robert Merrill wed one another, to the delight of America’s consumers of High Culture​—​and separated after two months. (The fact that Miss Peters’s mother reportedly accompanied them on the honeymoon couldn’t have helped.) And in 1964 the great Broadway belter Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine (then starring on TV’s McHale’s Navy) got married in Las Vegas​—​and began proceedings to get unmarried 32 days later. 

In contrast to the current crisis, the public reaction to those two marital debacles was good-natured laughter: Who could not smile at the incompatibility of two operatic soloists, or the star of Annie Get Your Gun locking horns with Commander McHale? A half-century ago there seems to have been some recognition that love (or something close to it) can lead to foolishness, and that human beings make occasional mistakes. Now the public is furious when it learns that celebrities are in the business of being celebrities, and that Hollywood occasionally puts on a show.

 

Just the Facts

Herman Cain was the source of a controversy last week .  .  . well, a controversy other than the one you were probably thinking of. On October 30, Cain reaffirmed to CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that it was his belief that Planned Parenthood was founded with the purpose of aborting black children in disproportionate numbers. 

Wherever would Cain get such a crazy idea? Well, let’s start with Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who was a well-known advocate of eugenics. Her writings are littered with talk of birth control as a matter of “racial hygiene,” “cultivation of better racial elements,” “a cleaner race,” and “the solution of racial .  .  . problems.” There’s also the small matter of that time when Sanger fretted, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” (Sanger’s defenders say the context suggests that she didn’t actually want to exterminate the entire black race, just its less desirable elements, or something.)

It’s long been one of liberalism’s most inconvenient facts that the modern family planning movement was largely founded on an ideology that Hitler also found agreeable. Naturally, whenever someone has the temerity to point this out, and heaven forfend it be done by a black man, out come the spin doctors. 

Or rather, the “fact checkers.” The Scrapbook has a hard time telling the difference these days. Glenn Kessler, author of the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, gave Cain “four Pinocchios” for stating (accurately) that Sanger “did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.” 

Kessler defended and downplayed Sanger’s statements in support of eugenics. His sourcing leaned so heavily on Planned Parenthood it wouldn’t be surprising if they dictated the response to him. Kessler even called Sanger​—​we’re not making this up​—​a “racial pioneer” for her work with black organizations in the early 20th century. Of course, Kessler doesn’t mention that many of the black leaders she worked with at the time, such as W.E.B. DuBois, were eugenicists themselves. 

It further goes unsaid that Sanger tried to realize her birth control ambitions by speaking to that other hearty band of racial pioneers, the Ku Klux Klan. As Planned Parenthood would have us believe, Sanger was really a uniter, not a divider. 

At the very least, Margaret Sanger still has the power to bring the liberal media together, if only to shore up the façade that Planned Parenthood has the best of intentions. In addition to Kessler, Factcheck.org and PolitiFact also seized on Cain’s comments with equally mind-bending sophistry. 

Here are some facts that almost no one in the major media saw fit to raise in relation to Herman Cain’s comments. According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women get 40 percent of the nation’s abortions even though they comprise only 13 percent of the population. Fully 60 percent of all black pregnancies in New York City last year ended in abortion. Whether the media want to confront it or not, there are dramatically fewer black Americans thanks to the legacy of Margaret Sanger.

Mac the Knife

Mac McGarry has been a fixture in Washington, D.C., households for 50 years. A television announcer on the local NBC affiliate, McGarry took a job hosting the Saturday morning quiz show It’s Academic in 1961. He hasn’t looked back. It’s Academic, in which teams from local high schools answer trivia questions for scholarship money, is reportedly the oldest such program on the tube. Actress Sandra Bullock, Washington Post CEO Donald Graham, and sportswriter Tom Boswell​—​not to mention The Scrapbook’s colleague Matthew Continetti​—​have all made appearances. Last week it was announced that the show will go on, but without McGarry. At 85, he’s decided to retire.

We wish it weren’t so. McGarry was conservative in demeanor and effect. He wasn’t flashy. His game show emphasized the importance of knowledge and learning. Nor were the questions mere “trivia.” Ranging from history to literature to art to science to mathematics, they challenged talented high school students to discover the breadth and depth of the Western tradition in a way the students might not always have done in the classroom. 

The festive atmosphere, with a studio audience, cheerleaders, and school bands, allowed bookworms and science geeks to experience something like the thrill of varsity sports competition. McGarry set a standard for excellence that his successor, local radio anchor Hillary Howard, will have to work hard to meet. We’ll miss him.

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