As I write this post, I await the righteous indignation of Missouri Republicans, who will feign outrage that I dared to strike a low blow at U. S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt, a man who has devoted his adult life to defending what he describes as “Missouri values.”
The post in question, which I put on The Turner Report late Wednesday night, has fewer words than probably any I have ever published.
The words didn’t really matter. The story was in the pictures.
After trying to maintain the high road in a 22-year journalism career and continuing to do so in my decade as a blogger by keeping politicians’ personal lives out of my stories, I decided it was time to break away from that lofty, but misguided rule.
As Roy Blunt tries to sell himself to Missouri Tea Party enthusiasts as a man who has fought the establishment during his 14 years in Congress and has never succumbed to the temptations of the Beltway, the two pictures tell a much different story.
The first picture came from a Christmas card, Congressman Blunt sent me during his early years in Washington. It is one of those family photos that politicians (and many others) like to send during the holiday season. It features Blunt with his wife at the time, Rosann, sons Matt (the future Missouri governor at that point) and Andrew and daughter Amy.
The second picture features a dressed to the nines Roy Blunt with his much younger second wife, Abigail Perlman, who is wearing an off-the-shoulder formal as they attend a Washington party.
Blunt’s second marriage to Ms. Perlman would normally not be enough to push me into breaking my long-standing rule. Though it’s a sad commentary, many men of Blunt’s age feel the need to trade in the loyal wives who stuck with them as they climbed the political ladder for younger models.
This situation, however, is more than just a repeat of that pathetic model. Ms. Perlman, despite her beauty, is not just some bubbleheaded babe who distracts a powerful politician from his impending mortality. She is also the lobbyist for Altria, a company that has poured hundreds of thousands into the Blunt campaign chest, into his Rely on Your Beliefs PAC, and into the Missouri campaigns of Blunt’s son, Matt.
And in 2002, as it has been well documented, including during his U.S. Senate race with Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, Blunt, at the time the newly minted Minority Whip, attempted to slip into the Homeland Security Bill legislation that would benefit the tobacco company Ms. Perlman represents.
It has been written many times over the years that Blunt inserted the wording to the bill to help “his girlfriend” or “the woman he was dating.”
And while those assertions have never been questioned (Blunt has continued to insist the pro-tobacco legislation would have helped improve U. S. security), one fact has been conveniently left out of the reporting- at the time Roy Blunt, the bastion of Missouri values, was helping his lobbyist girlfriend, he was still married to another woman.
Court records show that Blunt and his first wife were not divorced until April 24, 2003. Blunt filed for divorce Aug. 8, 2002, during the time the legislation was being considered by the House. The Homeland Security Bill passed in November. Online court documents show that a legal separation was granted for the Blunts on Dec. 19, 2002, because the court found there was “a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and it is not irretrievably broken.”
It obviously doesn’t help the preservation of your marriage when you are dating a younger woman, a lobbyist at that, and secretly inserting last minute amendments that would have done nothing to aid a country engaged in a war on terrorism, but would have done much to improve the bottom line of the company your girlfriend represents.
So when it came down to it, the decision process was not a difficult one. I could write two thousand words saying the same thing, but all it takes is two pictures to tell Missourians that Roy Blunt has succumbed to the sweet siren song of Washington, D. C.