It’s only been 48 hours and, clearly, somebody out there doesn’t like SECNAV nominee Ray Mabus.

Airing dirty laundry is, sadly, a tradition for high-level appointees. But given how orchestrated anti-nominee media campaigns can be, is this New York Times piece a first salvo in a messy nomination drama?

In 1998, as Mr. Mabus and his wife, Julie (now Julie Hines), sought to work out their marital problems, he surreptitiously recorded a meeting the couple had with the Rev. Jerry McBride, a mutual friend.

Mr. Mabus had told Mr. McBride in advance that he had been advised by a lawyer to tape the conversation, according to court records. Neither man mentioned the recording to Ms. Hines. During the session, she admitted having an affair and told her husband, “I will hate you till the day I die, and I will tell my children.”

An expert psychiatric witness for Mr. Mabus referred to Ms. Hines’s recorded comments as evidence that he should get legal custody of the couple’s two daughters. The judge in the case awarded legal custody to Mr. Mabus and split physical custody between him and Ms. Hines.

After the ruling, Ms. Hines, who expressed regret for her comments, sued Mr. McBride, his church and the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, alleging malpractice and fraud. She did not sue Mr. Mabus, who broke no laws by recording the meeting.

Rather than spend time bewailing reporter decency or judging the nominee’s actions, I’m simply resigned to having this stuff trickle out. These days, that’s the way it is.

Are the nominee’s personal foibles and hiccups materiel to the job he or she is to take?

It’s tough for nominees right now. With more and more data out in the public domain, blemish-free nominees are near-impossible to find. But, still, the general public seems to value “perfect” nominees far higher than “appropriate” ones.

At some point this process will hit an equilibrium, where the general public will realize that nobody is perfect, and, perhaps, allow the Senate to make the confirmation process an experience that–while grueling, intrusive and frighteningly thorough–leaves nominees far stronger than they were at the beginning.

It will be a long time in coming. In the meantime, (if you’ll allow me to bend an old saying) Governor Mabus and the Obama Administration went into the kitchen, and are OK with the heat. So far.

After all, Mabus has only been a nominee for 48 hours…


Posted by Defense Springboard in Navy

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  • doc75

    The NYT isn’t a conservative rag and its reporters have little regard for anyone right of center (see Glenn Beck story the same day). That leaves two options: 1.) there’s someone within the Democratic party who does not like Mabus or 2.) this is a preemptive leak by the White House to get this out in the media well ahead of confirmation hearings. I’ll pick #2.

    Based on your excerpt, this topic doesn’t seem to put Mabus in a bad light. His ex-wife, yes. Him, not so much.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Please refrain from purely political opining on this forum. your comments “It’s tough for nominees right now” and “frighteningly thorough” would be slightly comic if it weren’t for the fact that the man running Treasury (and the IRS) had tax problems that would send you and me into court. He was approved anyway. Tom Daschle, same. Those wounds are self-inflicted, and hardly fall into the category of personal foibles.

    I think you would find a differed discussion if you asked John Tower or Clarence Thomas if these were tough times for nominees. Those were unproven allegations and innuendo, for which it cost one a nomination and another having to endure the experience of playing out on national television.

    I gave short thought to writing a post regarding the abomination of having Congressman John Murtha receive a prestigious award from the Navy after publicly and wrongfully accusing combat Marines of cold-blooded murder. But I refrained, because it did not relate directly to Naval history or Navy-centric topics. Perhaps you want to consider the same.


    The NYT

  • UltimaRatioReg

    *Burma Shave*

    The reference to Tom Daschle sounds as if he was also approved. We know he withdrew, obviously.

  • FOD Detector

    URR: John Tower was sunk by your conservative bretheren. It was Paul Weyrich who spread the stories about Tower’s boozing and skirt-chasing. As for Clarence Thomas, it’s pretty clear he perjured himself repeatedly.

    Re Mabus, this is all benign as far as DC scandals go.

  • andrewdb

    The next paragraph of that article says the case was dismissed, although she is appealing. Leaving that out seems unfair to the defendants.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Naval history/policy please…..

  • URR–Knock it off. Coming from you–a guy who walks down the political road an enormous lot–is a tiny bit tough to take. If it’s a problem, the moderator takes care if it.

    In short, it’s not your job, so put a chill on the chiding, willya?

    To me, the story is newsworthy (heck he’s the SECNAV, for goodness sakes), and with the Navy community laboring under it’s “zero defect” culture, I think it’s darned interesting to see the US struggling to adopt similar practices. We’ve lived with “Zero defect” culture for years, and we still don’t know if it’s good or bad. We don’t know if it needs reform or stricter enforcement. So rather than stamp on the commenters, let the discussion flow.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    He’s not the SECNAV yet.

    I notice others walking every discussion down the political road, but find me where my posts do. Discussion of potential threats of China or Russia or Iran or NK don’t take on political flavor until the label maker starts coming out. Unless we are defining “political road” as something you and a few select others don’t agree with and try to lay at the feet of a particular administration.

  • Sam Kotlin

    Nothing here. Move on…

  • Byron

    Sam, for once, you and I are in complete agreement. Zero sum argument.

  • See, the post is bringing people of diverse and conflicting viewpoints together!

    Sigh…Nominate the guy already…and bring Work for Dep SECNAV!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    See? Ain’t life GRAND?

  • Jay

    Concur with Doc75, non-story.

    However, it is always amusing to see some of our elected Representatives go after a nominees on moral issues, not related to their job performance (either side of the aisle).

    I enjoy watching the ones who remain silent, looking up & counting the ceiling tiles.

  • Byron

    Look at it this way…the NYT must have spent a while digging up dirt. All those reporters, Lexus/Nexus, scouring the internet, and this is all they could come up with? No wonder the NYT is about to go in the commode.

  • Spade

    “However, it is always amusing to see some of our elected Representatives go after a nominees on moral issues, not related to their job performance (either side of the aisle).”

    Considering the job performance of elected officials and their moral issues, they are just working with what they know.

  • Mark Woolley

    We’re looking for a Secretary…not a Saint.

  • Besides, divorce is always the wife’s fault. 🙂

  • Byron

    Skippy, total agreement on that one!

  • b2

    Anybody check to see if’n he’s paid his taxes?

    Seems to be a Dim epidemic over that issue lately. LOL.