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January 10th, 2010
07:40 AM ET

Dear President Obama #356: Marital spats: My word!

Reporter's Note: President Obama is a truly gifted speaker. And that could come in handy if he travels to France with his wife in the near future. Or, for example, if he ever decides to call me about one of these daily letters to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So the French, with their often amusing and impenetrable logic, have decided to outlaw “psychological violence” in marital affairs; meaning, as best I can make out, that if you yell at or unduly insult your wife during a spat, or she does the same to you, that will constitute a crime.

You don’t have to spend long chewing on this croissant, to know that it should have been tossed into “le dumpster.” I’ve covered enough cases of domestic violence to take the issue tres seriously. The things that people do to their significant others can be truly horrific, and we should certainly do all we can to reduce it. But language, as terrible as it may be, is simply too hard to decipher apart from its context to make it criminal in these cases. Drop by a contentious divorce hearing some time. You’ll hear enough blistering “he said/she said” accusations to peel the enamel from your teeth. And the truth can be mighty hard to extract.

On top of which, it seems to me such a law is custom made for passive-aggressive types; my wife will tell you in a heartbeat that the madder I get, the quieter I get, and the more it drives her nuts. So I could be completely at fault, she could be the one who tips over the edge, and guess who winds up carted off to the Iron Bar Hilton? See the problem? (And btw, just so I don’t wind up in a dispute, we’ve been married for more than 23 years. We long ago figured out that no disagreement is worth letting the pasta get cold, or missing the movie.)

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