July 6, 2015

WaPo has a long article on Scott Walker's wife Tonette.

The tin-eared headline is: "Scott Walker’s wife, toughened by life, adds steel to candidate’s spine." I'll live-blog my reading of this article and see what WaPo is up to. It begins:
Tonette Tarantino’s year of sorrow came when she was only 30. First she lost the grandmother who helped raise her, like a second mother. Weeks later her brother, her only sibling, died of bone cancer. Then her husband died of kidney failure....

“My mom was tough. She didn’t give you a break,” Tonette Walker said in an interview at the Camp Bar, a neighborhood hangout here [in Wauwatosa]. “Days after my first husband died, my mom said, ‘Get up, get moving, you are not going to wallow in this. You’re going to be great, you are going to be fine. Life is going to go on.’ ”
A completely sympathetic beginning primes the reader for the really surprising thing about Tonette (if you don't know it already):
Tonette, who at 59 is a dozen years older than her husband....
So Scott Walker, when he was quite young, found a wife who was a widow 12 years older than him. What kind of man does that? Walker calls Tonette “my rock.” We're told — in a quote from Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch] — that Tonette is "not a political junkie who gets up in the morning and reads RedState, Drudge, Politico or The Washington Post, but instead offers "the perspective of the smart, average voter . . . she is the ‘first listener.’ ”

When Walker expressed antagonism to the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision:
“That was a hard one,” Tonette said, pausing and choosing her words carefully. “Our sons were disappointed. . . . I was torn. I have children who are very passionate [in favor of same-sex marriage], and Scott was on his side very passionate. It’s hard for me because I have a cousin who I love dearly — she is like a sister to me — who is married to a woman, her partner of 18 years,” she said.
We don't get the details of the conversation between Scott and Tonette, but:
The day after the Supreme Court ruling, Tonette flew with her husband to Colorado, where he addressed a group of 4,000 conservatives and met with donors. It was widely noted that, despite a perfectly receptive audience, Walker did not repeat his sharp criticism of the Supreme Court decision.

Instead, Walker spoke more vaguely and was quoted as saying, “We should respect the opinions of others in America. But that in return means that they not only respect our opinions, they respect what is written in the Constitution.”

Asked at the Camp Bar what effect it has when his family disagrees with him, Walker said, “It doesn’t mean I change my position,” but it may lead to “finding a different way of explaining it, so they can appreciate where I am coming from.”
Now, we dip into the past, back to Tonette's childhood, and I learn for the first time that Tonette — whose name I'd only previously associated with the woefully disappointing home permanent product I'd experienced in the 1950s — really was named after that home permanent product:
“It’s horrible growing up with that name. I was made fun of. Nobody could ever pronounce it,” she said. When her husband started to become well known, she started getting “nice notes from people saying they knew that ‘tonette’ was a musical instrument from France, that they had researched it . . . I would write back and say, ‘Sorry, it’s really about a home permanent.’ ”
We hear that Tonette "graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school" and "took a job at an insurance company" because "My family didn’t know anything about college. They were both union workers and poor. It wasn’t even on their radar that you went to college."

Married at 23, widowed at 30, she was 36 when she encountered the 24-year-old Scott Walker on a  karaoke night a Milwaukee bar called Saz’s.
There, as she chuckled at the amateur singers, she spotted a young man looking at her, and they kept locking eyes. Scott Walker, then only 24, scribbled a note on a napkin and handed it to Tonette as he walked out, without saying a word.

“Forgive me for being rude. I have to go to get up early for work,” he wrote. “If you want to have dinner, please call,” he said, as the two recounted their first meeting laughing as they quibbled over how many days it took her to phone him. (She says a week; he says two days.)

Despite their differences — she was a Catholic Democrat, he was the son of a Republican Baptist preacher — they hit it off immediately. But she said her parents were concerned about the age difference.

“But he had an answer for everything — that’s Scott Walker,” she said. “I said, ‘I want kids,’ and he said, ‘Okay.’ I said, ‘I want kids now,’ and he said, ‘Okay.’ ”

She said she looks back now and thinks that if her son Matt at 24 brought home a 36-year-old woman, “I would say, ‘Really, Matthew?’ ”
Shortly thereafter, he proposes to her via another scribbled-on napkin at Saz’s. Very nice. I don't see WaPo out to sabotage the Walkers at all. That was very humanizing... very moderating.
“I love being part of the excitement of the campaign,” she said, sitting at a patio table in a white denim jacket. Then she started laughing, and said sometimes she thinks girls from her high school must see her on the news and “be laughing like crazy that it’s me. You? Tonette Tarantino?”
ADDED: That headline — read it out loud — "Scott Walker’s wife, toughened by life, adds steel to candidate’s spine" — sounds like the text on a page of a Dr. Seuss book.
Scott Walker’s wife
Toughened by life
Adds steel to candidate’s spine
da da da DA
da da da DA
Da da da da da da DINE
Or whine... shine... swine... fine...  — something that rhymes with spine. Seems like Scott Walker has a steely spine, but Tonette softens his form of expression, makes him more palatable to liberals. But she's a strong woman, so the headline writer didn't really figure out how to express that. I'm getting a Laura Bush feeling about all of this.

There's still no answer to why Scott Walker married a woman so much older than he is and accommodated to her 36-year-old reproductive needs. It's left to us voters to imagine what the dynamic was or is. The couple presents a political face to the world, and we see what we're able to see of him through her. And there's this one startling, unexplained fact — the huge age difference.

We did the math: 36 divided by 2 plus 7. It's 25. Walker was 24.

AND: Explore the meaning through a poll:

What do you think of the age difference? (Check as many as you want.)
pollcode.com free polls


Brando said...

I found it a generally positive article--sometimes you can get a subtle sort of criticism of the spouse in the way articles report about them (when Teresa Kerry was in the press in 2004, you could tell the article writers were trying to not come out and call her cold and nasty, which in its own way made her seem more cold and nasty. You also pick up the same subtle criticism when they write about Jeb Bush's wife).

This article also presents a nice contrast from the more moneyed candidates (Bush and Clinton).

Brando said...

I recall when reading the Iliad Homer never comes out and says "Helen of Troy was one hot tamale!" but you could pick that up simply from the way the narrative describes others' reactions to her (like Hector averting his gaze). In the same way, if an article comes out and says "so and so is cold and nasty" or "so and so is warm and inviting" you won't believe it as much as when they recount certain anectdotes in a more subtle manner.

gspencer said...

Re: the name “Tonette”

The WP has a favorite minority about whom the WP would NEVER issue a word of criticism (despite the abundant anti-social behavior found in that “community”). The birthing members of this “community” have a decided habit of giving their children very inventive names, assigning to those children life-long negative baggage.

For example, LaShayshawndra, Pinyata, Damika, Lashundra, Demarius, Demarae, LaQuasha, LaQuinna, LaQualla, Chontiera, Chontarria, Ravon, Chontele, Rayquan, Layshell, Kinyarda, Kinyarna, Dayqyuia, Dayqyan, Angharad, Anquanette, Biahnca, Carlandra, Coushatta, Johnecia, Jajuan, Jamaurice, Nehemiah, Shaneedra, TeShounda, Tierra, Valandra, Zakkiyya, Daryl, Q’Antity, Uhlleejsha, Cray-Ig, Fellisittee, Tay’Sh’awn, and Day’Shawndra, Uneeqqi, Armani-Chanel, Quo’Tatashia, Quanesha, Quanesia, Quansha, Queen-Queisha, Devonterray, Mopreshia, Telaphonia-Sheeray, Shinaqua, A'Quariur, Dasunia, Shaquedra, Omarion, Tayshaun, Deron, Rau’shee, Raynell, Quatrelle, Quontrellis, Deontay, Taraje, Jozy, Kerron, Hyleas, Chaunte, Bershawn, Lashawn, Sanya, Trevell, Sheena, Ogonna, Dremiel,

Scott said...

I thought it was a nice piece of journalism. Tonette comes across like a typical Wisconsin woman -- hard working, earnest, and down to earth, with a light dusting of bonkers.

David said...

" And there's this one startling, unexplained fact — the huge age difference."

Unexplained? It seems pretty clear to me--love and respect.

Hagar said...

Tonette has been a not uncommon girls' name in southern Norway since the 17th century. It is probably from a Dutch diminutive of Antoinette.

bbkingfish said...


Expat(ish) said...

That's a couple that will be fine if they don't end up in the White House and will be fine if they do.

Nice to know that exists in our political arena.


Rob said...

And it's not only his spine she adds steel to.

Michael K said...

My mother was five years older than my father and he never knew it. She was 40 the year I was born and 43 the year my sister was born. My birth certificate gives her age as 29.

She worked until she was 77 (my age) and when her company told her she had to retire because nobody knew how old she was but she had to be over 65, we had a hell of a time getting her signed up for Social Security and Medicare because nothing had her correct age on it. Fortunately her sister was still alive and swore out an affidavit. She was born at home, the church where she was baptized had burned down and she never drove a car.

Tonette probably looked much younger when he saw her at first.

Wince said...

Obviously, she put the lead in his pencil.

Laslo Spatula said...

No one seems to care about the age difference between Hillary and Huma.

I am Laslo.

geokstr said...

Here is a paradoxical dilemma you can find yourself in when you marry an older woman, one that could twist your familial relationships into a veritable Mobius strip:
Ray Stevens: "I'm My Own Grandpa"

Worth a look and listen for all guys as a precautionary tale.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

For me, "tonette" is forever connected to "It's Tonette Time!," a book for the American "pre-instrument." (If there's a legit French instrument called the tonette, it's news to me; the kind I mean is made of plastic and meant for four-year-old kids.) The home-perm "tonette" is completely unfamiliar to me.

Ann Althouse said...

By the way, I think there is a correct answer to the poll. I said that to Meade and it took him about 5 guesses to get to it.

Scott said...

Tonette, Tonette, Tonette, and Tonette.

Mark Caplan said...

A man who marries an unrich woman old enough to be his aunt has something miswired in his brain. I'd be wary. The man ain't right in the head.

MayBee said...

Ahhh! The smell of the Tonette home perm! I will never forget it, and have a certain fondness for it.

MayBee said...

Perfect, Laslo!

Clyde said...

She was cougar before cougar was cool.

John henry said...

I would be inclined to wonder about a 24 year old man marrying a 36 year old woman. As would Tonette about her son.

After 30 years of happily everaftering it seems like they did it right and I don't think there is anything to wonder about or worry about now.

It's not like either married the other for money or position.

John Henry

Kyzer SoSay said...

He might have married her for position.
One of those special ones the younger girls hadn't learned yet.

I'll go now.

hombre said...

It's nice to see WaPo vetting candidates and families just as they did in 2008. LOL.

MadisonMan said...

Tonette comes across like a typical Wisconsin woman -- hard working, earnest, and down to earth, with a light dusting of bonkers.

Agreed. The kind of person who would be really interesting to talk to at a 4th of July party on the lake, whichever lake you choose in the state.

PatHMV said...

So Professor, what's the right answer to the poll? My cynical self says the right answer is the one that insinuates that Walker will ultimately be a liberal, because his wife is. At this stage of the process, Democrats (including their supporters in the major media) want to turn conservative voters against the most electable Republican candidates and toward the un-electable ones. For Walker, this means getting voters worried that he's a RINO (because they fear Walker would be a good candidate in the general election). For Jindal, it will mean attacking him along lines that actually will make hard core conservative voters support him (because they know he could easily be defeated in the general election and will tarnish the GOP brand with any prominence he achieves).

MaxedOutMama said...

I find questioning the age difference more than a bit bigoted, or sexist. No one at all would question a woman marrying a man with that age difference, so it is clearly sexist. But I also find it bigoted - the idea that we should all be exactly the same is hardly even rational!

They were probably quite a good match, because Walker was a very serious guy at that age, and if he had married a younger woman they would have been out of sync. What's important when marrying is a match of psychological age more than physical age. And when both parties are fully mature, it's best, because when they marry at an immature age one may grow up and the other not.

Scott Walker's first campaign for the state legislature was run at 22 years of age. He left college to take a good position at age 22. There are people who mature late; Walker is one who matured early, and who has always seemed content with it. At 25 he had a lot of experience under his belt, and probably WANTED a woman who was ready to settle down. Given his commitments at that age (legislative position plus demanding job), he wouldn't have been a good husband to a young woman who wanted to go out and party a lot.

As far as I can see, their marriage was a product of good sense and deep affection. What's wrong with that??

Apparently it was, at least on Walker's side, infatuation on first sight. It's obvious given the family history that the infatuation turned into deep and enduring love. So they chose well, for themselves, and I don't see why anyone else should be critical of it.

Oso Negro said...

The age difference is odd.

Oso Negro said...

And not only is the age difference odd, it practically guarantees bimbo eruptions, unless he secretly goes for the boys.

campy said...

"The age difference is odd."

No, 12 is an even number.

PatHMV said...

I suspect that the Democrats would also like to subtly suggest that Gov. Walker is un-manly, a trait they believe will be a big turn-off to conservative voters in the GOP primaries. Only an un-manly man would marry a woman 12 years older, right? Fortunately, the right tend to be smarter than the Democrats and their media allies believe.

Johanna Lapp said...

My fiancee is marrying a woman 12 years her junior.
She's the smart one, the mature one and the hot one.
All I bring to the deal is being the lucky one.
Explain to me how that's a bad thing?

Do the Democrats really want to make an issue of the candidate's judgment in choosing a spouse?

Michael K said...

Some women age well and look good well past the stage where some women who peaked early begin to look older. Walker's wife seems to be one.

MaxedOutMama above has a good point about his early maturity.

Mark said...

Given that Walker has only a limited chance at receiving the nomination and that is over a year away, it is funny how everyone is already blaming the Democrats for mud slinging.

Walker is going to receive am awful lot of Republican mud slinging this summer and fall, Jeb and Marco and the Donald have a lot more interest in Walker going down than anyone on the left.

walter said...

"she spotted a young man looking at her, and they kept locking eyes."

Pictures from era would inform this. As they would in Michael K's history. A single woman on childbirth mission will pull out the stops, aesthetically...son of a preacher man or not.

Johanna Lapp said...

True, But the New York Times isn't taking marching orders from Jeb, Marco or the Donald. Walker is Hillary's biggest fear, and, by sheer coincidence, the lickspittle Times keeps floating balloons that undermine Walker as a Hillary attacker. (In their warped understanding of the landscape.)

walter said...

This just reads weird though:

“But he had an answer for everything — that’s Scott Walker,” she said. “I said, ‘I want kids,’ and he said, ‘Okay.’ I said, ‘I want kids now,’ and he said, ‘Okay.’ ”

I mean..if (hopefully/presumably) on same page, not really some sort of creative redirect or anything.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Oh, rats. It apparently has been too long since I posted a link :-( Forgot the close-quote.

Let's try again:

It's Tonette Time.

That should do it.

Johanna Lapp said...

D'oh. Washington Post, not NY Times. My point remains.

Sam L. said...

Not reading the WaPo; NYT either.

lgv said...

I can't believe that one of the choices wasn't, "He's gay"

I dated someone 32 when I was 24. I'm not sure it would have worked. A friend's brother married a woman 15 years older. They lasted a life time. Although it may seem odd, there's probably less here to talk about than we think.

Doug said...

I will bet Althouse thinks the right answer is Walker becomes liberal and fully embraces GAY MARRIAGE!

Sprezzatura said...

IIRC, Althouse has interpreted tough Walker coverage as the MSM tying to take down her home state hero.

Does an MSM puff piece mean that the libruls are pushing him because he's a weak Hillary adversary?

Gospace said...

Who cares? would be my answer. Their age difference doesn't say anything except- apparently they were meant for each other. As far as her remark "I want children now.", so? Second date my wife said "I want 14 children." I was the first guy to go out on a third date with her. That was 36 years ago. (We have 5.) Nothing wrong with having screening questions, or statements. We all have (or had) some go/no go requirements in a potential spouse.

My maternal grandmother was 3 years older then my grandfather. She lied about it- because at the time, 1920's, it seemed a big deal. Made some problems come social security time. Now, who cares? I certainly don't.

james conrad said...

Who in the hell cares about a 12 year age difference?

Darleen said...

12 year age difference is "weird"?

Um... Hugh Jackman/Deborra-Lee Furness?

Obviously, the Walker marriage has worked for them and their love and devotion to each other "age" a mere stat, not a determining factor.

(I'm 7 years older than my husband)

walter said...

"Second date my wife said "I want 14 children." I was the first guy to go out on a third date with her. That was 36 years ago. (We have 5.) Nothing wrong with having screening questions"

"Screening question"..or exaggeration?

Thinking of some male versions....