Yet another episode of “What was he thinking?”

US congressman Joe Barton of Texas is a member of the Republican Freedom Caucus which means that he has notoriously reactionary views on pretty much everything, all wrapped up in smug religious piety. He is a strong advocate for the oil and coal industries and a vehement climate change denier, using the Bible to argue against the science and even suggesting that wind energy is not a renewable resource.

But now the 68-year old congressperson is in the news for something other than being willfully obtuse about science. This time it is not for sexual abuse but for ‘sexting’, sending lewd messages and naked photos of himself to a woman with whom he was having an affair.

At the time he sent the photos, he was separated from his second wife but not yet divorced. Since the relationship seems to have been a consensual one between adults (at least as far as we know so far) there is nothing wrong with this. But as with the case of Ohio state representative Wes Goodman, one wonders why someone in his position would take such risks, giving that his public persona is that of a moralizing, rightwing Christian. He had threatened the woman that if she released the photos, he would report her to the Capitol police, suggesting that he was aware of the danger of exposure. So why did he do it at all?

Young people do stupid things but by the time one reaches adulthood, one learns to resist reckless impulses. But not in Barton’s case, it appears.


  1. jrkrideau says

    He probably thought that he was powerful enough that no one would dare challenge him.

    he was separated from his second wife but not yet divorced.
    Don’t fundies have a higher rate of divorce than the rest of the citizenry? Still wiki says he has only had two wives. Still he’s young yet.

  2. jrkrideau says

    What was he thinking?
    It is not clear to me that Republican politicians are capable of abstract thought.

  3. lanir says

    If you have a strong sex drive and poorly thought-out religious beliefs that suggest the only way to deal with them is to try to have a child with your wife, who is not currently interested in you… Well, this is a recipe for lots of stupid decisions.

    Personally, I keep thinking religions and their doomed efforts to control the human sex drive are the root cause of the poor attitudes towards sex and women that foster sexual harrassment problems and make them endemic rather than isolated incidents. I have to admit the idea annoys me too much to do a thorough, dispassionate check of the logic though.

  4. says


    I know that, like me, you have been a fan of the writing of Matt Taibbi.

    After reading Rebecca Traister’s piece at New York Magazine, I decided to remove him from my blogroll and to stop reading him.

    I’ve wondered how you’ve processed Traister’s piece.


  5. siwuloki says

    hyphenman @4
    Speaking only for myself after reading as much as I could find about Taibbi’s Russian years (I followed the eXile blog in those days, disgusted at some of the writing therein and this, though, goddamn, I loved the War Nerd), I decided to keep reading his words. It wasn’t an easy decision, as I’m sure it wasn’t for you and PZ to bail on him. I do not and will not blame you. These days he has a voice that I want to hear so I will continue to follow him.

  6. says

    @siwuloki, No. 5

    Such decisions are never easy. I went back and forth for several days while Taibbi’s most recent work, “I Can’t Breathe” sat on my desk.

    I finally returned the book, unread, yesterday.

    Now I’m looking for strong female political voices to support with my reading, my blogging and my dollars by purchasing their work.

    Any suggestions?


  7. says

    “Young people do stupid things but by the time one reaches adulthood, one learns to resist reckless impulses.” Only if one actually faces consequences for those reckless impulses. I suspect a lot of privileged people like Barton never did.

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