So Am I

Just like driving past a roadside car wreck, I found it impossible to take my eyes off the political collision between Newt Gingrich’s political ambitions and his second ex-wife’s recollection of his betrayal.

The context made the story irresistible: the fact that Newt was about to give a speech that touched on the importance of values.  The fact that he had led an impeachment effort against Bill Clinton for having a dalliance with a young staffer many years his junior at the same time as Gingrich himself was dallying with a young staffer many years his junior.  The fact that Newt had cast aside his second wife no longer in the first bloom of youth twenty years after divorcing his first wife and telling a friend, “She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president.”

And all of it set in the even larger context of Gingrich’s id-driven personality, in which editor Eric Weisberg spots “symptomsbouts of grandiosity, megalomania, irritability, racing thoughts, spending sprees—that go beyond the ordinary politician’s normal narcissism that constituted evidence of a condition known as hypomania.”*

Irresistible?  Absolutely.  Satisfying?  ¡Claro que si!

But as a first question in a presidential debate?  Central to choosing a president?  No.

The issue would have been academic, maybe a subject for one of Gingrich’s counterfactual histories, if he hadn’t mashed Romney in the South Carolina primary.  But with Gingrich competitive, or maybe even slightly more than competitive, in what looks like a two-man race for the Republican nomination, the media and Gingrich’s opponents will have to decide how important an issue they think marital history is.  Politics and prurience being what they are, it will certainly play some role.  And given the inherent hypocrisy and licentiousness, maybe it should.

But not much.  The correlation between private and political behavior is not always strong.  History is replete with examples of political leaders whose political careers were stellar but who were poltroons in private life, and vice versa.  Gingrich has a long and well-documented public record.  Why not rely on that instead?

Don’t get me wrong.  I would rather have a president who had not betrayed and then dumped two previous wives.  I would also have preferred a president who had not had betrayed his wife with a White House intern.  I would prefer leaders of good moral character.  I welcome anything true that reveals Gingrich for what he is.

But the reason Newt Gingrich should not be president is not that he’s a serial adulterer.  It’s that the policies a President Gingrich would seek to enact would be almost entirely ill-advised and harmful.   Someone who worked with Gingrich before he became Speaker of the House said that at GOPAC, the political action committee that was his pre-speaker base of operations, was a file cabinet labeled “Newt’s Ideas.”  On top of the cabinet, said the former associate, was a small in-box-type tray; it was labeled “Newt’s Good Ideas.”

Abolishing child labor laws so that low-income school children can work as low-wage janitors is a bad idea.  Allowing a president to ignore Supreme Court rulings he doesn’t like is a bad idea.  Creating local citizens’ councils, modeled on local draft boards, to decide which illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay and which should be deported, is a bad idea.  He has a lot of them.

Even if Gingrich’s moral character were pure as the driven snow, bad ideas like these is reason enough to exclude him from consideration for election to any office, let alone the presidency.


  1. Linda Christenson
    January 25th, 2012 | 11:01 pm

    Huzzah, Louis! Very thoughtful, insightful, and well said! Thank you for focusing on this point and separating the wheat from the chaff.

  2. eric Christenson
    January 26th, 2012 | 6:11 am

    Great article!

  3. Francie Wilde
    January 30th, 2012 | 6:19 am

    Let me add to the comments above, with which I concur, — hilarious. So deftly articulated! You could donate this to the opposing camps and see your words immortalized nationwide in TV commercials (unfortunately, no tax deduction for the donation).

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