David Frum: Family values and the Newt Gingrich question: Pete Wehner tries to assess how much past marital infidelity will hurt Newt Gingrich’s presidential chances.
Many of the rest of us are on a continuum when it comes to deciding how much infidelity should matter in the selection of a president. Facts and circumstances are crucial. Was the infidelity an isolated instance or a chronic pattern? Were the transgressions long ago or recent? What levels of deception and cover-up were involved? What was the position of authority the person held when the infidelity occurred? Was there an alarming degree of recklessness on display? What evidence is there that this person has changed his ways? Has this person shown other worrisome signs when it comes to character and trustworthiness?
These are all fair and interesting points, but they do not address the reason that Gingrich’s personal life has been – and will be – so politically lethal. It’s not the infidelity. It’s the arrogance, hypocrisy, and – most horrifying to women voters – the cruelty. Anyone can dump one sick wife. Gingrich dumped two. And that second dumped wife is talking to the media. From the Esquire magazine profile of Newt Gingrich published in September 2010:
After going to the doctor for a mysterious tingling in her hand, [Marianne Gingrich] was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Early in May 1999, she went out to Ohio for her mother’s birthday. A day and a half went by and Newt didn’t return her calls, which was strange. They always talked every day, often ten times a day, so she was frantic by the time he called to say he needed to talk to her.
He wanted to talk in person, he said.
“I said, ‘No, we need to talk now.’ “
He went quiet.
“There’s somebody else, isn’t there?”
She kind of guessed it, of course. Women usually do. But did she know the woman was in her apartment, eating off her plates, sleeping in her bed?
She called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet. “‘I can’t handle a Jaguar right now.’ He said that many times. ‘All I want is a Chevrolet.’ “
He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.
He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.
The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”
“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”
Who needs oppo research with quotes like those on the record?