In Newt Gingrich's World Rules
Do Not Apply to Him
January 23, 2012
It’s not about the sex.
Marianne Gingrich’s interview
with ABC revealing former husband and presidential candidate Newt
Gingrich’s request for an
open marriage was
not about a wife rejected. Rather, it was an insight into the
persona of Newt:
When he gets power he believes the rules do not apply to him.
Nothing is more telling of this trait than Newt’s
response to Marianne when she asked how he could reconcile asking for a
divorce because of an affair with another woman and speaking days later
about family values to a Republican women’s group. His answer? “People
want to hear what I have to say. It doesn’t matter what I do.”
I am reminded of a trip when I was a Justice
Department official to a Muslim country that outlawed drinking alcohol.
But there I was at the American Embassy with the country’s elite
imbibing. “I thought the law and your religion forbid you to drink,” I
commented to one. “Oh, that’s for the common people,” he replied.
In the Newtonian world, people only care about what
he says; the rules are to be followed by the rest of us.
This distorted vision of the world also applies
to whether Newt is allowed to ignore the facts. He does so with such
conviction that, unless one knows the truth, his delivery mandates
believability. Newt takes on a foe with such ferocity that Republicans,
hungry for a fighting candidate, have not sought to challenge the
veracity of his words. Consider his debate exchange with
CNN moderator John King,
who opened with a question about Marianne’s revelation.
In claiming as false Marianne’s statement that he
asked for an open marriage, Newt asserted,” Every personal friend I have
who knew us in that time period said the story was false.”
How could that be? Marianne has said the discussion
occurred during a private conversation when they were in counseling. How
would any friend know what Newt said only to his then wife?
Moreover, Newt had been having this affair with
Callista for six
years—in Marianne’s bed and when talking on the phone to Marianne in
Callista’s presence, ending always with “I love you.” Newt had been in
an open marriage for six years; only Marianne had not been told of it.
Newt next claimed to CNN that “we offered several of
[these friends] to ABC to prove [Marianne’s statement] was false. They
weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.”
Only it was Newt’s statement that was false. ABC immediately refuted his
assertion. ABC Senior News Vice President Jeffrey Schneider stated:
“That’s just not true. His daughters were interviewed for our
Nightline story last night and we sought
interviews with Gingrich or surrogates very aggressively starting
Tuesday morning. We would have been happy to interview anyone they put
In fact, according to ABC, the campaign said it was
“going to provide somebody who would answer point by point everything”
Marianne said, but “it had not done so as of” the morning of the
broadcast. Has any reporter asked the campaign for the names of the
people Newt claimed ABC refused to air?
“People want to hear what I have to say. It doesn’t
matter what I do.”
Significantly, Newt’s excuse for having an
extramarital affair—in his own words—is that he did “inappropriate”
things because he was under stress from working “far too hard” as
speaker. What misconduct will he excuse when he discovers the Presidency
comes with hard work and stress?
Newt asked Marianne to accept an open marriage while
preaching family values to the rest of us. Such request is not a
disqualifier for a man to be an effective president, as John Kennedy’s
and Bill Clinton’s tenures will attest. But Newt’s grandiose mindset,
that the rules we all live by—including telling the truth—do not apply
to him, is a different matter. His duplicity should be a disqualifier.
— Victoria Toensing is a partner in the
Washington law firm diGenova and Toensing, and a board member of the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies.