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The Collective
Friday, March 9, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP: Gingrich had affair during Clinton probe

Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton’s infidelity.

“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. “I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept … perjury in your highest officials.”

[…]

Reports of extramarital affairs have dogged him for years as a result of two messy divorces, but he has refused to discuss them publicly.

There was a standing assumption that Gingrich was having an affair during the period of time in question, so this isn’t a shocking revelation out of nowhere. Rather, it looks like Gingrich clearing the deck before he makes a run at the nomination. In terms of political strategy, that is very smart. Consider how much better off George W. Bush would have been to have revealed his DUI early in the 2000 process, for example.  Of course, in this case, it wasn’t like Gingrich could avoid the question.

The fact that Gingrich engaged in this confessional in an interview with Focus on the Family underscores that he is trying to shore up support in the Evangelical base of the party (or to see if he can overcome the problem in question in political terms). Such a move is hardly a random one.

And while I understand that the impeachment process aimed at President Clinton was itself about perjury and so forth, the underlying context was that of an extramarital affair. For Gingrich to see no hypocrisy in this over all situation is to be engaging in self-delusion and serious rationalization.

Further, if we look back to the 1992 cycle, one of the attacks on then Governor Clinton (and one that re-emerged during the run-up to impeachment) was “if a man’s wife can’t trust him, how can the country?”-not too mention the more generic insistence that character  (as defined by private behavior in particular) should matter. One may or may not think that such issues are salient, but it certainly was part of the general attack on Clinton, and it is the kind of question that should rightly haunt Gingrich given his role in that era’s politics.

On balance, Gingrich’s marital life has been rather odd, and raises questions (as do Rudy Giuliani’s) about a “weirdness factor”:

Gingrich, who frequently campaigned on family values issues, divorced his second wife, Marianne, in 2000 after his attorneys acknowledged Gingrich’s relationship with his current wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide more than 20 years younger than he is.

His first marriage, to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, ended in divorce in 1981. Although Gingrich has said he doesn’t remember it, Battley has said Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was recuperating in the hospital from cancer surgery.

Gingrich married Marianne months after the divorce..”

The whole marrying the former High School teacher just sounds a bit strange and the whole hospital bed business isn’t exactly the stuff of romantic legend. Indeed, even if he didn’t discuss the divorce while she was in the hospital, the fact of the matter is he did divorce her in the midst a recovery from cancer-which sort of violates the ol’ “in good times and and in bad” part of the ceremony (indeed, isn’t it the marital version of “cut and run”?).

The fact that he and Rudy both do the ol’ divorce and get married a few months later to the women with whom they were having affairs isn’t exactly a virtuous cycle that speaks well of either of them.

I am not trying to be an uber-moralist on the topic, or state that persons who have been divorced/have had affairs are unfit for office. What I am saying is that in general there is a legitimate criticism to be leveled at persons who seem to adhere to a particular set of beliefs in public, yet seem to habitually violate them in private and therefore there are reasons to stop and wonder about the character of individuals who do so. In Gingrich’s specific circumstance, his involvement in the anti-Clinton movement heightens the significance of the scenarios under discussion.

In simple terms I do think that his personal history will have an impact on his ability to effectively seek the nomination.

Update: James Joyner differs with me on the hypocrisy issues, although on balance I think we are in agreement on the overall effects of Gingrich’s situation. I take the point about direct hypocrisy, but I still think it is impossible to disentangle the fact that Gingrich was rather self-righteously going after Clinton while he was also behaving as he was-and while not lying in a legal proceeding, behaving in an untruthful fashion to his then wife, as well as presenting himself to the American public as on the side of right in a general sense-and hence he was something of a hypocrite.

Ed Morrissey looks at the political strategy involved with Gingrich’s move, and revisits the core issues of the Clinton impeachment-which remind me why both a Gingrich candidacy or, for that matter, Hillary’s, turns my stomach, as I simply don’t want to relive the tawdry politics of the Clinton impeachment and all that goes along with it.

Meanwhile, Pam notes “The amount of GOP hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me” and Michael P.F. van der Galiën focuses on the family-values angle in terms of hypocrisy rather than on the Clinton issue, per se.

Technorati Tags: Newt Gingrich, 2008, Clinotn Impeachment

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Filed under: US Politics, 2008 Campaign | |

9 Comments

  1. Newt Gingrich’s Affair: We Already Knew This!

    Will someone please explain to me why I’m seeing headlines like “Gingrich In Affair During Clinton Probe,” as if it’s a revelation? Newt Gingrich reportedly told James Dobson of Focus on the Family that he’d had an affai…

    Trackback by La Shawn Barber's Corner — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 8:21 am

  2. […] Lastly, also read Dr. Steven Taylor’s take on this. Great post. […]

    Pingback by Hypocrisy in Action « Michael P.F. van der Galiën — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 8:23 am

  3. Gingrich Had Affair During Clinton Probe

    The AP reports that Newt Gingrich was cheating on his wife while leading the impeachment against Bill Clinton for lying under oath about adultery. I had presumed everyone knew that several years ago but, judging by the attention it’s getting ar…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  4. […] Dr. Steven Taylor — a blogger I greatly admire — notes that Gingrich is obviously clearing the decks in preparation for a run at the White House.  He also writes: […]

    Pingback by Polimom Says » Newt’s shredded moral authority — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  5. Definitely some hypocrisy on the right-wing side. Then again, the same can be said of left-wing Dems. It’s not okay for President Clinton to have an extramarital affair and it’s fair game for exploitation, but Gingrich is different… Homosexuality is an abomination- unless you are the vice president’s daughter or a prominent evangelical pastor, in which case you’re only human and your privacy should be respected. Perjury by Clinton is unforgivable, but Libby’s is okay because they only charged him with it because they couldn’t get him for anything else. Corruption is bad when the Dems get caught, but when the Reeps get caught, it’s not as bad because the Dems do it too.

    Comment by Alabama Moderate — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 9:07 am

  6. […] Back to Newt: […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More Newtness — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  7. We Already Knew This

    Newt had an affair during the Lewinsky scandal. Whoopty-doo. We already knew this:
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against Presid…

    Trackback by Iowa Voice — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  8. Will someone please explain to me why I’m seeing headlines like “Gingrich In Affair During Clinton Probe,” as if it’s a revelation?

    Because, Gingrich felt the need to abase himself before James Dobson. He’s thinking of running for president and he needs to appease the religious right, first. That’s the “news” part of the story.

    Comment by Mikef — Friday, March 9, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  9. […] I never thought I’d write a letter like this, but I’ve got to say thank you. I had no idea you were of fan of my blog. I mean, I thought I recognized your IP address when I checked my web stats, but I just thought, “Newt? Read the Diva Platform? Naw…” Then I realized that maybe since your fall from being one of the most powerful men in the country and your recent admission that you couldn’t take the plank out of your own eye while you were trying to remove the speck from someone else’s-even if you were being restrained during the impeachment and you claimed it was really about perjury, why did we have to hear about all of the Monica Lewinsky sex talk-perhaps you’ve been trying to expose yourself to some different ideals. I’m honored you chose my site for helping you with that. […]

    Pingback by the Diva Platform » Blog Archive » My New Pal (Pol)? — Friday, March 16, 2007 @ 7:38 am

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