Newt’s Family Values Problem

March 8th, 2011 at 4:14 pm David Frum | 71 Comments |

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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.

“About what?”

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?

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71 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    Newt’s not going to run for president. He’s just bolstering his speaking fees like Palin. He’s been one of the most poisonous influences on American politics in my lifetime and I can just about remember McCarthy. The problem for people like DF is it’s not long since they were treating Newt like the new Messiah, then they decided Bush was the new Messiah. No matter how many times they get it wrong they continue to pursue the John the Baptist role with a procession of deeply flawed and incompetent people. Just so long as they have Republican stamped on their butt that’s all that matters.

    • pnumi2


      I remember McCarthy and double decker buses. Did you grow up in a city with double decker buses?

      • ottovbvs

        No but when I went to college in the UK in the early 60′s they had them there and still do I think. Why do you ask?

  • Houndentenor

    This attitude is typical of this crowd. Hypocrites every one. If the GOP is going to run on a socially conservative platform (as they have for 30 years now) then they need to find candidates to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

  • ScoopAway

    “If the GOP is going to run on a socially conservative platform (as they have for 30 years now) then they need to find candidates to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”

    Sadly, no they don’t. Consider the audience these hypocrites are addressing – the religious base. Those who by the nature of their basic beliefs suspend reality easily. Those who don’t believe in evolution, or can wave away the fossil record, or have man walk with the dinosaurs. Those who explain things they can’t understand with the simplistic ‘God works in mysterious ways’.

    The expressions ‘flocks’ , ‘sheep’ and ‘pulling the wool over their eyes’ are used for a reason.

    • Radish

      (Hi folks. my first comment)

      But this won’t fly with the independents Republicans need to win the election, and surely enough primary voters know that. It’s not as if they’re trying to run against Bill Clinton. Of all the things the crazies have made up about Barack Obama, they have not tried to attack his family values.

  • balconesfault

    Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet

    WTF does that mean? That her repair bills were too high?

    • ottovbvs

      Really? Based on the pic of the present Mrs Gingrich she looks very high maintenance to me. But I could be wrong of course.

      • busboy33

        I know its inappropriate and offensive to say this . . . but that woman gives me the heebie-jeebies. Every picture of her has that bizarre “vacant/crazy-as-hell” wide-eyed stare and a forced plastic smile.

        If she were a manequin they’d send her back to the factory for not looking like a human being.

      • pnumi2

        What wouldn’t The Donald give for hair like that?

        I remember you said something about Cambridge? We were discussing Newton.. That I remember, but I can’t say why I asked you about the buses. Only that it was in the McCarthy era?

        • ottovbvs

          It was Cambridge and there are still plenty of them around in Britain. As I recall upstairs was an excellent vantage point for spotting attractive girls.

    • Madeline

      It means he thinks of women as inanimate objects. Which explains his treatment of them.

    • Nanotek

      Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet

      balconesfault@”WTF does that mean? That her repair bills were too high?”

      talk about a bad metaphor … ?

    • MAindepend

      Newt hates the British

    • stevemb

      “WTF does that mean? That her repair bills were too high?”

      Newt’s health care plan: If somebody in your family gets sick, cut ‘em loose.

  • moderategoper

    It’s perplexing to watch Conservative Christians who interpret the bible so literally take such a “liberal” view of scripture when it comes to divorce. They all know “by heart” the literal biblical interpretation on homosexuality, but they all become liberals theologians when it comes to theire particular sin – divorce.

    “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” – Matthew 5:32

    “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” —Matthew 19:6

    “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress…” —Romans 7:3

    • Nanotek

      moderategoper, good point … I always thought Sara should ask for a replay ruling

    • Radish

      Moderategoper: I heard Newt respond to a college student (in a crowd) who asked him about his marriage hypocrisy, and he said “I believe in a God of second chances” – to much applause. So this is a line he’ll use to dismiss all his past sins. Unfortunately for Newt, God doesn’t get a vote in the primary, which may take a while for him and his listeners to remember.

      • forkboy1965

        @Radish: a God of second chances? Seems Newt forgot he’s on chance number three.

  • Gramps

    From an earlier thread…Hehehe…!

    “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress…” —Romans 7:3

    “So then if, while his wife liveth, he be married to another woman, he shall be called an whore monger…” —Gramps 03:08:11

  • hisgirlfriday

    It’s not just that he dumped a sick wife (or two) for a younger, hotter model and is a divorcee. I mean McCain did that too. But there’s also the lesbian sister he’s ostracized and his bizarro Entreprenuer of the Year awards to porn producers that raise flags also. And then after two divorces and three marriages he converts to catholicism in 2009? Huh?

    I mean at least if he stayed in the Protestant evangelical Baptist camp then his espousing economic policies based on Calvinist/prosperity gospel doctrines might make sense and nothing about that faith would contradict opposition to rights for gays or abortion seekers. But why would a guy with Newt’s views join a church with a social justice tradition that strongly supports labor unions, economic distributionism and opposes the death penalty?

  • Tempest in a Frumpot

    yeah, I don’t see Newt running either. He is a complete pig. Bush ran on restoring integrity to the Oval office, Newt is running on getting rid of it.

    Let me be clear, I don’t care about his private life, if his pronouncements are just a way to wring money from foolish people, that is on his head, but I would sooner leave the country than live in it if he somehow won. He is an unctuous, self serving, vain and venal man.

  • politicalfan

    I think the future candidates should stand up and say the following.

    I am imperfect but this why I should be the President! Futhermore, I will not make a bunch of promises that I can’t possibly keep.

    Honesty is not a bad thing and would actually be refreshing.

    Newt’s rhetoric hurts Newt.

  • Gramps

    Sarah and Newt are playing the same PR game and we; eagerly keep feeding the beasts…

    [blockquote]“…we do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves.
    - “Does the Race of Man Love a Lord”[/blockquote]

  • MSheridan

    The American people will not elect a candidate as widely disliked as Newt. I don’t think he is oblivious to this. If he runs, it’s just to sell books and to collect speaking fees down the line.

  • Rockerbabe

    Most in GA do not like him either! He’s doing a Palin; running his mouth, creating noise to get attention, but offering no real solutions to our pressing problems. Ignore him.

  • chicago_guy

    Gingrich on morals and ethics is like Leona Helmsley on taxes – they’re only for the little people (or Democrats, I guess).

  • AMurphy

    On the issues, he is compromised as well. When he was Speaker of the House, I believe this is correct, his district of Cobb County was receiving more federal money then any other district in the US, even more then Maxine Walter’s district in South Central LA.

  • anniemargret

    I, for one, DO care about a politician’s morals. They are figures of authority and as such, should seek to maintain life free from adulterous scandals and/or sleaze. There is something particularly odious about a man who would throw away a wife for a ‘better, hotter’ model – as if HE was something to crow about!

    Of course, one can never leave out the ‘other’ – the woman who cheats with the man on his wife. Both are bottom feeders, often destroying a family – or two- in the process.

    Why should we care? Because a man or a woman’s character is really what they are all about. It speaks volumes about whether or not they would lie with ease, or be duplicitous with ease.

    I find it even more deplorable that ‘good Christians’ on the right would be having a field day if this were Obama, just as they made excuses for Bristol because they loved Sarah Palin. Somehow doing wrong is justified by political party…. let’s see now if those ‘good Christians’ on the right find any fault with Newt, or they make excuses for his slimy behavior.

    Of course Newt means slimy salamander…. he fits his given name well.

  • anniemargret

    Huckabee, Gingrich and Palin…..all losers, and liars. All sold their souls for fame and fortune.

    Nothing to admire there…

    • forkboy1965


      And what about Huckabee’s latest screed against Natalie Portman? An adult having a child out of wedlock, yet engaged to the child’s father.

      Where is his moral outrage and indignation with Bristol Palin? She’s clearly a slut to get herself pregnant without the benefit of marriage. And STILL isn’t married.

      Come on Huckabee…let’s hear some words about the Palin family.

      (and no, I don’t really believe she’s a slut. Just added for emphasis)

  • anniemargret

    Maybe he is ‘suddenly’ a born-again Catholic…because they can buy an occasional annulment or two? That would ease his conscience, perhaps.

  • rbottoms

    Family Values Problem? How about lying hypocritical egomaniac opportunistic jerk who only looks good in comparison to the stupid moose hunting college bouncing ex-beauty queen quitter and the colorless jellyfish flip flopping rich boy currently in the race.

    If unemployment is below 7 percent Obama will mash these people like a trash compactor squishes garbage.

  • Mark Rosenthal

    Oh, I think that Newt will run, but all the main potential candidates are waiting. Why are they waiting? Because they have brains and can read poll numbers. They also know the GOP tradition of “next in line” and realize that this means either Huckabee (who can only win in the bible belt and the south) or Romney (who can only win in the west, maybe a part of the mid-west, but would lose the mid-atlantic seaboard and some of the south). Nobody is committing bucks yets, for each is waiting to see who will jump in first.

    This is a SURE sign that they are scared of Obama. If they really thought he was weak, they would have announced by now. The longer they wait, the more organization time they lose…

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  • NRA Liberal

    “…Based on the pic of the present Mrs Gingrich she looks very high maintenance to me. But I could be wrong of course….”

    If by “high maintenance” you mean “requires daily baths in the blood of virgins if she expects to make it to her thousandth birthday”, yeah.

  • Emanuelle

    His claim that it didn’t matter if he didn’t live what he preached highlights the real problem. The guy is as dumb as a bag of rocks and has convinced himself he’s untouchable.

  • Primrose

    He dumped not one but two wives who were sick? I take it he doesn’t accept the for sicker… part of the vows. Mr. Frum is right that level of cruelty is fairly horrifying for women.

    I would think men too but reaching the age where my peers husband’s start to leave, I’m not as sure anymore. A significant portion of men seem to have an amazing ability to walk away, even from their children. Same reason: they are bored with their current domestic life. I’d say its nature but they often leave for old flames, so it can’t be looking for a new womb syndrome.

    So I don’t think this will hurt Gingrich with men, but if the woman’s vote counts, I think he’s done.

    • Carney

      Primrose, women initiate the overwhelming majority of divorces.

      • bobinmn

        Husbands crap on and abuse wives much more than wives crap on and abuse husbands. There’s your reason for why women file for divorce than men.

        • Carney

          bobinmn, my claim is falsifiable. Yours is not.

        • LFC

          Carney, bobinnm’s premise is totally falsifiable. All you have to show is that the rates of domestic abuse arrests, convictions, and murders are roughly equal between men and women. Good luck with that one.

  • Carney

    I agree Newt’s past is probably impossible to overcome politically. As usual, Frum has a good insight here in that it’s the Newt-specific details that are the killer here.

    But in general I think the importance of hypocrisy is radically overblown. Even if a conservative politician cheats on his wife, that doesn’t mean what he says about the importance of marriage and family is wrong. Or for you liberals, even if a liberal politician zooms around in fuel guzzling vehicles and airplanes, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong when he says we have to get off oil.

    • ottovbvs

      I don’t disagree that hypocrisy is well nigh essential to govern a polity of 310 million highly quarrelsome and self opinionated people but you do your argument a disservice in making inane suggestions such as liberal politician being required to travel in horse and buggies to prove their clean energy credentials. By the same token that icon of liberalism FDR should have lived in a southern shack. Hypocrisy has its uses, you might want to read the book I’ve linked to, but you can have too much of a good thing, and this certainly applies in Newt’s case although he’s also obviously somewhat unstable.

  • pnumi2

    stalk·ing-horse (stôkng-hôrs)
    1. Something used to cover one’s true purpose; a decoy.
    2. A sham candidate put forward to conceal the candidacy of another or to divide the opposition.

    • Carney

      If Newt is not serious, what is he up to? Not sarcastic, just want your theory.

      • ottovbvs

        I said it at the start of this thread. Bolstering his earnings potential principally. Giingrich is the classic chancer so he raises his visibility and hence his demand. And who knows he could get lucky and actually win the nomination. It’s no different than the Donald trying to raise the visibility of his TV show. I’d be delighted if Newt was Republicans choice but it doesn’t seem very likely does it?

        • busboy33


          What’s he up to? Same thing he’s always up to . . . getting paid.

          His speaking fees go up as a “(Former) Potential Candidate)”. His book sales increase. The desire to pay him for one of his oh-s-exclusive “Entreprneur of the Year” awards goes up. If he gives up, then he gets to spend all the donations raised on “Administrative Fees” . . . just like he did last time.

      • pnumi2


        Just because Newt is a miscreant dosen’t’ mean he’s an idiot unable to to conceal his motives or his co-conspirators. They are are probably monied like the Kochs and pulling strings over at the Tea Party. These are probably conservative horrors that we will just have to wait to see.

  • Lowpocrisy

    “Anyone can dump one sick wife. Gingrich dumped two.”

    I fail to detect hypocrisy here.

    In fact, his cold-blooded personal behavior and his and his “party’s” reptilian political behavior are internally consistent.

    Further, his malign behavior toward the sick, the female, and all others who are vulnerable are of a piece with the behavior of the Randian Republican base who elected the murderous vermin now infesting my governments at all levels.

    How is dumping two sick wives different from dumping Planned Parenthood, community health clinics, destroying the health care safety net, and all of the as yet unannounced acts of murder planned against the large segment of the American population these filth count as their domestic enemies.

    His tapping into the reptilian brain stem of the republican base makes him the perfect Republican candidate, even for the religious right who may mouth platitudes about their effing families, but would happily kill their neighbors by shredding the social safety net.

    The delicacy over “hypocrisy” is exquisite.

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  • nitpicker

    It’s not just his values which are questionable here, but also his judgment. Not in relation to cheating on and dumping his sick wives, but in how he excuses those decisions now. He just told the Christian Broadcasting Network that he “worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate” and said those actions were “partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country…”

    That’s right. Newt loves America so much (*single tear*) that he just had to cheat on his wives. And this guy’s the supposed “thinker” in the Republican pack?

    It seems to me that a hardworking family man would actually have less time for an affair.

    • busboy33

      That really was a stunningly absurd excuse. Why did you do this? Uhh . . . . Gooooodddddd blesssss Americaaaaaaa, laaaaaand that I loooooooove . . . .

  • forkboy1965

    Newt is a political turd.

    He thought shutting down the government would make him look presidential. Instead, and rightfully so, it made him (and his Party) unelectable.

    I guess like his marriages he wants another shot at being the turd.

  • jakester

    I liked the old Newt better, now he is just another phony religious hypocrite

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  • Nanotek

    I must be missing something … how is Newt’s past an insurmountable problem, given the GOP’s responses to adultery by its leaders … like the standing ovation the GOP senators gave Sen. Vitter after he was caught as an adulterer and how they circled the wagons around Sen. Ensign after he was caught similarly?

    And then there’s the C-Street crowd of conservative zealots that got caught with their pants down without much blow back.

  • ottovbvs

    Apparently “Boundless patriotism” compelled Newt to commit adultery. I’m not making this up. He said it on some TVinterview..

    • pnumi2

      You bettcha.

      And he was heard to say shortly after he shot his load, “I regret I have but one wife to cheat on for my country.”

  • anniemargret

    My God, is he not a total idiot for saying such a thing? He cheated on two wives for the betterment of the nation?

    Just what dimwits are going to accept this latest tomfoolery from the right wing? Gingrich is in it for the money and ego, just like Palin, just like Huckabee, just like Trump. Their ‘vision’ for America is wrapped up in $$$

    • busboy33

      Now, to be fair, there is some impressive consistency at work here, as long as you accept the idea that Newt is America. I’m sure the infidelity made him feel pretty good, and that’s “bettering” . . . right?

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