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 forward.”
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?
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.