Gingrich's second of three wives, Marianne, gives blockbuster access to Esquire's John H. Richardson in a 8,300-word profile of the former Speaker. The following passage is making the most waves:
"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."
Steve Benen reviews the rest of Newt's record on marriage:
[He] haggled over the terms of his divorce from his first wife while she was in the hospital, recovering from uterine cancer surgery. He had already proposed to his second wife before he was divorced from his first. In the '90s, this happened again. Gingrich had an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide -- while spearheading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton -- and asked his third wife to marry him before he was divorced from his second.
And Marianne had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In follow-up posts to his piece, Richardson reveals more from his interviews ("As a reporter, I've always believed that everyone has some kind of inner coherence. ... Until Newt Gingrich") and ponders Newt's 2012 aspirations ("so bad, he can taste it").
It's a gruesome spectacle and best left private - all marriages fail in some respects because we are all human; what matters is struggling to make them succeed. What makes this different is Gingrich's alleged statement:
"It doesn't matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say."
This notion that the elite's responsibility is to preach values they do not believe in and do not practice is not the same as failing to live up to norms we all aspire to. It is not simply being human; it is cynicism. You see it in the neoconservative flattery of crude religious faith they quietly feel alienated from - and then the bashing of "liberals" for being more honest about it. Everyone who fails to live up to ideals deserves support. Those who lie about the ideals they actually hold, and use that as a cynical bludgeon in political warfare deserve no such thing.
(Getty images via TruTV. Marianne is on the right.)