John H. Richardson's profile of Newt Gingrich in Esquire paints a fragmented, confusing picture of a fragmented, confusing guy. Richardson's central source is Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, whom he divorced in 1999 to marry a congressional aide 23 years his junior. This is apparently the first interview she's given about her ex-husband since their divorce, a fact Richardson milks for all its worth.
"Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband's career with a single interview," Richardson writes at the beginning of his story, implying that the next seven pages contain ten years' worth of bottled-up, career-ending revelations.
Gingrich certainly does not emerge from the profile looking good, but then again, he didn't emerge from his 1990s money laundering scandal and resignation from Congress looking good, either. Richardson's profile is already generating buzz, but ending careers -- probably not.
Still, there are some insightful tidbits:
When Gingrich -- the godfather of the leveling attack and the politics of apocalypse -- is surrounded by doomsayers and radicals, he takes the long view and becomes the very soul of probity. But a reasonable and sober Newt Gingrich would never have gotten anywhere. Hence his ability to be scandalously extreme with great ease. This incoherence is at the heart of today's conservative movement, and no one embodies it more than Gingrich. He is both sides of the divided Republican soul in a single man. ...
At a moment of doctrinal crisis in the Republican party, Newt Gingrich is the only major figure in his party who is both insurgent and gray eminence. That is why twelve years after his career ended -- twelve years after any other man in his position would have disappeared from view -- he is ascendant.
As well as some entertaining ones:
"There's a large part of me that's four years old," he tells you. "I wake up in the morning and I know that somewhere there's a cookie. I don't know where it is but I know it's mine and I have to go find it. That's how I live my life. My life is amazingly filled with fun." ...
Gingrich just kept saying [Marianne] 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.' "
Read the full story at Esquire.