I feel compelled to defend Newt Gingrich. This is a very strange feeling — not one that I have felt before and possibly worthy of an entre entry in the DSM (the bible of the shrinks) — but I proceed, anyway. I feel that Newt is being treated unfairly, accused of hypocrisy by those who, if they examined what they are saying, would conclude that they themselves are hypocrites. I am referring to the revelation that the latest Mrs. Gingrich, the former Callista Bisek, had a “revolving charge” at Tiffany’s for $250,001 to $500,000. I say the following: So what?
The substance of the charge against poor Newt goes something like this: How dare a man, a Republican, yet, spend this kind of money on baubles bangles and beads when he himself is thumping the tub for austerity, prudence in all things fiscal, and accusing the Democrats of being the party of spend, spend and, I think, spend?
Gingrich is a guy who carries a fair amount of class resentment buried within him, so I bet he feels keenly that he is being judged by a double standard in this case. After all, no one would be exercised if Mitt Romney, a rich man, bought a $250,000 bauble for his wife. No one would worry if George W. Bush did something similar or, before him, John F. Kennedy or Franklin D. Roosevelt, the man who set the Democratic Party on a course of spend, spend and — I think — spend. The point being that Americans feel that the rich are entitled to be rich and to live accordingly. The once-poor and the now rich like Gingrich are, for some reason, supposed to be tethered to a more modest lifestyle.
The fact is, though, that Gingrich is rich — or seems to be. He has made a ton of money in the private sector, writing a book a month, producing movies and making speeches. The man lives large. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Gingrich in various endeavors spent $3.6 million in 2009 and 2010 on air travel, most of it on chartered jets. Romney, in contrast, spent a mere $273,110. As is so often the case, the rich guy flew commercial.
Tiffany’s says the revolving credit is no more — and neither is there any debt. That ought to satisfy most people. But even if Gingrich had bought jewelry on credit, does that mean that he is not therefore qualified to steer the country out of debt? What has one thing got to do with another? The answer, I submit, is nothing. The greatest budget-buster of our times was George W. Bush, born rich and, by dint of his name and connections, got even richer. The president who balanced the budget was Bill Clinton, born near-poor and now rich as can be.
Gingrich’s sins are legion, and his mouth is a weapon with which he sometimes plays Russian roulette. Over the years, I have had my fun with him — god, the man amounts to The Journalist’s Full Employment Act — but in this case, he is being treated unfairly and learning that, for some, breakfast at Tiffany’s consists of humble pie.