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Right Turn
Posted at 08:02 AM ET, 01/20/2012

Gingrich’s messy life and flawed character

The Marianne Gingrich interview was no more and no less than what had been previewed early yesterday. If you suspected her ex-husband is a self-indulgent creep, then her allegation that he asked for an open marriage rang true. If you think she’s simply a scorned woman, her interview didn’t change your mind. But the media’s notion that the interview was a dud because they had seen it previewed earlier in the day underestimates ordinary viewers’ “yuck” reaction.

Now, Newt Gingrich and his daughters have already said he’s “changed” and a different person now. That’s some acknowledgment that he was acting in an untoward way previously. So for a man who divorced two sick wives and conducted an affair while condemning President Clinton’s lack of moral authority, I have to say the story is at least quite plausible.

Another off-hand remark by Marianne rings true as well: She and Gingrich had talked about getting rich after Congress. The public is all too aware of Gingrich’s obvious obsession to be a somebody and to think of himself in grand terms. His post-speakership gorging at the trough of special-interest group can readily be seen as a partial fulfillment of that long-held desire. He wanted to cash in. And boy, did he ever.

Seen by far fewer people yesterday was another interview, more powerful in a way than Marianne’s:

As Jenny Sanford said in closing, many people believe that “it comes to the simple question of character. I think character matters. It matters in your family. It matter in your business. It matters in everything you do each day of your life.” Whether that concern is enough at this late stage to derail Gingrich in South Carolina is anyone’s guess.

It is foolhardy, however, to claim we now know all there is to know about Gingrich. With Gingrich you never have the peace of mind that you’ve gotten to the bottom of his well of sleaze.

I suspect men and women see Gingrich’s canned explosion at John King in last night’s debate very differently. Men see “Yeah, he told ‘em!”; many women see something else altogether. They see a manipulative dissembler who makes the accuser the moral scoundrel, rather than acknowledge his own failings.

After last night, I don’t see how anyone could imagine Gingrich has come to terms with how he treated his wives and the degree to which he would put himself and his party at risk to indulge his own desires. You see, he is the victim in all this. There was no hint of recognition that he had brought all of this on himself.

In the reminder of his marriages, his recklessness (decrying Clinton while carrying on with Callista) and especially in Rick Santorum’s recounting of Gingrich’s “grandiosity” and failings as speaker, the issue (once the anti-media furor dies down) is slowly but surely shifting to Gingrich’s character and record. His rhetorical skills are a given, and perhaps his bash-the-media-to-enrage-the-crowd show is even getting played out. Without that stunt — and without the delusional hope that he could beat President Obama by virtue of a few presidential debates (or turn stalker and force him into hours of discussion) — Gingrich isn’t all that impressive. And, as Santorum pointed out, he sure does give people reason to worry.

By  |  08:02 AM ET, 01/20/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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