It’s the equivalent of a non-denial denial that we will, for our purposes, call a noncommittal confirmation. The Internet lit up this afternoon with word that Newt Gingrich might be considering a presidential run in 2012. A surprise, only because he’s the first GOP contender to allude to an interest in besting Obama. Yet it’s not huge news coming from Gingrich. That’s partly because he didn’t actually announce he’d do anything. And also because “considering” a run for high office is Gingrich’s usual MO to grab the spotlight—especially when he’s got a book to sell, as he does now.
Original movie poster
(l to r: Princess Sarah Palin, Callista #3 Gingrich, Newtie, and Motorscooter Mittsie Romney)
On its face, however, the prospect could be serious. Gingrich’s fiscal conservatism would certainly reverberate with a growing electorate weary of Democrats’ spending. As a deficit watcher of the ’90s and counterbalance to the Clinton administration, he clearly has some experience confronting skyrocketing debt. His book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular, Socialist Machine, also takes a hit at the president’s social agenda.
But could he win? At this point, probably not. Folks like Gingrich and Sarah Palin are pitched as being the future of the fragmented Republican Party, uniting voices who can bring folks together with a common, general message. But the truth is that both sit too far to the right.
Of course, even before Gingrich got to Obama, he’d have to outlast other GOP challengers, and with such similar stances on the issues, personality matters. There’s clearly a benefit in politics of having no paper trail. Just ask Elena Kagan. But Gingrich has virtually no skeletons in his closet because they’ve all already been revealed. He left his first wife while she was dying of cancer and cheated on his second wife (with his third wife). [Actually, she was recovering from cancer surgery, not dying of cancer.] A platform of conservative family values could be a tough sell. He also avoided serving in the Vietnam War, a similar quality that left Bush vulnerable.
Naturally, it might end up not mattering at all. By announcing an interest in maybe, perhaps, jumping into the race in the distant future, candidates can test what people start saying about them, and whether donors get excited at the idea. It is, in effect, a way to get more attention without explicitly asking for it.
I have to disagree with the author of the article. While the skeletons in Newtie’s closet have been revealed, there are a lot of people who haven’t heard all the details. This is from an article at Salon, August 1998, about Newtie’s subdued reaction to the revelations about the Monica Lewinsky scandal:
While House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt condemned Clinton’s behavior as “reprehensible” and refused to rule out impeachment (later softening his rhetoric), Gingrich cautioned that the Lewinsky affair alone does not justify an impeachment inquiry. The Georgia Republican told the Washington Post that he believed only “a pattern of felonies” and “not a single human mistake” could constitute grounds for impeachment.
It’s tempting to congratulate Gingrich for his understanding of human frailty, but don’t mistake his comments for Christian charity. The rabidly partisan Gingrich would love to bring down Clinton.
No, it’s not compassion that tempers the speaker’s censure of Clinton’s self-destructive sexual compulsions. It’s self-protection. Gingrich, lest we forget, has a closet full of sexual misconduct.
For one thing, Gingrich pioneered a denial of adultery that some observers would later christen “the Newt Defense”: Oral sex doesn’t count. In a revealing psychological portrait of the “inner” Gingrich that appeared in Vanity Fair (September 1995), Gail Sheehy uncovered a [married] woman, Anne Manning, who had an affair in Washington in 1977 with a married Gingrich.
“We had oral sex,” Manning revealed. “He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, ‘I never slept with her.'” She added that Gingrich threatened her: “If you ever tell anybody about this, I’ll say you’re lying.”
Gingrich refused to comment on Manning’s charges, though he has admitted sexual indiscretions during his first marriage — hey, it was the ’70s, man! But Newt’s oral sex denial proved embarrassing at a time when he was the secular leader of the “family values” crowd, appearing frequently at Christian Coalition gatherings.
Like Clinton’s, Gingrich’s sexual history is old, tangled and furtive. Newt himself is the product of a weekend marriage. His 16-year-old mother, Kit, married hard-drinking, brawling Big Newt McPherson, whom she met at a roller rink. But she quit the marriage after just three days when he hit her.
In return for being allowed to skip his child-support payments, Big Newt later gave up all rights to his son and allowed Kit and her second husband, Bob Gingrich, to adopt the boy.
As a high school student — precocious, lonely, overweight — Newt secretly romanced his geometry teacher, a buxom, matronly woman named Jackie Battley. The furtive romance with his 24-year-old teacher included nighttime sessions in the back of a car in remote areas of Fort Benning, Ga.
Once, Newt and Jackie were so worked up, they got their car caught in a tank trap on the military base and had to call his best friend to rescue them before a daylight exposé, according to the friend’s widow, Linda Tilton. Defying his stepfather, a stern Army colonel, Newt pursued Jackie, married her and promptly had two children.
Jackie Gingrich raised the daughters, worked to put Newt through graduate school and was a loyal political wife during his two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1974 and 1976. In his make-or-break 1978 race, Gingrich enlisted Jackie to attack his female opponent, who had announced that if elected she would commute to Washington and allow her family to remain in Georgia. At Gingrich’s instigation, Jackie wrote a campaign letter declaring that Newt was a fine husband and would take his family with him, although his top aides already knew Gingrich was having affairs and the marriage was falling apart.
The most notorious incident in Gingrich’s marriage — first reported by David Osborne in Mother Jones magazine in 1984 — was when he cornered Jackie in her hospital room where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery and insisted on discussing the terms of the divorce he was seeking.
Shortly after that infamous encounter, Gingrich refused to pay his alimony and child-support payments. The First Baptist Church in his hometown had to take up a collection to support the family Gingrich had deserted.
Six months after divorcing Jackie, Gingrich married a younger woman, Marianne, with whom he had been having an affair. They are still married, despite persistent (though unproven) rumors that Gingrich has had other dalliances.
Of course, he was getting his dinky stinky. From Scoobie Davis Online, October 2002:
Six months after the divorce [from Battley], Gingrich, then 38, married Marianne Ginther, 30[…] “In May 1999,eight months after Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Gingrich  called his [wife] Marianne  at her mother’s home. After wishing Marianne’s mother happy birthday [it was actually Mother’s Day], he told Marianne that he wanted a divorce.” […] In 2000, Gingrich, 57, married ex-congressional aide Callista Bisek, 34, with whom he was having a relationship while married to Marianne.