Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Newt Gingrich--what a swell guy! (Part 4: the family man)

Overview

Anyone who has read this blog semi-regularly knows that I have a strong distaste for hypocrisy. Where there is hypocrisy, I often focus on the hypocrisy and do not harshly criticize the other conduct. In the area of family values, Gingring has been a huge hypocrite, but for me even that fact is overshadowed by the nature of his conduct.

Gingrich has been married three times. That in itself is not particularly remarkable. However, his "extra-curricular" activities as a married man and how he treated his first two wives are remarkable, and to me, a true indication of the man's lack of character.

I don't know if this post will abide by my now-erroneous statement in Part 2, but at least this post won't be full of dry details and acronyms. If you want more details, read "The Inner Quest of Newt Gingrich," a September 1995 Vanity Fair article by Gail Sheehy. I will be quoting from that article (and others), but Sheehy's piece really goes into detail. I will also say that Sheehy reveals many details showing that Gingrich in some ways had a rough childhood, which is not to say his mother, adopted father, or his biological father are to blame. The story of Gingrich's childhood perhaps explains some of his marital behavior, but I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether that story excuses any of his behavior.

Wife #1

Gingrich married Wife #1, Jackie, in 1962. They were married for approximately 18.5 years and had two children. As Stephen Talbot wrote in "Newt's Glass House," "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." She remained the loyal political wife until they divorced in 1981.

In 1974, during Gingrich's first campaign for Congress (which he lost), a pattern was being established, as explained by this excerpt from Sheehy's article:
Newt showed a propensity for the kind of behavior boys boast about in the locker room. Throughout his first campaign he was having an affair with a young volunteer. Dot Crews (Gingrich's campaign scheduler through the 1970s), who occasionally drove the candidate, says that almost everybody involved in the campaign knew. Kip Carter (Gingrich's campaign treasurer from 1974-78) claims, "We'd have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her on the desk."
Nice. This, however, was not a one-time deal. Dot Crews told Sheehy that "It was common knowledge that Newt was involved with other women during his marriage to Jackie. Maybe not on the level of John Kennedy. But he had girlfriends--some serious, some trivial."

One such girlfriend was Anne Manning, and Gingrich was having an affair with her during his 1976 campaign. She was married to a professor at the college where Newt was teaching, and he was an avid volunteer in Newt's campaign office. Manning said to Sheehy that "I did have a relationship with him, but when it suited him, he would totally blow you off." Nice. There is more to the Anne Manning affair, which continued into 1977, but that will be revealed a little later. Before that, here's more from Kip Carter, as told the Sheehy:
"We had been out working a football game --I think it was the Bowdon game-- and we would split up. It was a Friday night. I had Newt's daughters, Jackie Sue and Kathy, with me. We were all supposed to meet back at this professor's house. It was a milk-and-cookies kind of shakedown thing, buck up the troops. I was cutting across the yard to go up the driveway. There was a car there. As I got to the car, I saw Newt in the passenger seat and one of the guys' wives with her head in his lap going up and down. Newt kind of turned and gave me his little-boy smile. Fortunately, Jackie Sue and Kathy were a lot younger and shorter then.
Ditched his kids for a tryst, and then was busted with them present. Really nice.

When Newt ran again for Congress in 1978--and won, he was crowing about family values, and attacked his female opponent for lacking them. Peter Boyer described this strategy in his 1989 Vanity Fair article: "He drove the point home with an ad claiming that if Shapard were elected to Congress she would leave her husband, a local businessman, behind, while Gingrich would keep his family together." Talbot explained that as part of that attack Newt had Jackie write a campaign letter which said 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." Shapard also told Boyer that "As the days dwindled down in the end of the campaign, the campaign workers had an unofficial pool going on to see how long it would take him when he got to Washington to dump [Jackie.]"

Turns out it took about two years. Jackie did go to Washington for Gingrich's first term, but told Boyer that Newt walked out on her in the Spring of 1980. As if everything he had done up to that point was not enough, Gingrich then did something truly reprehensible. Talbot provided a good description:
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.
Now how's that for family values? But he still wasn't finished. According to Talbot,
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.
Really nice from someone who also campaigned on personal responsibility.

While still married to Jackie, Gingrich was having an affair with a woman named Marianne Ginther, who was fifteen years younger than Jackie. Six months after the divorce, Marianne became Wife #2.

Wife #2

Marianne resented any claim that she was simply a trade-up for the newer, younger model, as she told to Boyer:
"He's a public figure and people will attack him," Marianne says. "He's just got to take it and keep moving."

In fact, she adds, she and Gingrich spent long hours discussing his troubled previous marriage, which was years in the undoing. "I've seen bills where they both went to marriage counseling before they split up, before she got ill. The documentation is there."
Can you guess how this part of the story turned out? Sheehy's article is particularly revealing regarding this second marriage, but I will give just a few highlights. Marianne worshipped Gingrich and did everything she could think of to make him happy. In spite of this, one of Marianne's former co-workers said, "Newt was indifferent to Marianne right from the beginning." Also, Gingrich treated Marianne rather harshly.
She gave him a copy of the book Men Who Hate Women & The Women Who Love Them, by Susan Forward and Joan Torres. The book describes men who are socialized to dominate and control. One variation is the "Henry Higgins" type of man, who is "often charming and even loving," but who switches to "cruel, critical, insulting behavior on a moment's notice...They gain control by grinding the woman down. They refuse to take responsibility for how the attacks make their partners feel."

"Oh, boy, does that sound like Newt!" exclaims a family friend. Another family observer agrees with this assessment and says, "She may not be Eliza Doolittle, but he sure as hell is Henry Higgins. I feel sorry for Marianne."
Nice. I don't think I will spoil the story by saying that Gingrich ended up divorcing Marianne. There was at least one long-term affair, but let's assume that the affair was not the reason for the divorce. What else could have been the reason?

Sheehy described in detail that a likely reason was that Marianne had no desire for a very public life, and in particular she did not want to be First Lady. That's a bit of a buzz kill for an ego-maniac with dreams of being President (and I will affirm this description in another post). Boyer's article told of how Marianne left a press conference over Newt's $4.5 million book deal in tears because it was "testy" and how she did not attend a subsequent function because she was so upset. Gingrich certainly could not run for President with such an emotionally fragile wife, now could he?

In any event, after more than 17 years of marriage, Gingrich sought a divorce from Marianne. This time, instead of informing his wife in the hospital, he did something slightly more classy: when Marianne was visiting her mother, Gingrich called at her mother's house and told her over the phone that he wanted a divorce. What a guy.

Marianne was caught completely by surprise. When asked why the divorce was requested, she was quoted in this article by David Corn as saying, "We don't know. We just don't know. If you find out, let me know. It's a mystery." One thing became less than mysterious, as it soon was disclosed that Gingrich had been having a lengthy affair with a congressional aide named Callista Bisek. At the time of the phone call to Marianne, Gingrich was 56 and Bisek was 33.

Bisek became Wife #3. Looks like he traded-in for the newer, younger model this time. Take a look at the picture of the couple on Gingrich's official biography and tell me she is not a prime political trophy wife.

Wife #3

Gingrich is still married to Wife #3, and I have been unable to find much information on the relationship. It would seem that all is well, but given Gingrich's past, I do wonder.

Even if this third marriage is free from infidelity, Gingrich's long history of adultery--icluding the affair which eventually resulted in this third marriage--shows that the man who first so ferociously campaigned on family values is completely full of shit.

Back to one of the affairs...

Let's revisit the affair with Anne Manning. Manning described to Sheehy one particular incident with Gingrich:
In the spring of 1977, she was in Washington to attend a census-bureaus workshop when Gingrich took her to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. He met her back at her modest hotel room. "We had oral sex," she says. "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, "I never slept with her." Indeed, before Gingrich left that evening, she says, he threatened her: "If you ever tell anybody about this, I'll say you're lying."
(emphasis added). Hmmm...now where have we heard that before? Here is something that all you wingers out there can still criticize Clinton for, but you can't blame Bill for creating this "defense." No, that credit goes to Newt Gingrich. Talbot recalled one time when Gingrich was publicly confronted about this "defense:"
I was covering Gingrich for a PBS documentary when the speaker appeared at a book signing in Los Angeles and was confronted by a man waving a Bible and shouting, "I want to know here where it says that oral sex doesn't count as adultery." The gentleman was hustled out of the bookstore by the Secret Service before Gingrich could answer his theological question.
Manning told Sheehy about her experiences
because she fears that Newt might become president someday. "I don't claim to be an angel," she says, but she is repelled by Newt's stance as Mr. Family Values. "He's morally dishonest. He has gone too far believing that 'I'm beyond the law.' He should be stopped before it's too late."
Indeed.

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