“N” Is For Newtie, That’s Good Enough For Me

John Richardson in Esquire:

She was married to Newt Gingrich for eighteen years, all through his spectacular rise and fall, and here she is in a pair of blue jeans and a paisley shirt, with warm eyes and a big laugh and the kind of chain-smoking habit where the cigarettes burn right down to the filter — but she’s quitting, she swears, any day now.

We’re having breakfast in a seaside restaurant in a Florida beach town, a place where people line up in sandals and shorts. This is the first time she’s talked about what happened, and she has a case of the nerves but also an air of liberation about her. Since he was a teenager, Newt Gingrich has never been without a wife, and his bond with Marianne Gingrich during the most pivotal part of his career made her the most important advisor to one of the most important figures of the late twentieth century. Of their relationship, she says, “We started talking and we never quit until he asked me for a divorce.”

She sounds proud, defiant, maybe a little wistful. You might be inclined to think of what she says as the lament of an abandoned wife, but that would be a mistake. There is shockingly little bitterness in her, and she often speaks with great kindness of her former husband. She still believes in his politics. She supports the Tea Parties. She still uses the name Marianne Gingrich instead of going back to Ginther, her maiden name.

But there was something strange and needy about him. “He was impressed easily by position, status, money,” she says. “He grew up poor and always wanted to be somebody, to make a difference, to prove himself, you know. He has to be historic to justify his life.”

She says she should have seen the red flags. “He asked me to marry him way too early. And he wasn’t divorced yet. I should have known there was a problem.”

Within weeks or months?

“Within weeks.”

That’s flattering.

She looks skeptical. “It’s not so much a compliment to me. It tells you a little bit about him.”

And he did the same thing to her eighteen years later, with Callista Bisek, the young congressional aide who became his third wife. “I know. I asked him. He’d already asked her to marry him before he asked me for a divorce. Before he even asked.”

He told you that?

“Yeah, he wanted to — ”

But she stops. “Hey, turn off the tape recorder for a second. This is going to go places …”

Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband’s career with a single interview. She held her tongue all through the affair and the divorce and even through the annulment Gingrich requested from the Catholic Church two years later, trying to erase their shared past. Now she sits quietly for a moment, ignoring her eggs, trying to decide how far she wants to go.

[…]
ctually, he grew up on a series of Army bases in Kansas, Georgia, France, and Germany. His father was raised by a grandmother who passed off his real mother (Gingrich’s grandmother) as his sister. His mother married his father when she was sixteen, left him a few days later, and struggled with manic depression most of her life. His stepfather was an infantry officer who viewed his plump, nearsighted, flat-footed son as unfit for the Army. By the time he was fifteen, Gingrich dedicated his life, he says, “to understanding what it takes for a free people to survive.” By the time he was eighteen, he was dating his high school geometry teacher. He married her a year later, when he was nineteen and she was twenty-six.It sounds like a complicated childhood, I say.

“It was fabulous.”

Fabulous?

“Lots of relatives, lots of complexity, lots of sugar pies, when I could talk my aunt and grandmother into making them. They had an old-fashioned cast-iron stove where you cut wood…”

Just as Ronald Reagan created an idealized version of an America that never quite existed, so has Newt. And just as Reagan curated a fantasy version of his own life, so, too, has Newt.

Aren’t you sugarcoating it a little bit?

“What do you mean?”

It sounds like a troubled domestic situation.

“It’s troubled if you decide that’s what it is.”

True, you can choose to look at the bright things. But there are also less bright things.

“There are for everybody.”

Yeah, but I’m asking you.

He doesn’t respond.

Both your fathers, the stepfather and the biological one, were angry men.

His expression is flat, and he answers in his scholarly voice, like a professor telling a legend from distant history. “I think by the time I knew Newt, my biological father, he was no longer particularly angry. I think Bob was very tough. But I look back now and I realize that Bob imprinted me in a thousand ways. He taught me discipline, he taught me endurance, he taught me to take the long view, he taught me the notion of teams, he taught me a depth of patriotism, he taught me to be prepared for things not to work — you sleep as often as you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to sleep again, you drink water when you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to drink again, you rest as much as you can because you don’t know when you’re going to rest again. If you come out of an infantry, World War II, Korea background, that is how the infantry functions. Well, it turns out that’s pretty good if you’re going to be a politician.”

Sitting in the Florida sun while she annihilates a long series of Benson & Hedges, Marianne Gingrich paints a very different picture. “He didn’t talk to his mother much. He just didn’t have patience with her. And she was pretty drugged up for a long time.”

But he said his childhood was like Norman Rockwell.

She laughs. “You’re kidding. That’s funny. Well, I liked his dad. He was outspoken. He was a down-home, practical kind of guy. But you know, he was a drinker.”

Marianne loves long stories, straight talk, and rueful laughter at the infinity of human foibles. Her eyes go wide when she hears his line about being four to Callista’s five. “You know where that line came from? Me. That’s my line. That’s what I told him.”

She pauses for a moment, turning it over in her mind. Then she shakes her head in wonder. “I’m sorry, that’s so freaky.”

[…]

But other days, Gingrich was bleak and hopeless. He was like a “dead weight” at times like that, Marianne says. You just couldn’t get him to move. The contrast reminded her of his mother and her manic depression, and she told him he needed help.

But Marianne was having problems of her own. After going to the doctor for a mysterious tingling in her hand, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Early in May, she went out to Ohio for her mother’s birthday. A day and a half went by and Newt didn’t return her calls, which was strange. They always talked every day, often ten times a day, so she was frantic by the time he called to say he needed to talk to her.

“About what?”

He wanted to talk in person, he said.

“I said, ‘No, we need to talk now.’ ”

He went quiet.

“There’s somebody else, isn’t there?”

She kind of guessed it, of course. Women usually do. But did she know the woman was in her apartment, eating off her plates, sleeping in her bed?

She called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she 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.’ ”

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

When they got to court, Gingrich refused to cooperate with basic discovery. Marianne and her lawyer knew from a Washington Post gossip column that Gingrich had bought Bisek a $450 bottle of wine, for example, but he refused to provide receipts or answer any other questions about their relationship.

Then Gingrich made a baffling move. Because Bisek had refused to be deposed by Marianne’s attorney, Newt had his own attorney depose her, after which the attorney held a press conference and announced that she had confessed to a six-year affair with Gingrich. He had also told the press that he and Marianne had an understanding.

“Right,” Marianne says now.

That was not true?

“Of course not. It’s silly.”

During that period, people would come up to Marianne and tell her to settle, that she was hurting the cause.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Herewith, the ten most unflattering things in the profile.10. He lives his life based on weird metaphors about cookies:

“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.”

9. Nobody buys the movies he releases through the group Citizens United.

According to Bruce Nash of Nash Information Services, a company that tracks movie sales, these films — some directed by a man best known for a TV show called Bikes from Hell — are spectacular failures. “The most popular appears to be Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny, which is most likely selling a couple thousand copies a year through major retailers. Rediscovering God in America sells perhaps two thousand units.”

8. His health-care group doesn’t do what it claims it does:

Then there’s the Center for Health Transformation, another group Gingrich runs. On its Web site, it describes its work in Georgia as a model for all its efforts and says the “cornerstone” of its work is a group called Bridges to Excellence. But CHT “had zero role in creating Bridges to Excellence,” says François de Brantes, the group’s CEO. CHT helped with organization for one year and hasn’t been associated with them since 2008. The CHT Web site also singles out the “Healthy Georgia Diabetes and Obesity Project” as its major diabetes effort, but that was news to the American Diabetes Association. “We were not able to find any information about this,” says the ADA’s communications director, Colleen Fogarty. “The person that was in contact with them is no longer here.” It turns out that the CHT is a for-profit outfit that charges big health insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield up to $200,000 a year for access to the mind of Newt Gingrich.

7. He started to act crazy after being fined $300,000 by the House Ethics Committee — “yelling at people,” “slurping his food” during meetings, and just not “functioning.”

6. He steals lines from his ex-wife and passes them off as his own:

“[Current wife] Callista and I kid that I’m four and she’s five and therefore she gets to be in charge, because the difference between four and five is a lot.”….

[Ex-wife Marriane’s] eyes go wide when she hears his line about being four to Callista’s five. “You know where that line came from? Me. That’s my line. That’s what I told him.”

She pauses for a moment, turning it over in her mind. Then she shakes her head in wonder. “I’m sorry, that’s so freaky.”

5. He has no “real principles” except the “pursuit of power,” according to former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards, who’s known Newt for 30 years.

4. He doesn’t care about being a hypocrite: After Marianne questioned how he could give a speech on family values while carrying on an affair with his decades-younger aide (who became his third wife), Newt replied, “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

3. He wanted Marianne to just “tolerate” his affair, “an offer she refused.”

2. Regardless, he then announced that, though he’d been having an affair for six years, “he and Marianne had an understanding,” a claim Marianne denies. “Of course not,” she says. “It’s silly.”

1. He delivered divorce papers to his first wife — his former high-school teacher — while she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer. He broke things off with his second wife seven months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Ben Adler at Newsweek:

Gingrich is certainly a savvy political strategist, but he has some serious political liabilities. This is a man, after all, who was carrying on an affair with a young aide while pursuing an impeachment of the president for the same thing. Today Esquire is up with a fabulous profile of Gingrich in all of his contradictions: his dark musings with nasty culture-war overtones, his confounding embrace of some big-government interventions, his family-values rhetoric, and his unusual marital history.

And it exposes how some of Gingrich’s demands for fantastical goals cannot realistically be achieved by the means he proposes. Case in point: Gingrich says President Obama should effectuate a regime change in Iran through tightened sanctions and funding for dissidents. Most Iran experts think the U.S. actually deligitimizes the domestic opposition by supporting them. And if sanctions could topple dangerous Middle Eastern regimes, then why did Gingrich say they were insufficient to deal with Saddam Hussein?

Nicole Allan at The Atlantic:

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.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife told Esquire that the former speaker cares more about getting rich than running for president. So we decided to take a closer look at who is funding Gingrich’s primary political committee, a 527 group called American Solutions for Winning the Future. A significant chunk of its funding comes from oil and gas and coal companies and wealthy real estate evelopers, with the rest raised in $100 and $200 increments from conservatives around the country, according to the group’s IRS filings.

American Solutions doesn’t appear to pay Gingrich a direct salary, but it has spent millions on private jets to ferry him and his staff around the country and generally allow him to promote his books and movies. (There are other groups, like Gingrich’s for-profit Center for Health Transformation, that may be paying Gingrich directly, but such information is private.) So far this election cycle, American Solutions has taken in over $20 million, and poured much of it back into fundraising expenses.

We’ve taken a look at the IRS forms that American Solutions files periodically showing what’s coming in and what’s going out. Here are some of the group’s biggest funders:

  • American Electric Power: Michael Morris, the CEO of this Ohio-based power giant, gave $100,000 last year. Along with generating lots of electricity, the company operates the nation’s largest power transmission network, operating over much of the East Coast and Midwest.
  • Plains Exploration and Production Co.: This Houston-based oil and gas company that operates in the Gulf gave $100,000.
  • Workforce Fairness Institute: A Washington, D.C.-based anti-union pressure group, the institute’s own source of funding is not known. It gave $150,000 to Gingrich’s organization this cycle. Its website says it is “funded by and advocates on behalf of business owners who enjoy good working relationships with their employees, and would like to maintain those good relationships without the unfair interference of government bureaucrats, union organizers and special interests.” Mark McKinnon, the longtime GOP operative and Bush aide, has been a spokesman for the institute.
  • Hubbard Broadcasting: Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire GOP donor from Minnesota, gave Gingrich’s group $100,000. He owns radio and TV stations in several states as well as ReelzChannel, a movie news channels on cable.
  • Devon Energy: A huge Oklahoma-based oil and gas production company, it has given American Solutions $250,000.
  • Arch Coal: Based in St. Louis, Arch boasts it provides 16 percent of America’s coal supply from 11 mining complexes around the country. That makes it the second largest coal producer in the country. It gave Gingrich $100,000.
  • Crow Holdings: A privately held Dallas real estate investment firm, it gave Gingrich’s group a whopping $350,000. Harlan Crow, son of the late real estate investor Trammell Crow, is active in a range of conservative causes including the Club for Growth and the American Enterprise Institute. He is a patron of Clarence Thomas and once gave the justice a Bible owned by Frederick Douglass worth $19,000.

Unsurprisingly, given the contributor list, American Solutions has run national TV ads opposing the cap-and-trade bill. But more than anything, the group is a vehicle for self-promotion for Gingrich, one that he benefits from financially.

Anne Laurie:

Please read the whole article. I’ve been extremely scornful of the idea of Gingrich actually running for President, as opposed to fan-dancing (or stripper-poling) a perennial round of first-class speaking junkets and high-visibility media appearances calculated to preserve the Gingrich™ brand’s valuable shelf-space in the Wingnut Welfare Walmart. But Richardson’s reporting suggests that the person most bedazzled and mislead by the non-stop hustling might just be Newton Leroy Gingrich, and that’s a dangerous thing indeed, because there is much further confirmation here that Gingrich is a bullet point on the Powerpoint timeline of Weirdly Charismatic Rightwing Sociopaths, probably the most significant version between Richard Nixon and Sarah Palin. Richardson includes stories of Gingrich’s unsettling behavior just before he resigned the Speakership that read like an opera bouffe version of Nixon during Watergate, and aggregates details of his personal and professional life that make Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes look like a rough draft

Wonkette:

Interesting! Also interesting: Newt Gingrich divorces his wives when they’re in the hospital with life-threatening diseases. And his organizations and money-making schemes since leaving office are pretty shady. Fun!

Time to give this man our presidency cookie.

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