POLITICS DECEMBER 5, 2011
Newt Gingrich is no stranger to hypocrisies. It’s just that his own self-righteousness often gets in the way of admitting to them: “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” the family-values candidate once famously said about his multiple extra-marital affairs. So in the service of airing out other yawning gaps between Newt’s words and deeds that may have emerged when the candidate was too busy loving America, TNR has compiled the following index:
On Christian moralizing: Gingrich’s litany of infidelities has been widely reported, as has his habit of leaving wives for mistresses. Of the affair that he carried on with a volunteer during his first campaign in 1974, one of his aides said, “We’d have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her on the desk.” But that hasn’t stopped him from claiming positions of moral loftiness, decrying the impending downfall of our society, and penning books arguing, “There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular effort to drive God out of America’s public life.” His second wife, in a 2010 interview with Esquire, claimed, “He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don’t have to be connected. … If you believe that, then yeah, you can run for president.”
On shady book deals: In the late 1980s, Gingrich launched a vicious attack on Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, arguing that bulk sales of his book had been crafted to avoid laws limiting outside income for members of Congress. By the mid-90s, however, Gingrich found himself in a strikingly similar position, as it came to light that he had received a $4.5 million advance from HarperCollins in a two-book deal. Then, in the spirit of one doing one better, it later came out that one of Gingrich’s charities had bought the books en masse.
On Obamacare and death panels: In July 2009, Newt Gingrich was director of a health care think tank and a staunch advocate of so-called “death panels,” writing, “If [end-of-life-counseling] was used to care for the approximately 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who die every year, Medicare could save more than $33 billion a year.” But a year later, as he weighed his presidential aspirations, Gingrich took a different tack on Obama’s plan to reimburse doctors for such consultations: “You’re asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia.”
On the housing crisis: In the Bloomberg-Washington Post debate, Newt called, with a straight face, for the jailing of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank: “In Barney Frank’s case,” he advised, “go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at—at Freddie Mac. … Everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country.” All that rage at lobbyists for the housing agencies … from a man whom Freddie Mac paid between $1.6 and $1.8 million for his “advice as a historian.” Which definitely isn’t lobbying, and would never qualify as the sort of relationship that he just suggested was worthy of being jailed for.
On drug policy: As a good child of the ’60s, Newt smoked pot, and as a young congressman in 1981, he authored a bill to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But Gingrich’s more recent stated methods for dealing with drug offenders might have placed his younger self in a tight spot. Just last week, he argued that when it comes to dealing with illegal drugs, “Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that,” ostensibly endorsing the idea that anyone caught with 18 ounces of cannabis face mandatory death by hanging.
On corruption: Newt led Republicans to power in 1994 in part by blasting Democrats as being hopelessly corrupt. But soon after, Gingrich engaged in his own congressional corruption, getting slammed by the House Ethics Committee on a multitude of charges: of laundering donations through charities, of using a charity called “Learning for Earning” to pay the salary of a staffer writing a Newt Gingrich biography, and of lying to the ethics committee. Gingrich eventually had to pay a $300,000 fine for his transgressions.
On the Clinton impeachment: While leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for lying about an extra-marital affair, Newt was … having an extra-marital affair. When he was later asked whether he considered himself to be inhabiting a “glass house” during the proceedings, he reluctantly agreed, but defended himself by saying, “I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don’t think I’m perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness.”
Thomas Stackpole, Darius Tahir, and Jarad Vary are interns at The New Republic.