Political Mercury

May 26, 2011 |

By Douglas Burns


Gingrich on his infidelity: 'People go through a lot'


In his 1998 book "Lessons Learned the Hard Way," Newt Gingrich refers to his second wife, Marianne (Ginther), as "the woman I love," "my best friend" and my "closest advisor."

During the period of the book's writing and publication, Gingrich was involved with congressional aide, Callista Bisek, his third and current wife — who is 23 years younger than the Georgia Republican.

As he starts an aggressive Iowa campaign schedule, Gingrich said he expects to field questions about his infidelity.

Political Mercury questioned Gingrich about the fact that he has been married three times and gone through two divorces, whether it is fair to view this biographical data and the cheating that accompanied the transitions between wives as windows into his character. If he would cheat on a woman who was his best friend, true love and closest adviser, how can voters he doesn't know personally trust him? How can the nation be certain that a man who was cheating on his wife in his 50s won't put the nation through another Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal?

" I think you look at the totality of my life and you have to decide whether or not the fact that I have been open about having made mistakes — and I have been open about having to go to God for forgiveness and for reconciliation — and you have to look at the life we have now," Gingrich said.

Gingrich said he has a strong marriage now and meaningful relationships with his daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren. That's what should matter, he said.

" I think most Americans are fair and most Americans realize that people go through a lot in their life, and then they have to reach a summary judgment," Gingrich said.

For his part, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a separate phone interview late last week that Gingrich must accept that questions about the Georgia Republican's three marriages, two divorces and infidelities are going to be raised. Whether that will hurt Gingrich with social conservatives is an open question, said the Iowa senator.

" First of all, those questions are going to be asked of Newt Gingrich," Grassley said. "The other aspect of it is it depends on what's in his heart, and I haven't looked in his heart. I haven't talked to him about these things. But if he's a changed person, obviously Christ forgives sin. It's going to be forgiven for him as well. But those are things I don't know, so I don't feel confident in expressing a view on them because I have not talked to him about those things."

Moving on to other issues, Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism and stresses a strong opposition to abortion, declined to specify what he believes the penalties should be for doctors who perform abortions and women who obtain them.

" I don't know at the present, but I do know that the country wants to move in the direction of recognizing life and recognizing that life begins at conception or pretty close to conception," Gingrich said in the interview. "I think that we have to have that conversation as a country."

The former speaker of the U.S. House said he was not prepared today to set penalties for abortions.

The early stages of an anti-abortion strategy, Gingrich said, should be to outlaw late-term procedures and create a climate in which abortion is not seen as the best solution.

" When you realize at Planned Parenthood you are 340 times more likely to have abortion than you are to have a child adopted, it's got to be seen as something fundamentally wrong with that imbalance," Gingrich said. "I'm adopted, and both my father and stepfather were adopted."

On another human-services issue, Cityview asked Gingrich about his 1994 call for the development of "children's homes" (originally referred to in Republican welfare-reform legislation as "orphanages") to remove children from certain homes.

Gingrich said he was talking about a narrow section of the population, drug-addicted parents, and that he should have developed the argument with different language.

" What I should have said at the time is 'Maybe we need prep schools for the poor,' " he said.

Now that is he terming President Obama the "food stamp president," is it time to resurrect the mid-1990s orphanages idea to yank kids from poor homes?

There are places where young people are at real risk from parents with addiction issues, Gingrich said.

" I challenge you to go to any big city in the country and talk to the public-health people about the tragedies that show up on their doorstep, and then you tell me what you would do to help those children," Gingrich said. CV


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.