Newt Gingrich's three marriages mean he might make a strong president -- really
Go ahead and savor that for a moment. Oh, what the hell, just read the whole piece right now. Go for it. That word really tacked on the end of the title is a good clue that even the author and his hapless, already-drunk-for-the-weekend editor knew they were steering that boat a bit too close to the shores of crazytown. The really is there as a small, six-letter plea to at least pretend, just for the first few sentences or so, that a reasonable premise is being presented. Okay, go read.
Back now? I wasn't lying, was I—if that isn't the most insane political premise ever put to words, then I don't want to see the other contenders. That right there is a level of spin so high that Iran could use it in place of their uranium-enriching centrifuges. That's weapons-grade spin. That a psychiatrist (as seen on TV!) is peddling it under a banner of sorta-scientific-sounding authority makes it all the better. Not just a psychiatrist, but a patriot, in fact.
You can take any moral position you like about men and women who cheat while married, but there simply is no correlation, whatsoever—from a psychological perspective—between whether they can remain true to their wedding vows and whether they can remain true to the Oath of Office.
I want to be coldly analytical, not moralize, here. I want to tell you what Mr. Gingrich’s behavior could mean for the country, not for the future of his current marriage. So, here’s what one interested in making America stronger can reasonably conclude—psychologically—from Mr. Gingrich’s behavior during his three marriages:
Mind you, taking "any moral position you like" on whether men should have extended affairs with women who are not their wife is not the usual Republican position. I have to say it is a damn rare Republican position, in fact, reserved only for when a Republican politician gets caught engaging in it (so admittedly, not that rare). I am not sure what Dr. Ablow's opinion of the Gingrich versus Clinton years was, but unless he was busy exploring the psychiatric benefits of LSD I am reasonably confident he may have heard the entire Republican Party taking a rather specific moral position and making sure the entire damn country knew about it.
When you have as a Republican precept the notion that moral character makes a good president, then go out of your way to excuse your own candidate(s) prominent—nay, renowned!—lack of moral character, I'm not sure we're the ones who need to be hearing from psychiatrists on that.
But let's hear the argument:
1) Three women have met Mr. Gingrich and been so moved by his emotional energy and intellect that they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with him.
2) Two of these women felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married.
3 ) One of them felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married for the second time, was not exactly her equal in the looks department and had a wife (Marianne) who wanted to make his life without her as painful as possible.
Conclusion: When three women want to sign on for life with a man who is now running for president, I worry more about whether we’ll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we’ll want to let him go after one.
Oh dear God: The first time I read that I suspected it had to be a joke. The second and third times I read it I was absolutely certain it was a joke, but that the author was the only one who didn't know it. Also: brain bleach. Also: I worry about Newt Gingrich wanting a third term as well, but primarily because Newt Gingrich has quite a few areas of the Constitution he's already stated outright he'd be happy to ignore, so adding another wouldn't seem out of character.
4) Two women—Mr. Gingrich’s first two wives—have sat down with him while he delivered to them incredibly painful truths: that he no longer loved them as he did before, that he had fallen in love with other women and that he needed to follow his heart, despite the great price he would pay financially and the risk he would be taking with his reputation.
Conclusion: I can only hope Mr. Gingrich will be as direct and unsparing with the Congress, the American people and our allies. If this nation must now move with conviction in the direction of its heart, Newt Gingrich is obviously no stranger to that journey.
Translation: Newt Gingrich will have no qualms about screwing you, America. But he might have the after-the-face conviction to tell you that he's done it, which I swear to God counts as integrity if you look cockeyed at it long enough.
Sure, he may permit selling off the Statue of Liberty for scrap. And sure, he might personally take all the profits for himself, and deposit them in a Swiss bank account so that nobody finds out. But if you do find out, he'll have the common decency to admit it, then move to Switzerland, then harangue any reporter who dares bring it up for the rest of his natural life.
I swear, that conclusion may be the sign of a mental condition previously unknown to science. The I-cheated-on-you-for-years talk, compared to political leadership and international negotiation skills. The notion that America should be damn glad to have a President Newt Gingrich standing up to give them an I-lied-to-you-and-cheated-you-for-years talk in front of a joint session of Congress, because he's just so damn practiced at that sort of thing.
5) Mr. Gingrich’s daughters from his first marriage are among his most vigorous supporters. They obviously adore him and respect him and feel grateful for the kind of father he was.
When I want to know who in a marriage (or, for that matter, a series of marriages) is the one who actually was aligned with their best interests, I never dismiss evidence of who the children gravitate toward and admire.
Perhaps. Another possibility is that Newt Gingrich is a rotten father who instilled in his children his one and only guiding principle: Pursue power, and to hell with the rest. Mr. Gingrich's daughters are allowed to still love their father, and they are also perhaps allowed to notice that their father regaining immense political power might be a damn fine thing for them as well. They are allowed to have a rather unusual amount of supposed insight into the details of their parents' divorce battles and their father's affairs. They are allowed to think whatever they like, and support whoever they like, and I will spend absolutely no time studying those choices because it seems a seedy and/or pointless thing to do. I have no idea, but I am sure that a large percentage of the worst criminals in America's prisons also have children who love them and say they could never do such things, which is why we do not have juries or primaries decided by the kin of the accused, or of the candidates involved, or of the accused candidates involved.
This all depresses me very much. So much I probably should seek help of a psychiatrist, except the preceding drivel has largely convinced me never to trust a goddamn psychiatrist about anything, ever (which is the founding principle of Scientology, as it turns out, so let me mention right now that any Scientologist who wants to send me promotional literature can just go to hell right now).
Here is what I, a layman, might conclude from Newt Gingrich's cheating on successive wives and subsequent behaviors. Mind you, I can't possibly compete with a true master of the human mind, but I will do my best.
1) Newt Gingrich has no trouble breaking previous promises, even with people he cares about. He does not take commitments seriously. This might imply he does not give a damn about keeping promises to people he already doesn't care about, i.e. the larger public.
2) Newt Gingrich is willing to be dishonest, and for extended periods of time.
3) Newt Gingrich does not learn from his past behavior, or show remorse over it. When confronted with any of this history, Newt Gingrich becomes belligerent, denies large parts of it even happened, and proclaims himself the victim for you bringing it up.
None of this is exactly news, of course. In his political life Newt has long been known for being flighty and unable to commit to long endeavors, for petulant and overemotional behavior, and for screwing past allies when it suited him. He got in serious trouble over ethics charges—big, huge trouble, if you may recall—again suggesting someone who takes his "vows" considerably less seriously than other people.
If you were a prospective bride of Newt Gingrich, you could I suppose look at all his past brides and mistresses and think, "Oh, this fellow is quite experienced. My marriage is in good hands." You would be stupid, but you could think that. Similarly, if you are a member of the wider public you could think, "Oh, this fellow had a past political career marked by scandals and emotional immaturity, which means he will be absolutely nothing like that this time around," but people will look at you funny.
I am not a psychiatrist, however. It may indeed be true that immature and indulgent behaviors in Newt's personal and political lives are two separate things. As for supposing that rotten, dishonest behavior in his personal life is reason to suspect him of extra integrity in his political life, despite all actual historic evidence to the contrary? Now that's impressive. It's the kind of good, surprisingly-politically-advantageous diagnosing Newt himself would approve of (he is a historian, you know, which qualifies him to make judgments on those things as well).
So, as far as I can tell, judging from the psychological data, we have only one real risk to America from his marital history if Newt Gingrich were to become president: We would need to worry that another nation, perhaps a little younger than ours, would be so taken by Mr. Gingrich that it would seduce him into marrying it and becoming its president. And I think that is exceedingly unlikely.
Well, yes. I suppose if another country came along, and it had a nice rack, ha ha, we'd be in trouble. Well, played, television personality, well played. I would be a bit more concerned with prosaic notions like "as an accomplished and ready liar, how often would a President Newt lie to our faces?" or "given his propensity for making decisions for personal gain, even when those decisions profoundly hurt others, would President Newt indulge in polices that benefitted himself personally, even though he knew they would measurably hurt the country?" Both have ample past precedents among presidential, er, precedents.
These are all very abstract and silly, though. I think it is well established at this point that nearly all politicians have a rotten character, and are corrupt to their very cores, and that you should not trust any of them farther than you can toss them. It is also well established that most politicians are absolute perverts, willing to bugger anything from a teenage page to a stranger in a bathroom to lobbyists to their own staff members, and even that it's possible for someone to be corrupt but not a pervert, or not-corrupt but a spectacular pervert, or any other combination. True enough.
Really, though: Trying to turn a lifetime of personal moral failings into reasons why a person would make a stronger leader—in spite of an actual political record that can be studied, in order to determine pre-publication whether your premise is utter and complete bullshit—that takes some doing.