Newt Gingrich is an endlessly fascinating character — a man of such outsized ambitions, such glaring flaws, such an interesting intellect and such a raging ego that Shakespeare could have written a series of plays about him.
A recent profile in Esquire captured the miasma of contradictions and hubris that is Newt Gingrich. As a columnist, I’ve always relied on Newt to provide fresh fodder.
But I’ve also wondered how his party could continue to take him seriously. He has already crashed and burned as a party leader; his stint as House Speaker during the Clinton years proved that Gingrich is better suited to politics than governance, better at tearing down than building up. After his leadership helped bring about crushing losses in 1998, GOP House members wanted him out as Speaker, and he left public office rather than face the prospect of losing that office.
Still, a party desperate for anything that resembles an intellectual underpinning has dusted Gingrich off and trotted him back out as one of its stars. Fueling speculation that he will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012, Gingrich has been making the rounds of ultra-conservative venues — to enthusiastic applause.
But Tom Coburn takes exception. An ultra-conservative Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Coburn is the rare GOP official he will call Newt (or any Republican) out for his blatant hypocrisy. Speaking to a town hall meeting over the weekend, Coburn made his lack of regard for Gingrich clear, according to the Tulsa World:
Coburn made it clear that he won’t be on Newt Gingrich’s 2012
Gingrich “is a super-smart man, but he doesn’t know anything about commitment to marriage,” he said of the thrice-married former House speaker. “He’s the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States. His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president.”
Maybe Coburn had read the Esquire profile, in which Gingrich’s ex-wife talks about this hypocrisy:
“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.”
Still, in a political party that is struggling for anything that resembles intellectual heft, Gingrich will probably still be welcomed among most Republicans.