ABC News is promoting this preview of this evening's Nightline interview with Marianne Gingrich on their website. As Carol and Katie opine below, this is truly skeevy stuff, but is it anything we haven't heard before?
From ABC's write-up:
In her most provocative comments, the ex-Mrs. Gingrich said Newt sought an "open marriage" arrangement so he could have a mistress and a wife. She said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked her if she would share him with the other woman, Callista, who is now married to Gingrich.
"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused." Marianne described her "shock" at Gingrich's behavior, including how she says she learned he conducted his affair with Callista "in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington. He always called me at night," she recalled, "and always ended with 'I love you.' Well, she was listening." All this happened, she said, during the same time Gingrich condemned President Bill Clinton for his lack of moral leadership.
The network calls this her "most provocative" revelation, but it is a re-hash of a 2010 Esquire story:
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."
That last quote is excruciatingly cringe-worthy. It speaks to an ego so inflated and a hypocrisy so callous that most people just can't relate to it. It's conceivable that the content of Marianne Gingrich's comments (which will air tonight) might damage her ex-husband among new voters, or people who had forgotten some of his 1990s seediness. In the long-shot event that he becomes the GOP nominee, Democrats will use this stuff against him relentlessly, while holding up the Obamas as a happy and functional nuclear family. Target: Female voters. To counter that barrage, Newt will have to repeat, ad nauseam, contrite apologies. This is the model for that exercise, not this. The silver lining for his supporters is that in the long run (if there is a long run), it's better to have this issue resurface and rot now rather than in, say, September. By then, it will be doubly old news.
One of the remaining mysteries of this kerfuffle is how Republican voters will react to this whole episode. One doesn't necessarily have to be a "family values" conservative to be repulsed by Newt's behavior. Religious voters in South Carolina won't approve of Newt's past philandering and arrogance, but they also believe in forgiveness. I also still think there's a very good chance that Newt will dial up the anti-media indignation at tonight's debate, exploit this crisis by turning voters' attention to the agenda-driven and petty press, and galvanize even higher support among the base. There's a possibility that the timing of this could actually win him the primary. The general would be, of course, a very different story.