You have to feel just a little sad for Callista Gingrich. When she began having an affair with Newt Gingrich, he was House minority leader and on his way to becoming Speaker. He later told his soon-to-be-ex-wife Marianne that Callista would “help me become president.” And, remarkably enough, there was a moment or two in recent months where that seemed possible. Gingrich surged to the top of the national polls in early December, and he won a dramatic victory in the South Carolina primary. Callista, a former Congressional staffer, has surely entertained a few daydreams of being first lady.
Not anymore. On Tuesday afternoon Callista Gingrich appeared at the Republican Women’s Club in New York, an imposing gray, seven-story townhouse across the street from Rockefeller Center. The venue was impressive, but the event was not. The entire press delegation consisted of a producer from ABC News and a two-person team from a Chinese television station. The club apparently struggled to pull together its attendance of roughly sixty people. (One attendee told me she was called by the club and asked to come.)
The demographics didn’t augur well for the future of the GOP. The average age at the luncheon tables appeared to be around 75. I counted more women in pearl necklaces, more women in purple suits and more women with platinum blonde dyed hair (including Gingrich on all counts), than women who aren’t white.
Not a single woman I interviewed—of those who would let me, they were surprisingly hostile and generally unwilling to divulge basic information, such as their names—intends to vote for Newt Gingrich in New York’s upcoming primary.
You might expect this to be a depressing event for Gingrich for other reasons as well. The Republican war on women has severely damaged the GOP’s brand among women. Consequently, were the election held today women voters would provide Obama with his margin of victory, and a healthy one at that.
So you would expect the Republican Women’s Club to be a pretty demoralized crowd, right? Wrong. The table closest to me boisterously toasted the GOP and joked that President Obama had better start working on his presidential library.
When I asked about their party’s unpopularity among women and the reasons for it, I was met with nothing more than blinkered partisan denial. Some people simply denied the math of recent polls showing that Romney’s advantage among men is outweighed by Obama’s far greater advantage among women. For example, a lawyer told me she isn’t worried about Republicans doing poorly among women because “historically, for whatever reasons, Republicans have appealed to men more and Democrats to women.” Others simply denied the numbers, saying it all depends on which polls you look at.
These are irrelevant truths. Obama’s margin varies from poll to poll, but he consistently leads in all of them. And while women have always leaned more Democratic than men, they are currently leaning much more Democratic than men are leaning Republican.
On the substance of the issues that have made the Republicans look so retrograde to so many women, the majority in attendance simply spouted GOP talking points. “The press is making such a big deal out of birth control, which [banning] isn’t Romney’s platform,” said a woman who gave her name only as Delores. “[Insurance coverage] has nothing to do with birth control,” said another. “I’d like to have my eyeglasses covered.”
Even the predicament of a rape victim brought to the nearest hospital, which may happen to be a Catholic institution, generated no sympathy or compromise. According to Romney, Gingrich et al., a woman in such a circumstance should be denied emergency contraception (also known as “the morning-after pill”) and forced to carry her rapist’s fetus. “After you’ve been raped it’s too late for contraception,” Delores offered.
Ironically, the attendee who appeared to be most in touch with political reality, and the most reasonable on the substance of reproductive freedom, was Marilyn Reagan, a distant cousin of former President Reagan. “If you’re going to frown on abortion you need to provide contraception,” she said. “It’s the [Republican] men I’m worried about. They want to preach. Some of it seems religiously motivated.”
When I accosted Gingrich on her way in and asked what she’d be speaking about she said, “American exceptionalism.” I asked whether she would address the Republican war on women. “No,” she said, with a laugh. “Why not?” I asked. “Because I’m here to talk about American exceptionalism,” she said.
Her speech didn’t give anyone a specific reason to vote Republican, much less for her husband. It was a paean to America’s fantastic history. The only nominal connection to contemporary politics was the false assertion she frequently repeated that liberals and “elites” think America to be undistinguished among the nations. (This is strange since she mentioned liberal heroes John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. as having “testified” to America’s greatness.) “Nothing pinpoints you as a conservative more than believing in American exceptionalism,” said Gingrich. Presumably that means she either thinks President Obama is a conservative, or she didn’t listen to either of his two speeches to Democratic National Conventions. (Delores explained that Obama abandoned his belief in American exceptionalism upon taking office, and that he has explicitly proclaimed upon America’s unexceptional nature from the Oval Office, although she couldn’t furnish any offhand examples.)
The Gingrich campaign is not the only one afraid of addressing women’s rights. On Wednesday morning Sam Stein of Huffington Post asked Mitt Romney’s campaign on a conference call with reporters whether Romney supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The answer? Six seconds of silence followed by “We’ll get back to you.” Hours later the Romney campaign made a half-hearted attempt to fight back on the gender front by issuing a statement from Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) saying Obama is to blame for the rate of unemployment among women. Of course, macroeconomic conditions are completely unrelated to the question of whether Romney, like Obama, supports full legal equality for women.
I asked Reagan whether she thought Republican men would wise up on the subject of women’s rights. “It will take a long time,” she said.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, April 11, 2012
It seems time to declare this election cycle the “pillbox primary,” as every day seems to bring a name, idea or concept about women in America that is so vintage it still smells like the mothballs in your grandmother’s attic.
Forget about sluts, the pill, sluts taking the pill or all-male congressional panels — those offenses are so three days ago. Let’s move on to the image of Ann Romney, Karen Santorum and Callista Gingrich cleaning up after their husbands on Tuesday night.
Ann Romney greeted the crowd in Boston with a genuine smile and an I-get-it introduction for her husband. “Do you know what women care about?” she told the hometown crowd. “Women care about jobs. Women care about the economy. They care about their children, and they care about the debt, and they’re angry.”
Darn right, Ann. Would Mitt mind if we offered you up for the brokered convention?
Or Karen Santorum, who just by standing next to Rick Santorum on stage in Steubenville, Ohio, on Tuesday night told voters there’s more to the man than the caricature he has allowed his image to become. Would a lawyer-turned-neonatal nurse like Karen really marry a caveman in a sweater vest, her smile says. Of course not.
And she’s gone one better in the last week, conducting her first national interviews of the entire campaign season to give voters a better sense of who her husband really is beyond someone who calls college graduates snobs, even though he has a law degree and an MBA.
She also revealed herself to be a keen strategist in her own right, telling CBS’s Jan Crawford that she often weighs in on Santorum’s message and suggested he not get bogged down in the contraception issue, advice he obviously ignored.
“My advice to him was stop answering the question,” she said. “Tell ’em, ‘I’m not going to answer this question. Let me tell you what I know about national security. I know a lot about national security.’ ”
For her part, Callista Gingrich has begun introducing her husband at events and even headlining a few of her own, all with a not-so-subtle message that while Newt has had his problems in the marriage department, now that he’s devoted to a brainy, blonde French horn player, how bad could he be?
Should this former Hill staffer and very poised woman really have to try to make up for Newt’s spotty track record? No, but she’s doing it with a smile on her face anyway.
There is a very June Cleaver feeling to all of this that seems below the women being pressed into service to do what their husbands cannot — come across as trustworthy, relatable and aware that the 21st century started a while ago.
A better strategy for the candidates might be for them to listen to their wives — or say goodbye to the women’s vote in November. (You do know women make up 55 percent of voters, right?)
After polls earlier this year showed women voters drifting away from President Obama, an NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll this week showed Republicans have reversed that trend.
They are now losing ground so fast among women that they will have a hard time making it up in the general election. Women now approve of the job the president is doing 54 percent to 40 percent, while the president leads Romney in a head-to-head match up 55 percent to 37 percent among women.
It’s hard to think that the last month in Republican politics did not have nearly everything to do with that.
No amount of sending Ann, Karen or Callista in front of the cameras will make women forget seeing only men discuss contraception for women, or hearing Rush Limbaugh unleash a sickening perversion against a female law student, only to be greeted by silence on the right.
The Republican candidates can turn the tide by leading their party in a better direction — with policies that strengthen the country, plans to improve the future for children, and a little respect in the form of telling Limbaugh that his instinct to talk about prostitutes while the rest of us were talking about health care and religious liberty is making us all wonder what he does in his free time.
Maybe somewhere out there is a woman who can help him clean up his mess, too.
By: Patricia Murphy, She The People, The Washington Post, March 8, 2012
Before he dumped Marianne for Callista, Newt Gingrich approached his second wife of 18 years with the possibility of an open marriage.
I ask you: how awesome is that?
In an interview airing tonight on Nightline, Marianne recalls Newt complaining to her. “You want me all to yourself. Callista doesn’t care what I do.”
Assuming Marianne can more or less be believed, let’s update what we now know of the former speaker’s personal history:
1. Gingrich dumped his first wife, Jackie, while she was being treated for cancer.
2. Some 12 years into his second marriage, he started sleeping with a much younger Hill staffer.
3. Six years into the affair, he asked wife No. 2 for an open marriage.
4. When she declined, Newt pressed ahead with a divorce—shortly after Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
5. The dissolution of Newt and Marianne’s union occurred as the then-speaker was galumphing around the country loudly proclaiming President Clinton to be morally unfit for office.
My God, it’s like a bad telenovela—only starring homely people.
I have to admit, while the tales of Gingrich’s mistreatment of the women in his life are, of course, appalling, I also find them utterly irresistible—and more than a little satisfying. Not because I care about Gingrich’s rank hypocrisy. Unlike many journalists, hypocrisy isn’t what gets my blood boiling. All politicians are hypocrites to one degree or another. They have to be.
No. What entrances me about these Newtonian love stories are how perfectly they jibe with the former speaker’s broader character portrait: namely, that of a pure, unadulterated narcissist, a man whose sense of himself as a world historic figure leads him to believe that whatever is good for him must be what is good. Period. In Gingrich’s worldview, the end justifies the means—and the end is invariably the advancement of Newt Gingrich’s personal aims.
The entire sweep of Newt’s personal life brings to mind a line from Whit Stillman’s 1990 film, Metropolitan, in which one of the cast of young, rich Manhattanites scolds another, “When you’re an egoist, none of the harm you do is intentional.”
I’d say that this line could apply to all aspects of Newt’s life except that, in many of his political dealings, Newt absolutely intends to cause harm. Demonizing the opposition is frequently his aim, and his aim in that department tends to be quite good.
But with his wives, one gets the sense that Gingrich never set out to hurt anyone. He simply didn’t give a damn—or at least enough of a damn to make an effort to minimize damage to the other person on his way out the door.
Lots of people cheat on their spouses. Lots of people leave their spouses. It takes a special kind of ego to carry on a lengthy affair with another woman, then grandiosely suggest to your wife: so howzabout you content yourself with just a slice of Newt pie and agree to share the rest?
Hypocrisy, infidelity, dishonesty, immorality—none of those interest me here. When it comes to Newt, the ultimate driver—and the biggest danger—has always been the man’s total self-absorption and near-messianic self-regard.
That ought to make even the most devout Newt fan a little nervous.
By: Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast, January 19, 2012
Callista Gingrich can breathe a sigh of relief—Newt has pledged not to cheat on her. Sure he presumably made such a pledge before God when they exchanged marital vows, but now Newt is making his promise before a higher power, a social conservative group called The Family Leader.
Per Politico, Gingrich initially declined to sign Family Leader’s pledge on marriage and abortion over the summer, but has, in his own Newt way, signed on by way of a lengthy letter supporting the various stipulations of the marriage pledge. He writes in part:
I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.
As a general matter, the proliferation of signed campaign pledges (including the godfather of them all, Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge) is generally pernicious. The only pledge an office-holder should be bound by is his or her vow to support and defend the Constitution. Other iron clad pledges only serve to circumscribe the options available when a pol leaves the campaign trail and has to actually govern.
But even in the spectrum of signed pledges, this one is dumb. Put aside for a moment the fact that a politician’s personal life is frankly irrelevant and unrelated to actual policies.
Suppose for a moment that you believe the state of a politician’s marriage is actually relevant to his or her fitness for office. Does anyone honestly believe that Gingrich (or any other politician) will pull himself back from the brink of cheating because it would mean breaking his vow … to The Family Leader?
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, December 13, 2011