It's this simple. Newt Gingrich has not upheld family values by any reasonable definition of the term. This fact may not have been much of an issue except that Gingrich has tried to advance his career by questioning the values of others -- most notably those of Bill Clinton.
Sally Quinn has provided a run-down of Newt's hypocrisy in The Washington Post:
For those who haven't been following Gingrich's personal life, here is a capsule version: He married his first wife, Jacqueline, at 19 and had two daughters. His wife developed uterine cancer. He began having an affair with Marianne, who became his second wife, and when Jacqueline was in the hospital having a tumor removed he visited her to ask for a divorce. He then married Marianne. While they were married, he carried on a six-year affair with his current wife, Callista. During this period he was one of the House leaders pressing for the impeachment of President Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. After Marianne developed Multiple Sclerosis, he asked, according to her account, if they could stay married while he continued his affair. When she said no, he called her on the phone to tell her he wanted a divorce. Two days later, he gave a speech on family values called "The Demise of the American Culture." During his conversion to Catholicism, he asked the Catholic Diocese of Atlanta for an annulment of his second marriage and it was granted. "We were married 19 years and now he wants to say it didn't exist," Marianne said in an interview.
So by almost any measure the idea that Gingrich is now campaigning on values seems absurd.
But last week the absurd went to a new level. As Gingrich's campaign has gained steam he has increasingly opted to use a tone of outrage when faced with media questions he doesn't want to answer. Gingrich used to use his love of country as an explanation for his indiscretions. Now, however, he simply expresses indignation at the idea that he would be asked to explain himself.
The best case of this was the South Carolina debate when John King opened the debate asking Gingrich to comment on allegations made by his second wife. Gingrich responded by going into a tirade: "I'm tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans."
The tactic is pretty smart when you think about it. Gingrich expresses outrage that is so extreme that he intimidates his interviewer. The next thing we know King is backing off of his question and Gingrich is getting a standing ovation.
That's where comedy comes to the rescue. In the absurdity that has become the Republican Primary we have increasingly had to look to comedians to make sense of the whole mess, by exposing hypocrisy and speaking truth to power. Reminding us that Gingrich has no place being outraged by King, Jon Stewart showed viewers what real outrage should look like. Watch the brilliant clip here:
The heart of Stewart's outrage was Newt's hypocrisy. He points out that Gingrich didn't have a problem with the news media making presidential sex lives a major issue when Bill Clinton was the object of the scandal. But Stewart didn't stop there. He also moved on to mock Gingrich's efforts to model himself as a Washington outsider after decades as a Congressman, House Speaker, and Washington "consultant." In a matter of minutes, Stewart exposed the hypocrisy of Gingrich's entire campaign.
Packing the one-two punch, Stewart's skewering of Gingrich was shortly followed by Colbert's:
Colbert focused on Gingrich's disrespect for debate moderators and his refusal to take their questions seriously. But he also exposed the racist way that Gingrich handled Juan Williams' question. As Colbert channels it, Juan Williams would see that Gingrich isn't racist if "he and his homeboys weren't so high from smoking food stamps."
Gingrich's recent debate performances have been offensive. They have been hypocritical, rude, and racist. They have been dishonest, deceptive, and disrespectful.
So where is the outrage? Not in the mainstream media news's cowering response to Gingrich. Not in the cheers from the debate audiences and the surge in post-debate Gingrich support.
Where do we find the outrage? On Comedy Central. If we are looking for public expressions of disgust over Gingrich we have to look to satire. Does that seem outrageous? Perhaps. But it is certainly better than no outrage at all.
Follow Sophia A. McClennen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mcclennen65
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