Today, Republicans in South Carolina go to the polls to vote for a GOP candidate to run for president in the fall. In a stunning reversal of fortunes, former front-runner Mitt Romney finds himself trailing former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is favored to win in the conservative-leaning state despite revelations from one of his former wives, Marianne, that Newt cheated on her in her own house and asked for an “open marriage” in which he didn’t have to hide his relationship with mistress (now current wife) Callista. Marianne suggested that Newt doesn’t take his marriage vows very seriously.
Since his own behavior is clearly indefensible, Newt did the only thing he could: He shot the messenger. Employing the GOP’s favorite trope, Newt blamed “the media” for bringing Marianne’s statements to light. At the beginning of Thursday night’s debate, he launched into a tirade at CNN moderator John King for daring to bring up Newt’s own marital history.
I don’t like what he had to say, but I think it’s important to reproduce it here, so people can see how far over-the-top Newt goes to deflect attention away from his behavior and onto a mythical monolithic “elitist media”:
“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate…. Let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear: This story is false. Every personal friend I had in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. [ABC wasn’t] interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor, they’re attacking me, I’m sure they’ll get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”
Yes, yes, this is pretty much Newt’s boilerplate attack on the media, but I do agree that we need some decent people to run for office. Newt is saying, “I’m the Family Values and Sanctity of Marriage Candidate, but don’t you dare question exactly what those values are.” Of course Newt (and all Republicans) neglects to remember that, as a paid analyst for Fox News until early 2011, Newt is himself a member of “the media” (as is his beloved Fox News). So, I guess he can’t think all members of the media are bad, right? (Then again, a psychologist might have something to say about repeated self-destructive behavior being an indicator of self-loathing, so…)
Look, the important points are that Newt – currently on wife No. 3 – cheated on his first two wives and then divorced them while they were very ill. Newt is running on a “family values” platform, so it is eminently fair to wonder what kind of “family values” he represents. What’s “despicable” about that? Tell me! Educate me. I don’t think Newt’s antics even qualify as Manson Family values. He doesn’t think his own gay sister, Candace, should be able to get married even once, let alone three times, but I have to wonder on what grounds can he claim that gay marriage would weaken the institution when his own examples of heterosexual marriage are so bad. How is Candace’s situation worse in his eyes?
Good luck finding someone to vote for, South Carolina…