Newt Gingrich’s improbable surge in the polls for the GOP presidential nomination has surprised nearly everyone, including TNR, and given rise to an important question: How, exactly, should one cover a candidate who already possesses enough baggage to sink a small freighter? Though Gingrich’s ship may sail before reporters have time to unpack it all, the following collection of embarrassing words and deeds attributed to Newt will live forever:
1. Gingrich divorced his first wife for Marianne Ginther, whom he began courting while he was still married. He informed his first wife of his plans while she was in the hospital receiving treatment for cancer. Of course, Gingrich explained that he had an excuse for his adultery: “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” Patriotism!
2. Gingrich received $1.6 million to lobby for the housing agency Freddie Mac. When asked what he was doing to deserve such a high fee, he replied he was giving “strategic advice” and further claimed to be offering his services as “a historian.”
3. On Obama, Gingrich asked: “What if he is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?”
4. Gingrich once gave a Congressional speech so controversial that Tip O’Neill called it “the lowest thing I’ve ever seen in my 32 years of Congress,” and Trent Lott demanded it be stricken from the record. Highlights included his assertion that Democrats believe “America does nothing right.” In the same time period, Gingrich is also quoted as saying Democrats will bring to the U.S. “the joys of Soviet-style brutality and the murder of women and children.”
5. While any amateur can claim to want to cut the Departments of Energy and Commerce, Gingrich knows the rot goes much deeper. That’s why he has pushed for the elimination of the Congressional Budget Office as well, arguing “If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies.”
6. Gingrich joined Palin in warning against the Affordable Care Act’s supposed “death panels” … 12 months after lauding precisely the “advanced care directives” that inspired Palin’s attack. Gingrich’s father-in-law benefited from the approach to end-of-life-care targeted by Palin.
7. A Gingrich charity—founded to “preserve the four pillars of American civilization: faith, family, freedom, and free enterprise”—paid a Gingrich for-profit company $220,000 for cases of his books and DVDs.
8. On the mosque planned near ground zero in downtown Manhattan, Gingrich argued: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”
9. Gingrich claimed that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was “behaving exactly in the spirit of the Soviet tyranny.”
10. Gingrich warned, in reference to Obama’s 2008 coalition, that “the secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”
11. Gingrich tweeted that Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor was a “latina woman racist.”
12. Gingrich systematically inflated his follower count on Twitter by creating fake user accounts, which made up as much as 92 percent of his “fan base.”
13. In 1995, Gingrich told a group of black journalists that “the truth is that preachers and lawyers have been more dominant in the black culture in the last 40 years than have business people,” and “the habits of the church and the habits of the lawsuit have been more powerful than the habits of acquisition and the habits of job creation.”