After vigorously denying allegations by his second wife Marianne that he requested an open marriage, Newt Gingrich's campaign has been ballooning faster than a marshmallow left untended in the microwave. If his popularity continues to rise at this rate, the Republican primary could explode in a gooey white mess 217 days premature of its national convention in bukkake-fest (take Google's word for it) host city Tampa Bay. While most members hiding in the still rational enclaves of the GOP might see Gingrich's recent rally as a sign of party instability and his marital drama as evidence of his idiosyncrasies, at least one commenter sees Gingrich's three marriages as proof that the man is so damn charismatic that what Republicans should really be worried about is not his electability but whether America would be able to resist a third term in Gingrich's inevitable presidency.
Writing Friday for the media think-tank for people who've ingested too much arsenic, Fox News, Dr. Keith Ablow (member of Fox's "medical A-Team") outlined out a very unconvincing argument: that Gingrich's bedroom shenanigans have no bearing at all on his ability to captain our contentious republic, but, assuming that for the "prurient pleasure of the public" the connection between his marriages and his political leadership must be discussed, Ablow is willing to indulge our vulgar need for sexy talk.
He begins by insisting that, true to the psychiatric profession, he wants to "be coldly analytical" and "not moralize" about Gingrich's marital history because conservative readers would never expect any of their opinion writers to do such a thing ever. While "you" the reader might have an itch to relate Gingrich's marital infidelity with, say, the possibility that he could betray his country by becoming complicit in an international arms deal, the good doctor isn't going to to that because "there is simply no correlation, whatsoever" between whether men and women who break their wedding vows "can remain true to the Oath of Office." (Anybody who'd like to mention the 1996 impeachment proceedings, now might be a good time to jump in.) Having explained how little bearing marriage has on a person's tenure in public office, Ablow then lists the reasons why Gingrich's marriages would make him an irresistible candidate and leader:
1) Three women have met Mr. Gingrich and been so moved by his emotional energy and intellect that they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with him.
2) Two of these women felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married.
3 ) One of them felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married for the second time, was not exactly her equal in the looks department and had a wife (Marianne) who wanted to make his life without her as painful as possible.
Ablow concludes that, in spite of his infidelity and general skeeviness, Gingrich proved an irresistible piece of man-taffy for not one, not two, but three women. And just look how unattractive he is! Due to Gingrich's obvious magnetism, Ablow worries "whether we'll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we'll want to let him go after one." I mean, why settle at just three terms? If Newt Gingrich is as charming as all this "psychological evidence" would lead us to believe, why doesn't America just marry him forevsies? Of course, the danger there is that he'd break our hearts — he's done it twice before. Dr. Ablow, however, believes that this well-honed ability to break-up with people is yet more proof that Gingrich would be a great leader, not that he would leave America and run off to Europe in a cigarette boat. If he could deliver two women the painful news "that he no longer loved them as he did before, that he had fallen in love with other women and that he needed to follow his heart," certainly he could be as "direct and unsparing with Congress" when he tells them, Oh, btw, I totally blew up Iran. We need an unwavering, unapologetic guy like that in office. But if that doesn't convince you how great a president Gingrich would be, Ablow still has a psychological ace up his lab coat sleeve. Gingrich's daughters, whose lives were no doubt dramatically affected by the marital upheaval, judge their father "10 out of 10" as a reliable and respectable dude, and Ablow "never dismiss[es] evidence of who the children gravitate to and admire." Sounds like somebody's angling for that surgeon general job. After castigating both media outlets and their audiences for sloshing around in the sewers of the former Speaker's personal life, Ablow descends into those sewers himself, looking for gold where everyone else seems to be digging for more filth.
What's so distressing about this article is that it proves to be something of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Ablow's cockeyed analysis is the most direct response to attacks on Gingrich's shaky personal life and will surely be filtered through the community of conservative news guzzlers in increasingly diluted forms throughout next week. However, there's actual substance for defending Gingrich lurking in the man's record, including a a brief article in U.S. News and World Report on Thursday claiming without irony that he "elevated" three congresswomen to positions of leadership during his tenure as Speaker. With speculation swirling around his three marriages, the numerical symmetry of those three promotions seems tempting fodder for a Gingrich defense. At least, it seems about as rational a basis for argument as Dr. Ablow's article has, or it would if what Shelly Moore Capito, one of the congresswomen Gingrich elevated in a totally non-sexual way, said this week were as true as she seems to believe: "Women and Republican are two words that go together very well." Unfortunately, articles like Ablow's reduce the very real women in Gingrich's life — women with whom he must have had some level of genuine human interaction beyond divorce proceedings — to the various stages in the maturation of an overbearing public figure.
House Women: Gingrich Elevated Female Members [U.S. News & World Report]
Ex-Mrs. Gingrich Reacts to Newt [ABC News]
Gingrich Wins South Carolina Primary [NY Times]