You may have heard that Newt Gingrich is becoming a Catholic this weekend. I’ll let Chris Buckley do the honors on the absurdity of all this:
He and Mother Church—from whose tender embrace I myself have regrettably lapsed—will both be made out to be appalling hypocrites. Who among us should throw stones? But Mr. Gingrich’s marital history is a matter of public record, and it is not tidy. He first married at age 19, to his 26-year-old former high-school geometry teacher and then, so the story goes, presented her with divorce terms after she was wheeled out of cancer surgery.
Mrs. Gingrich #2 was dumped after her husband had carried on an extramarital affair with a fetching, blond congressional staffer named Callista Bisek, who went on to become the present Mrs. Gingrich #3. This Family Values paradigm was complicated by the fact that whilst Mr. Gingrich was filibustering Ms. Bisek over the Speaker’s desk, he was simultaneously leading the impeachment charge against a naughty president of the United States.
Mrs. Gingrich #2 publicly ventilated her displeasure back in 2000 after she received a letter from the Archdiocese of Atlanta informing her that her marriage was being annulled—that is, rendered ex post facto invalid—on the grounds of “ligamen.” She had been married previously, so in the eyes of the church her marriage to Mr. Gingrich simply did not take place.
But I don’t find any of this surprising. What does surprise me is that so many in the media regard Newt as some kind of serious intellectual. Here’s Joe Klein today (I cite Klein because I think he’s one of the more reasonable members of the punditocracy):
I’ve known Newt Gingrich for about 20 years now and I’ve always enjoyed him intellectually, but detested him politically. The reason for the latter is his now-anachronistic first resort to anger; again and again, he cheapens public discourse through exaggeration and wild claims. One imagines that if John McCain were President and Paul Krugman had said, out of the box, that he wanted McCain to fail, Gingrich would be leading the charge, calling Krugman “unpatriotic” and even, perhaps, traitorous.
I’m not sure where Klein’s love of Newt’s beautiful mind comes from but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably because Newt said something brilliantly nonsensical about the evil of teachers’ unions and the genius of school choice or Michelle Rhee. But maybe it was stuff like this:
#1 Repeal the gas tax for the summer, and pay for the repeal by cutting domestic discretionary spending so that the transportation infrastructure trust fund would not be hurt.
#2 Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market. That oil would lower the price of gasoline an extra 5 to 6 cents per gallon, and its sale would lower the deficit.
#7. Declare English the official language of government.
Or maybe it’s Newt’s stellar academic career:
Gingrich taught history at University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia, from 1970 to 1978, although he was untenured. He also taught a class, Renewing American Civilization, at Kennesaw State University in 1993.
Or maybe Klein and the rest of the Newt-lickers are just idiots.
Update. JenJen brings a good Max Blumenthal piece on Newt to my attention. Nut graf:
“From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told me, “Newt’s sins no longer exist–they’ve been absolved. He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference.”
That’s intellectual integrity I can believe in.
Update #2. The stuff about this Deal Hudson guy is just too much:
Upon receiving communion, Hudson received an annulment from his first wife, then divorced his second wife four years later. “It’s not unusual to do that in this day and age,” Hudson reflected, “so that sort of angle that Chris Buckley is taking to make fun of Newt is unfair.”
After entering the church, Hudson worked his way up the rungs of academia, eventually earning tenure as a philosophy professor at Fordham University. He was a charismatic figure in the classroom, casting a spell over his students with engaging lectures on natural law. But Hudson was not without his weaknesses. In 1994, after a night of drinking games at a West Village pub, during which he allegedly made out with two female students and took “body shots” with them, Hudson brought an extremely intoxicated 18-year-old student back to his office and compelled her to perform oral sex on him. When the student told school authorities about the incident, Hudson promptly resigned and moved to Washington to edit Crisis. Two years later, Hudson settled a sexual harassment lawsuit out of court with the student for $30,000. The incident remained unknown to everyone except the student’s and Hudson’s closest confidants.
At Crisis, Hudson railed against Clinton for his dalliances with Monica Lewinsky. “Over and over again, we hear on the talk shows that we shouldn’t hold the president to a ‘higher standard,’” Hudson wrote in 1996. “I would argue quite the opposite… Those who are not willing to bear the burden of these higher standards should not seek office… After we have stripped away all idealism from offices that bind our culture together — president, father, husband — what will be left for us to aspire to? Who will want to sacrifice personal desires for public responsibilities?”
You can’t make this stuff up.