Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Indispensable Newt

From John Richardson's grimly fascinating profile of Newt Gingrich, this recollection from his second wife:

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused. He'd just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he'd given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values. The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?"

"It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."

I am not especially shocked by the level of hypocrisy shown here; having moral principles even though we can't always live up to them seems to me to be an essential part of being a moral person. (Not that Newt is a moral person, and we should all strive to do better than he does.) What strikes me is the self-importance. Newt really seems to believe (this is the main argument of Richardson's piece) that he plays some uniquely important role in the Republican party that only he can fill. Only he can point America toward a future of wealth and freedom that will spring from freeing business from taxes and regulations, improving education, reducing unmarried parenthood, and so on. Only he has the vision.

"The graveyards are full of indispensable men," Charles de Gaulle once remarked, but on the other hand I strongly suspect that the leadership of every democratic country is full of men who believe otherwise.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

You are missing one other possibility in his explanation to his wife - he's playing her, too. If you think of Gingrich as a guy who is willing to say anything to win, then that makes it all the more likely.