If all it took to be president was chutzpah and cojones, Newt Gingrich would be president for life.
With his Mediterranean cruise and its fallout — the abrupt departure of his senior campaign staff — behind him, Gingrich finally showed up in Iowa over the weekend to campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.
Iowa is one of a handful of states where gay marriage is legal, so naturally reporters asked the thrice-married Gingrich for his take on the legalization of marriage equality in New York Friday night. He replied:
GINGRICH: Iowa was a very different case from New York. I mean, Iowa was seven judges deciding that they would arbitrarily overturn the laws and the culture of the state of Iowa which is fundamentally different. I mean New York at least, whether you agree or disagree with the outcome, it is in the elected process and it is in the legislature and it is with the governor and that’s the right venue.
I helped sponsor the Defense of Marriage Act which basically doesn’t transfer automatically to all 50 states. I think the president should be, frankly, enforcing that act and I think we are drifting towards a terrible muddle which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of.
I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that’s what marriage ought to be and I would like to find ways to defend that view as legitimately and effectively as possible.
Most people know by now that, in the mid-1990s, then-Speaker Gingrich was cheating on his second wife, Marianne, with a staffer, his current wife Callista, at the same time he led the drive to impeach Pres. Clinton over a lie about his affair with a staffer, Monica Lewinsky.
It is not as widely known, however, that two years before the impeachment Speaker Gingrich was also cheating on Marianne with Callista when he led the passage of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
According to “Peepshow: Media and Politics in an Age of Scandal,” by Larry J. Sabato, Mark Stencel, S. Robert Lichter, which we also referenced here in January, the Newt-Callista affair began the year before Gingrich became DOMA’s champion:
The relationship with Callista Bisek only received widespread attention in the summer of 1999, seven months after Gingrich left office, when a supermarket tabloid [the Star] staked out the couple’s comings and goings in Washington and a Georgia judge ordered the Hill staffer deposed as part of the former speaker’s divorce proceedings. Rumors of the Gingrich-Bisek affair circulated before then. Bisek was identified in a 1995 profile of Gingrich as the speaker’s “favorite breakfast companion,” a reference that was repeated at the time in a London newspaper and by Time magazine columnist Margaret Carlson. During the impeachment debate — the muckraking online magazine online magazine Salon mentioned “persistent (though unproven) rumors” about a Gingrich affair in a September 1998 article. A few months later, [Flynt] alluded vaguely to Bisek in the “Flynt Report,” his glossy report about congressional misdeeds, identifying her at the end of a two-page spread on the speaker as a former congressman’s aide.
The idea that Newt Gingrich “sponsored” DOMA because of high-minded ideals about the sanctity of marriage is obviously malarkey. DOMA was nothing more than a wedge issue, a political trick. It was intended to put Democrats in the awkward position of either voting against it and upsetting voters in middle America, who were a lot less gay-friendly back then, or voting for it and angering gay voters and their allies on the far left, thereby depressing turnout among the base.
DOMA passed in the House on July 12, 1996, and in the Senate on Sept. 10. Clinton quietly signed it into law on Sept. 21, and then he headed out of town, along with the rest of Washington, to campaign for reelection.
To be fair, Bill Clinton is also tarnished by this sorry episode. His affair with Monica Lewinsky started in November 1995 and ended in March 1997, which means he was also cheating on his wife during the period when he signed DOMA and made discrimination against his gay allies the law of the land.
As a political cudgel, DOMA failed. In November 1996, Clinton handily defeated former Sen. Majority Leader Bob Dole — and he did it with the help of gay Democrats, who held their noses and voted for the man who had just betrayed them.
Gingrich has said that his excessive patriotism drove him to have affairs, presumably including his affair with Marianne, which broke up his marriage to first wife, Jackie, around the time she had been diagnosed with cancer.
In reality, the Defense of Marriage Act does not defend anything. There is an assault on heterosexual marriage, but it is certainly not coming from gay people who want to marry — it is coming from adulterers, especially serial philanderers like Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani and the rest.