What's Up with Sex and Politics?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) talks with reporters after a meeting in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, New York Times columnist Gail Collins discussed the intersection of sex and politics in light of recent scandals.

This year has been filled with political sex scandals and the list got long enough for Gail Collins to write about it.

From John Edwards to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Newt Gingrich to New York's own Chris Lee, Collins said the scandals run the gamut and the political spectrum, but there is a particular nature to the Republican variety.

These sex scandals have layers

Newt Gingrich, for example:

It's not just one's not that Newt Gingrich is on his third wife. It's that Newt Gingrich is on his third wife and this is the wife he was having an affair with when she worked for the House of Representatives when he was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for Monica Lewinsky and he's also got this $500,000 Tiffany bill. And there you are. It just goes on and on and on, it's not just one 'did he or didn't he'.

Gingrich may have some other problems, Collins said. In response to a question about his Tiffany's bill, on Sunday's Face the Nation, Gingrich said about his family's expenses: "we are frugal." Here's what Gail Collins had to say about that:

Once again, you have a situation in which the poor Newt Gingrich is dragged on to a sophisticated Sunday morning talk show and tricked into things that he didn't actually mean to say...I'm really enjoying the Newt Gingrich thing but we've long since passed the point that this was anything but a side show...

His whole history, all of the adultery, all of the strangeness going back and forth, with the different wives, it all points to a real personality disorder. He's just attention- deficit driven when it comes to life, I mean he can't focus on anything for more than two seconds. He's completely erratic and nobody's going to want him to be president under any circumstances and this all feeds into it...this is the culmination of a long-burning disaster that has been Newt.

As for the "layering" scandals, this goes for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Paladino too, Collins said. Democrats have had their own stories as well, but the Republicans hang their names on the the words of high moral values and their actions aren't following suit, she said.

The Republicans are what's in play right now. You don't have sort of a great scrap bowl within the Democratic party for posts and stuff, they're kind of on a different level right now. Certainly Democrats are capable of working things up to this level but I do think being 'the party of family values' complicates things more. The fact that John Ensign was going to his prayer group to discuss what to do about the adulterous relationship he had with his chief aid's wife who was also working for him, put a new layer on it.

Self Control

The latest? Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced on Sunday that he would not run for president on the Republican ticket in 2012. His reason? His wife didn't want him to. Daniels' marital history involves his wife leaving him for another man and returning a few years later to remarry the governor. Collins said the exposure of all this could have been avoided. It didn't even make him look bad, she said.

The media will respect certain family boundaries as long as you respect the boundaries, as long as the wife doesn't campaign, doesn't do introductions to her husband at big Indiana events, as Mrs. Daniels did last week. I mean there's a way to control this stuff but it has to involve self control on both sides, not just the media's.

Sexual assault is no marital affair

An interview on this topic won't fly without mentioning the the former IMF leader, Dominic Strauss Kahn who lost his job over the alleged assault of a cleaning woman in his New York hotel. But this is no marital affair, Collins said, and the press should make the distinction.

Good lord. There's a total difference...that's not speakable. There's no discussion about how we feel about stuff like that...that's just appalling and my lord, this man never seemed to stop...and the reports that are coming out, I'm amazed he had enough time to bail out Greece!


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Comments [16]

"Newt Gingrich has also received something like $2 _million_ over 2 years in private jet and limo services courtesy of one of his non-profits."

Of course he did—someone had to pay for taxable services so that Ms. Pelosi could have her favorite scotch on the flights *we* paid for.

May. 23 2011 10:33 AM
Gary from Newark

I am not a fan of Newt Gingrich but I don't
see why Bob Scheifer's question is in any way relevant. If they have they means and
funds to buy even 5 millions worth of jewelry that is their business.

If they've have the money why should they be forced or expected to live like us. If they earned their money legally they should be able to spend it however hell they want.

This makes as much sense as republicans pundits getting on Michelle Obaman for going an extravagant vacation with her kids on her own dime.

May. 23 2011 10:32 AM
hmi from Brooklyn

I'm appalled that Gingrich bought something on credit, thus opening himself up to the malign influence of Tiffany's in national politics. I worry about this almost as much as I do about Tony Rezko's financial dealings with the Obamas. Almost.

May. 23 2011 10:26 AM
ab from nyc

I'd love to hear more specifics on Tiffany's policy of "interest free" accounts. Private life is private life, but after seeing what predatory loans and high credit card interest rates have done to regular people, are the Repubs really saying that if you're rich enough to charge 1/2 million in jewerely, it's not a story because it's interest free?

May. 23 2011 10:24 AM
CL from NYC

Gail Collins has succinctly characterized Gingrich. His personality disorder is indeed plain for all to see. Surely he will drop out before long. He's so entertaining, however, that I almost wish he would stay the course. What an angry clown he is.

May. 23 2011 10:23 AM

You gotta love the "it's a standard low-interest account" -- as if any average American gets low-interest anything these days.

May. 23 2011 10:22 AM
Rebecca Kalin from East Village

The Tiffany bill should be discussed in light of the Republican claim that the wealthy should be given tax breaks because "they create jobs."

What, the sales of the Tiffany sales person?

Also, if I had an outstanding $250-500,000 bill to, say, my mortgage company ... what would happen to me?

May. 23 2011 10:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

So if you're not paying interest it's not a loan?

May. 23 2011 10:20 AM

Newt Gingrich has also received something like $2 _million_ over 2 years in private jet and limo services courtesy of one of his non-profits.

May. 23 2011 10:18 AM

Good for Sheiffer. Getrich is a screaming hypocrite.

May. 23 2011 10:18 AM

Newt is not a victim. He's an idiot.

May. 23 2011 10:17 AM

Remember Hillary Clinton talking about the conspiracy directed at Bill and her post-Lewinksy?

And Michael Bloomberg definitely settle a couple of harassment suits out of court while he was actively head of Bloomberg LLP.

It's not just the French.

May. 23 2011 10:17 AM

Really the media would leave her alone? Nonsense! Also, why can't he stand by his wife the way the wives stand by their cheatin' husbands? Oh that's right, the old double standard.

May. 23 2011 10:15 AM
ari from garment dist.

i watched the bob Sheiffer interview online and regarding this Tiffany bill: Why is it our business? I was disappointed Sheiffer went after him for it. It seems irrelevant to me, and I am NO Newt fan.

May. 23 2011 10:12 AM

tell gail, chris lee was looking for transvestite babes

May. 23 2011 10:11 AM

I'm going to miss the Hamlet routine of Mitch Daniels. I have no sympathy for him and other politicians who whine about too much scrutiny of their personal lives. Daniels and his fellow whiners can cry me a river.

May. 23 2011 08:35 AM

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