Opinion Brief

Newt Gingrich's 'horny patriot' infidelity excuse: Will voters accept it?

The former House Speaker is inching toward a White House bid, and is now blaming patriotism for his past affairs. Will that fly?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) will reportedly wait until May to announce his candidacy for the White House, but he's already fighting to stay in the race. In response to a question about his two marriage-ending affairs, each of which occurred while his respective wives struggled with illness, Gingrich told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that there were times, when "partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country... I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate." Will voters buy what Slate's Emily Yoffe calls Gingrich's "horny patriot" excuse?

Gingrich can't recover from this: "If Gingrich thinks the public will find this persuasive, he's completely lost his mind," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. He isn't the first admitted adulterer to seek the presidency, but blaming his "scandalous personal life" on patriotism is just insulting. Besides, as David Frum says, Gingrich's real problem isn't infidelity, it's "arrogance, hypocrisy, and... cruelty. Anyone can dump one sick wife. Gingrich dumped two."
"Gingrich's patriotism led him to cheat on his wives"

The voters forgive; the comedians don't: The politics is more "complicated" than that, says John Dickerson at Slate. The conventional wisdom is that talk of "moral failings" will hurt him with evangelicals, but like Gingrich, they believe in "a forgiving God." Instead, the group Gingrich really needs to worry about is the "ruthless" stand-ups: It's hard to win if you're "the constant butt of jokes," and Gingrich's dumb excuse "is sure to spawn hundreds."
"Passionately patriotic"

Gingrich is in no position to make excuses: Gingrich would be better off if he wasn't "trying to justify his behavior by aggrandizing himself," says Philip Klein at The American Spectator. But he's in a tough spot. "The best possible argument a politician can make in these cases" is that "personal indiscretions" have no bearing on job performance. But that's a hard case for the "leader of the effort to impeach President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal" to make.
"Newt too patriotic to be faithful"

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