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Newt Gingrich's Moral Responsibility Problem

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Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich
Steve Pope/Getty

I think _______ has to take some moral responsibility for having behaved with such arrogance, in such a hostile way, that the American people are deeply upset. —Newt Gingrich

The missing words in the quote above are "the Democratic leadership." But they ought to be "Newt Gingrich."

For anyone who has followed Gingrich's political career, such calls for his political foes to take personal responsibility for their actions are a familiar refrain. So it's jarring, today, to hear Gingrich attempt to dismiss his own philandering without taking any responsibility at all.

In an interview this week with the Christian network CBN, Gingrich said:

There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. 

Pressing your first wife for divorce while she recovers from uterine cancer surgery in her hospital bed? A patriot who works too hard can't be accountable for that. 

Cheating on your MS-stricken second wife while leading an impeachment circus against Bill Clinton for the president's infidelities? And asking her to accept the affair because she was a Jaguar and "all I want is a Chevrolet?" Hey: Shit happens. 

Americans are a forgiving lot. We don't realy care whom you doink. But we do care about character. And Newt's 2012 run is premised on the credibility of his extreme character makeover. In recent years, Gingrich has led a preeningly moral life. He converted to his third wife's Catholic faith and his exploratory campaign website more or less features Callista — the Chevrolet in question — as his running mate.

But his inability to take some moral responsibility for having behaved with such arrogance and cruelty towards his first two wives suggests that Gingrich hasn't changed at all, that he's still the same guy who justified his moral bankruptcy to wife number two by saying:

It doesn't matter what I do. 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.

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