Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt Is Still Newt

MR. GINGRICH: Every person in here knows personal pain.

Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. (Cheers, applause.)

What's remarkable here is the complete evasion of moral agency. In his life, the Personal Tragedy Fairies came in the night and inserted Callista into his bed. For six years.
MR. GINGRICH: Now, let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested, because they would like to attack any Republican. They're attacking the governor, they're attacking me. I'm sure they'll probably get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans. (Cheers, applause.)

This appears to be false.
On Friday, ABC senior vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider said that Gingrich's account was "just not true." He said in a statement, "His daughters were interviewed for our 'Nightline' story last night and we sought interviews with Gingrich or surrogates very aggressively starting Tuesday morning. We would have been happy to interview anyone they put forward."

There are several reasons to think that ABC's version is the correct one. Newt's daughters were interviewed by ABC as well as Fox. It would have been very helpful to their father for them to present any proof they had that their stepmother's account was false, but their only evidence that her claims were false was that their father said so. Likewise any personal friend of Newt's who could vouch for the correctness of his version would have done him a lot of good by doing so. Even is we accept Newt's claim the ABC refused them, their failure to appear on Fox is the dog that didn't bark in the night.

Further, it seems very unlikely that such proof exists. You would need a third party present at the conversations his second wife alleges occurred and willing to testify to what was said, which seems profoundly improbable. And Newt would certainly know if he actually had such witnesses or not. Occam's razor says that Newt was being untruthful again, and knew it.

This brings us to this question. If it comes down to a question of he said, she said, who is the least unreliable witness? Gingrich's spokesman makes much of the plausible bitterness of his second wife, but she doesn't sound particularly bitter in the Esquire interview or her recent Washington Post interview. And Newt has his own reasons to be an unreliable witness: he clearly regards her allegations as damaging if believed to be true, and he has a history of being less than entirely truthful when this was expedient.

Also, his second wife made very similar claims in a 2010 Esquire article, and Newt did not dispute them at the time.

At best, Newt was deceptive in claiming that he had evidence to refute ABC's report that did not actually exist.

At worst, he was willing to imply that his second wife was a despicable and tawdry liar because she made claims about his behavior that were true, less odious than what he has already admitted, but politically inconvenient for him.

His daughters have made the argument that his behavior in 1999 happened in the distant past, and should be be given little weight today.

In response I ask why he's still bragging about the things he did in 1994.

And further, if what he did in 1999 is now irrelevant, why is he so annoyed that anyone would mention his behavior at the time?

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