True confessions: The (wandering) eye of Newt

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column on the Libby verdict here, called "What About Bob?" and a new Nation column here on Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called "A Consequential Life."

But who's counting? George W. Bush's "standing is the weakest of any second-term president at this point in 56 years." Here.

About this affair of Newt's: I can't quite keep up with how many times he has been unable to maintain God's standards. I wrote a piece about him when I worked for Rolling Stone but I can't find it, so instead, some background.

From Scoobie Davis, here:

Here's a summary of Gingrich's family life: 1) Gingrich marries his high school teacher, Jackie, who was seven years his senior; 2) Jackie puts Gingrich through college and she works hard to get him elected to the House in 1978 (Gingrich won partly because his campaign claimed that his Democratic opponent would neglect her family if elected -- at that time it was common knowledge that Gingrich was straying); 3) Shortly after being elected, Gingrich separated from his wife -- announcing the separation in the hospital room where Jackie was recovering from cancer surgery (the divorce was final in 1981); Jackie Gingrich and her children had to depend on alms from her church because Gingrich didn't pay any child support; 3) Six months after the divorce, Gingrich, then 38, married Marianne Ginther, 30; 4) "In May 1999, however, Gingrich [55] called Marianne [48] at her mother's home. After wishing the 84-year-old matriarch happy birthday, he told Marianne that he wanted a divorce." This was eight months after Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; 5) In 2000, Gingrich, 57, married ex-congressional aide Callista Bisek, 34, with whom he was having a relationship while married to Marianne.

From "The Gingrich Divorce and Its Repercussions on the Right," by Ann Gerhart, The Washington Post, December 18, 1999:

Newt Gingrich met Marianne Ginther in 1981 at a fund-raiser. She was 30. She had just broken up with a married man and father of three whom she had dated for some time. Gingrich was still married to Jackie, his high school biology teacher. He had married her at 19, partly to get away from his stepfather's domineering ways; she was seven years his senior. They had two daughters, now grown. Gingrich served divorce papers on her as she lay in bed recovering from surgery from ovarian cancer. Within months, he married Marianne.

His timing remains impeccable. In May, Gingrich called his mother-in-law to wish her a happy birthday, then asked to talk to Marianne, who was visiting. He told her he wanted out. He did not tell her that he had a patient mistress waiting in the wings.

[...]

In early summer, Marianne's friends called to tell her that Gingrich and Bisek were going about hand in hand. The Star tabloid made a splash by stalking the couple outside Bisek's Arlington town house, then tailing them to a French restaurant in Great Falls for a confrontation. Other tabloids chimed in. But the really big guns came from Gingrich--through his attorney.

He charged that the affair began because he and Marianne had been separated for six years, starting in 1987. This shocked not only her and his parents but also all the opponents who saw Marianne Gingrich on the campaign trail.

And then:

For six years, Gingrich, 56, two-timed his wife with a blonded-up, French-horn-playing Agriculture Committee staffer. His thing with Callista Bisek, now 33, was going strong through the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 that turned the Congress over to Republican majorities. It kept up through the Republicans' "Contract With America," Gingrich's 10-point plan to turn America to the right values. It steamed along during his ascendancy to speaker, when he gestured toward his proud wife in the balcony and called her his "best friend and closest adviser," adding, "If I listened to her 20 percent more, I'd get in a lot less trouble."

On it played through 1996, when Marianne campaigned vigorously for her husband, beamed from his side and shook countless hands. It stood strong while Marianne underwent the trauma and disappointment of unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization. While Gingrich lambasted the president at every opportunity for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, while he successfully orchestrated the first presidential impeachment in a century, he was committing adultery himself.

Not that his wife ever knew, she said, even though both she and Gingrich had talked frankly of trials in their marriage, even though Bisek's name surfaced publicly in a 1995 Vanity Fair profile of Gingrich. (The young Hill aide was mentioned coyly as "a favorite breakfast companion.") When Gingrich told Marianne he wanted a divorce last May, she described herself as "blindsided" and "shocked."

From TomDispatch: Karen J. Greenberg, co-editor of The Torture Papers and executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, just paid a visit to the jewel-in-the-crown of the Bush administration's offshore prison system and begins her remarkable account this way: "From the moment I arrived on a dilapidated Air Sunshine plane to the time I boarded it heading home, I had no doubt that I was on a foreign planet or, at the very least, visiting an impeccably constructed movie set. Along with two European colleagues, I was treated to two-days-plus of a military-tour schedule packed with site visits and interviews (none with actual prisoners) designed to 'make transparent' the base, its facilities, and its manifold contributions to our country's national security."

She then offers a guide to what the officially sanctioned report on Guantanamo would look like, wrapped in the proper decorum -- in 11 ways the Pentagon would like its famed facility reported on -- and these are cumulatively revealing indeed. They include: "Guantanamo is not a prison... It has no prisoners, only enemies... No trustworthy lawyers come to Guantanamo... Few, if any, reliable journalists have been reporting on Guantanamo... After years of isolation, the detainees still possess valuable information..."

... and so on to the final one: "Those who fail to reproduce the official narrative are not welcome back."

Greenberg concludes: "Only time will tell if I got it right."

And this:

Musicians On Call has announced auction items for the 3rd Annual Musicians On Call Benefit Concert and Auction. This special event will take place at Sotheby's on March 31. AUTOGRAPHED GUITARS BY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, PETE TOWNSHEND, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, STING, JOHNNY CASH'S PLAYED HARMONICA, This special event will take place at Sotheby's on March 31. The Grammy-award winning band Maroon 5 is also set to perform. Musicians on Call (MOC) was founded in 1999 with the mission of bringing live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. To date, they have played for over 77,000 people. They have accomplished their mission through room-to-room hospital performances. More here.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

He wanders 'round this desert, 'cause he thinks that's where I'll be/That's why I love mankind.

Good god, the Titanic soundtrack? Definitive?

Yes, it sucked.

Definitively.

And only because The True North gave us Neil, Joni, Jean Beliveau, and four-fifths of The Band -- Where in hell is Music From Big Pink, by the way? Yeesh -- does Canada skate for sending us Celine Dion and David Frum?

Anyway, I have a new hero. This guy right here. We break an awful lot of rock trying to keep the damage done by the national press corps down to a howling murmur, so much so that we often forget that most folks get their non-cyber news primarily from local newspapers, which are being ground up economically, and local television broadcasts, which are generally run by teenagers who were raised in window-boxes outside the offices of marketing firms. That's where the poison and nonsense spreads most widely. Yet, here's brother Dupuy, saying something out in New Mexico that every single one of our high-profile bigfeet know but don't dare say. (And, as much as I like Lawrence O'Donnell as an analyst, a Bostonian, and the son of one of the great trial lawyers I ever saw, if he keeps pitching his novelization of the Libby trial, Tim Russert: Embattled Truthteller, I may take to driving marlin spikes through my feet. Before pointing out that Scooter was peddling barefaced non-facts, Big Tim's Little Tim was pretty much exposed as a high-powered lickspittle in his attitude towards real power.) Out among the cacti, Dupuy is saying, quite clearly, that there is no longer any good reason for journalists to believe the Avignon Presidency on anything. Ever.

For the next two -- god! -- years, everything they say must be presumptively taken to be a lie. They should be treated the way newspapers treat the people in the overripe overcoats who show up in the lobby, screaming about the Trilateral Commission and space aliens. Let them rave for a few minutes and then send them where they can get some soup in a place with bars on the windows, so they're no longer a danger.

P.S. -- The 13-year-old torch singer down the hall is overjoyed that there is a new Roches album in play. (She got their debut for Christmas and pretty much wore it out already.) Her old man's happy, too.

Eric adds: Hey, Stupid, you still alive?

Name: Sal
Hometown: NYCD

Eric,

Great piece from Suzzy.

The first time I saw The Roches was right around the release of Keep On Doing, and I never looked back. It's been 200 listens to "Hammond Song," and I still can't wrap my head around the beauty of the harmonies. I fell in love with these women. Their voices! Their sense of humor! Their looks! Perfection.

One afternoon, mid- 80's, I was shooting some video and playing drums at a studio in Mamaroneck and I was talking about the Roches. (not sure why or to whom) But the engineer at the studio overheard me and told me that Terre was coming by. Apparently, she had laid down some tracks with Joe Ferry. (this may have been his studio. I can't recall) I told him how I adored her and he offered to introduce me.

A few hours later, I was in make-up. The video we were shooting was for high school students preparing for the SATs, and it involved musical parody to lighten things up. I was just turned into some androgynous, Bowie-like creature. Hair all teased, lipstick, eyeliner, spandex, the works. The engineer walks in. "Where's Sal?" "Uh ... right here." "Terre, meet Sal." Nice timing. I don't think I said anything. At least she couldn't see the mortified look on my face through the glitter.

Anyway, just got the CD and I am looking forward to listening this evening.

Name: Scott Gauss
Hometown: Winfield, IL

The NARM list is what you expect. Big selling albums and genuine breakthrough albums. I'm not sure how influential some of those big sellers are now, as most people would rather forget them, other than as a very occasional guilty pleasure. I didn't want to single out any one item, but I did a double-take over one album. It was a reunion album, and I can't recall ever hearing anything from it. You can make a case for the Eagles being influential, but Hell Freezes Over?

Name: Steve
Hometown: Hubbardton, VT

Eric,

I'm wondering why there isn't more buzz about Bill Richardson's bid for the Democratic nomination for President. Yes, Brooks praised him in last Sunday's Times -- maybe not a good thing, and about the only thing Brooks has ever written that I've agreed with. But other than that, there seems to be no interest in his candidacy. Whoever becomes the next president is going to inherit a sh*tstorm, and they better be someone with some chops, or they'll be chewed up the way Carter was chewed up and then spit out. Richardson has the best resume, as far as I can tell. He was a congressman for 14 years, secretary of Energy, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and has now been a pretty successful governor. And for those for whom it is important to break some barriers, Richardson is Hispanic. Aside from Gore getting in the race, there is no one else with that strong a background. Why don't we show this guy a little love?

Name: Mike
Hometown: Seattle

Eric:

Nice excerpt on Huckabee and the importance of music education. Some of us lawyers in Seattle believe in that very strongly. We've been putting on a battle of the Seattle law firm bands that we call Lawyerpalooza to raise money for elementary school music programs. Our fifth annual is this May 10th at the Showbox Theatre in Seattle. Visit us here.

Name: david williams
Hometown: Augusta, ME

Eric, the article from M.J., Israel problems within -- the link didn't work and it looks like an important piece. Please try to re-post it. Thanks.

Eric writes: Here it is again.

Name: Dave Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Dr. A.,

Thanks so much for your link to the music and art education issue.

Extracurricular is not even close. These are essential elements of a good education in the opinion of this humble chemist.

I think it is important to note that students who shy away from music and art do so because they perceive themselves to be "not good at it." The writer cannot carry a tune and has trouble with straight lines, even with the help of a ruler.

But the good Sisters taught me appreciation for these subjects to the extent that I have had a lifelong love for music and art. I also appreciate those who can render works of art and music, all the more because I was taught the various elements necessary to execute a finished product.

To say these are extracurricular activities is to demean their essential importance.

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