Marianne Gingrich has something to say

MARIANNE GINGRICH HAS SOMETHING TO SAY…. Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has a special kind of appreciation for marriage. Gingrich, for example, haggled over the terms of his divorce from his first wife while she was in the hospital, recovering from uterine cancer surgery. He had already proposed to his second wife before he was divorced from his first.

In the ’90s, this happened again. Gingrich had an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide — while spearheading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton — and asked his third wife to marry him before he was divorced from his second.

All of this, of course, would be easier to overlook if (a) Gingrich didn’t seem entirely serious about running for president in 2012; and (b) Gingrich weren’t running around saying things like, “The Democratic Party has been the active instrument of breaking down traditional marriage.”

The middle wife — the one between Newt’s first and third marriages — is Marianne, who once boasted she could end Gingrich’s career with a single interview. Marianne has shown remarkable restraint for over a decade, but appears to have given that interview to Esquire.

It’s a very lengthy piece, but the anecdote that’s likely to generate the most attention comes in her telling of the point in May 1999, soon after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, when Gingrich confessed to one of his affairs — with a woman who was in Marianne’s “apartment, eating off her plates, sleeping in her bed.”

[Marianne] called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet. ” ‘I can’t handle a Jaguar right now.’ He said that many times. ‘All I want is a Chevrolet.’ ”

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “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.”

Speaking to how the former Speaker sees the world, Marianne said Gingrich “believes that what he says in public and how he lives don’t have to be connected.” As for his presidential aspirations, she added, “There’s no way.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.