The temptation of Callista Gingrich
Until now, the flawlessly coiffed Callista has been granted a fairly generous berth in the public arena. By some unspoken agreement, it seemed unseemly to dwell on the past. The Gingriches have been admirably forthcoming about the transgressions that preceded their marriage, and they’ve sought forgiveness in both the religious and temporal realms. Voters either will look beyond the former speaker’s personal history or they won’t. At some point, even a public person’s past is no one’s business. Call it a statute of limitations on human frailty.
But there are other measures by which to judge people who dare to lead 300 million diverse individuals. We don’t elect spouses, we’re fond of pretending. But we do elect them, if sometimes unconsciously. Not only do they represent our idea of the familial ideal to the nation and the rest of the world, but they also engage in pillow talk with the president of the United States. No other influence compares.
So the question is, what prompted Callista Gingrich to abandon the relatively safe role of admiring sidekick and take up arms on Twitter against Mitt Romney? And what might we infer by her actions?
The tweets in question were actually retweets of someone else’s comments. But travelers in the Twitterverse understand that a retweet is, if not a ringing endorsement of the contents, at least a signal to one’s followers: “Hey, check this out!”
What Callista Gingrich thought worthy of sharing were two comments about Romney’s style and appearance—two risky arenas, needless to say. One concerned a photo of a younger Romney and pals with money spilling out of their pockets. Romney predicted that this photo, clearly taken in fun, would become popular with his political opponents. Doubtless, he was imagining Democratic foes rather than an opponent’s wife, whose own fondness for luxury tests irony’s patience.
The other tweet concerned a recent Romney television interview: “Poor Romney. He just is a sound bite candidate. Chris Wallace pulled the string from his back, and he spewed consultant approved policy.”
Spewed? This is not generally a word with which an aspiring first lady would wish to associate. The string-pulling image is also a risky invitation given Gingrich’s own style, which can best be described as mannequin-esque. See what I mean? I’m not sayin’, I’m just retweeting.
It comes as no surprise that Callista is rooting against her husband’s primary opponent, but discretion is no part of it, further underscoring the understanding that the Gingriches are a team. A twofer, we dare say, though Newt has been explicit in declaring his wife more Laura Bush than Hillary Clinton. He went even further to say she’s a blend of Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan, with a smidgeon of Jackie Kennedy thrown in.
That’s quite a cocktail—and a high bar for any woman. Then again, perhaps Newt is seeing his wife through champagne eyes?
There are surely some similarities. Callista and Laura use the same hair salon in Washington. Callista gives Newt the same upward-turned admiring attention that Nancy gave her husband. And her affinity for Tiffany jewels and Mediterranean yachts perhaps makes her Jackie-esque.
On the other hand, maybe Callista Gingrich is simply herself—a full partner in Gingrich Productions, a franchise that sells books, makes documentaries and that has provided a profitable vehicle for promoting a couple with an itch to redecorate the White House. They are professed soul mates who like to hang out together.
Part of their routine includes returning to Washington each Sunday so Callista can take her place in the choir loft at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Last weekend, while other candidates were polishing the doorknobs of Iowa voters, Newt was back here watching Callista play French horn with the City of Fairfax Band. Before that, the two signed books at the Mount Vernon gift shop. Their halos are nearly blinding.
The Gingriches may be utterly sincere in action and pure of motive—no better or worse than any other politician who weighs every sound bite and photo op for optimum effect. But this aspiring first wife has tread where few others have dared—stepping out front to slay her husband’s foe.
It may have been a spontaneous act of minor recklessness. But it was also certainly more Hillary Clinton than Laura Bush.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.