It ain’t just liberals and big media that are groaning at this explanation. Among conservative outlets/pundits that are rolling their eyes: The Daily Caller, Jim Geraghty of NRO, Philip Klein of AmSpec (who snarks, “Wilt Chamberlain must have really loved his country”), and John Podhoretz of Commentary, who advises Newt not to bother running after this bon mot. The full answer, for context:
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. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them. I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there’s a forgiving God.
Somebody once said that when we’re young, we seek justice, but as we get older, we seek mercy. There’s something to that, I think. I feel that I’m now 67 I’m a grandfather. I have two wonderful grandchildren. I have two wonderful daughters and two great sons-in-law. Callista and I have a great marriage. I think that I’ve learned an immense amount.
And I do feel, in that sense, that God has given me, has blessed me with an opportunity as a person. Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I’ve had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice.
At the Atlantic, Joshua Green notes that this sounds strikingly similar to the explanation Donald Trump recently gave for his own infidelities. It’s all about work-related stress — albeit in Newt’s case, with a tinge of selfless patriotism. Klein wonders why that excuse wasn’t good enough for Bill Clinton:
While he is admitting that he did something wrong, he’s also trying to justify his behavior by aggrandizing himself. My own view is, when you’re owning up to something, you own up to it fully. You don’t try to explain or justify it yourself. The problem Gingrich faces when it comes to his personal problems is that the best possible argument a politician can make in these cases is that people should separate personal indiscretions from performance in office. Yet as leader of the effort to impeach President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Gingrich is in the worst possible position to make that argument. So we’ll have to keep a close watch on how this goes over with the base.
I don’t think this will lose him any evangelicals — as long as he’s repented and sought divine forgiveness, he’s done right, no? — but good luck picking up less religious undecideds once his opponents start bludgeoning him with the quote. If Romney et al. don’t destroy him with it, Obama will.
CNN is reporting tonight that he’s planning a formal announcement in late May, which I guess means he’ll also be missing that NBC/Politico debate at the Reagan library two months from now. Exit question: Is it smart to talk about how national public service has led you to behave cruelly and erratically when you’re, er, running to be president?