I am a divorce attorney at The LaMantia Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina. While I have not been at it for very long, in some capacity or another I have been involved in the practice of family law for about two years now.
When news of the Marianne Gingrich interview currently being sat upon by ABC News broke last night thanks to the Drudge Report, I found myself digging into the history of the divorce between Ms. Gingrich and the former House Speaker. I was curious about the procedure. I was curious about the terms of their agreement. I was curious about the circumstances that precipitated filing in the first place. And, in looking for information on those things, insofar as Marianne Gingrich’s inevitable comments and insight provided in such a timely fashion by ABC are concerned, what struck me most were not so much anything in particular about those terms or circumstances, but rather the way in which Marianne Gingrich has conducted herself and the tenor, tone and nature of everything said in the years since the divorce was made final.
As a divorce attorney, we see a lot of different types of people who come through our door. Some parties and couples are ready to move on. Some couples are visibly relieved when the final agreement has been signed, hands have been shaken, and they leave the courtroom with the last page of the previous chapter of their lives having been turned.
Other parties and couples, however, are not so ready. Some spouses never find themselves capable of moving on. Perhaps it is the nature of the events that precipitated the divorce. Perhaps it is the way that one spouse conducts him or herself in light of those events. Perhaps it is the way that one parent conducts him or herself in the context of visitation and custody matters. Some people never get over it. Some people are so vindictive that they continue to wish ill will upon their ex-spouses for decades — even after remarriage, even after building a new family, even after moving on in nearly every other aspect of their lives, and more often than not without rhyme, reason or rationale.
Many bemoan any and all success and happiness enjoyed by their former spouse. Many feel as though they continue to have an equitable interest in successes enjoyed by their ex-husbands or ex-wives years after their marital relationship came to fruition. Marianne Gingrich may be no different, and perhaps the reason that ABC News debated whether or not to wait until after this Saturday’s Palmetto State Primary to air the interview is because she comes across as vindictive rather than productive, as a jilted spouse rather than a former wife with substantive, meritworthy contributions to the assessment of the fitness of a presidential candidate.
According to National Review’s Robert Costa, the Gingrich camp insists that the ABC News interview is little more than a “retread” of a piece run in the September 2010 issue of Esquire magazine. And while the author of that piece, John Richardson, insists on the very first page that Marianne Gingrich “is not bitter,” much of what she has to say shows otherwise. A few excerpts:
It’s been twelve years since his extraordinary political career — the one in which he went from being a bomb-throwing backbencher in the seemingly permanent Republican minority to overthrowing the established order of both parties — collapsed around him. And yet, stunningly, in all that time Newt Gingrich hasn’t been replaced as the philosopher king of the conservative movement. And as the summer rolled on, a revivified Gingrich sat atop the early polls of Republican presidential contenders, leading the field in California, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas and polling strongly in Illinois and Pennsylvania. This year he has raised as much money as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee combined. He is in constant motion, traveling all over the country attending rallies and meetings. He writes best sellers, makes movies, appears regularly on Fox News.
And Marianne Gingrich, his closest advisor during his last fit of empire building, sits on the boardwalk chain-smoking her breakfast.
Newt always wanted to be somebody,” she says. “That was his vulnerability, do you understand? Being treated important. Which means he was gonna associate with people who would stroke him, and were important themselves. And in that vulnerability, once you go down that path and it goes unchecked, you add to it. Like, ‘Oh, I’m drinking, who cares?’ Then you start being a little whore, ’cause that comes with drinking. That’s what corruption is — when you’re too exhausted, you’re gonna go with your weakness. So when we see corruption, we shouldn’t say, ‘They’re all corrupt.’ Rather, we should say, ‘At what point did you decide that? And why? Why were you vulnerable?’ “
The wide disparity between Gingrich’s account and his ex-wife’s account of even simple things–Newt says that his childhood was “like a Norman Rockwell painting,” while Marianne scoffs and insists that Newt’s mother was “pretty drugged up” and that his father was “a drinker”–is not uncommon in what we do; I continuously find it amazing that two people can have two fundamentally different accounts of a given event, whether it be an argument, a reconciliation, or anything in between.
Comments by Marianne Gingrich about how, in Richardson’s words, she “began to entertain fears about his fundamental decency,” or in her own words about how Newt “sold out” for an “opulent” lifestyle and became a “whore” in his quest to be treated like someone of import, about how he became a “dead weight” when his political career crumbled around him, or about how his conversion to Catholicism “has no meaning” — these are not the comments of someone interested in moving forward in their life, but rather stand as examples of the sort of vindictive bomb-throwing exhibited by those who simply are unhappy with not only their circumstances but with themselves as well.
“Unfortunately, the saying about a spouse scorned is all too true,” says Anthony LaMantia, Esq., senior partner at The LaMantia Law Firm with more than 15 years of experience as a family law practitioner. ”I frequently come across parties who believe in their minds that they were empire builders and the success of their spouse can be solely attributed to their ‘work behind the scenes’.”
“I find that it particularly difficult to assist those parties with moving on with their lives in a positive manner for themselves and their children,” LaMantia says. “It can be very sad when their future lives are dictated by the spite and vitriol, consuming their lives and their relationships with their family, friends and children.”
At The LaMantia Law Firm here in Charleston, attorneys like Anthony LaMantia and I strive for stability. Stability is essential when children are involved, and stability can often act as a placeholder until the parties are capable enough of moving on to the next chapter in their lives that they themselves strive for more stability. People like Marianne Gingrich, however, feverishly and obsessively shun the very idea of stability. People like Marianne Gingrich cannot let go, and will do anything in their power to prevent their ex-spouse from doing so. We see it fairly often. It’s a kind of self-destructive behavior that is not uncommon in those vindictive ex-spouses who bemoan any success or happiness enjoyed by their former wife or husband.
While she accuses her former husband of attempting to remake and rebrand his own personal history so much that he has lost sight with his former self, Marianne Gingrich herself seems confused and, even in the divorce proceedings, approached matters inconsistently. This is a woman, after all, who seems shattered by how the former House Speaker called her at her mother’s home to inform her that he wanted a divorce, and yet according to the Associated Press, she did the very same thing to him roughly six years before — on his birthday, no less. This is a woman who, in 1987, moved everything but a television and a guest bed out of the parties’ marital home and yet, during their eventual divorce, moved to obtain an Order of the Court enjoining the former House Speaker from transferring, concealing or otherwise disposing of marital assets.
What I see is a confused, bitter woman. And she has every right to be, as the dissolution of marriage is an emotional experience. What is not right however, is that publications such as Esquire and purportedly objective news organizations such as ABC News disseminate Ms. Gingrich’s statements as unequivocal truth, and do so at a time when it best serves the interests of those who oppose Newt Gingrich’s candidacy.
As it stands now, prior to even a hint that Marianne Gingrich had sat down for two hours with ABC News reporter Brian Ross, two different polls here in South Carolina show that the former House Speaker is either gaining significantly on Mitt Romney’s lead, or has eclipsed him already. A POLITICO poll shows Gingrich at 30 percent to Romney’s 37 percent, while poll conducted yesterday evening by InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research shows Newt resonating with 32 percent of Palmetto State voters to Romney’s 29 percent, a sharp contrast to the 11-point lead the former Massachusetts governor held as recently as Sunday.
Now, with the just-announced exit of Texas governor Rick Perry, all bets are off. My prediction (here and here) earlier this week was that the groundswell waiting to happen for Newt here in the Lowcountry was waiting for a trigger, and said trigger could be exit of either Perry or Rick Santorum. If voters here got the feeling that Newt could win South Carolina, where voters have picked the eventual GOP nominee every year since 1980, Newt’s poll numbers would explode much like Santorum’s popularity exploded in Iowa once voters realized that he was a viable, electable candidate after all.
The question, however, is whether Newt can weather the storm coming from ABC News and his second wife. For a while now, I have maintained that the measure for success in the general election will not be determined by which candidate has less baggage–as even those candidates without significant baggage, such as Herman Cain, will have baggage imputed to them by the mainstream press–but rather by the ability of a given candidate to deflect personal attacks and go back on the offensive against Barack Obama and the Democrats. If any candidate is capable of that, it is Newt Gingrich — and here are five ways that the former House Speaker can, and should, respond:
“This shows that Barack Obama and the mainstream media fear me most.
Therefore, I am the most electable Republican candidate.”
While advertisements here in the Palmetto State started with a focus on social and economic issues, as the primary has drawn closer that focus has shifted to electability. Rick Santorum has aired advertisements stating that, as “a broad-spectrum conservative,” he is the most likely candidate to beat Barack Obama. Mitt Romney has used statements from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to say the same. Gingrich has done the same, using as an example his record in Washington with regard to welfare reform, paying down the national debt, and more.
Newt would benefit from using this ABC News interview, as well as the way in which ABC rolled it out, as evidence of how a sycophantic media took down the candidate that was seen as surging, much as was done to former candidate Herman Cain when he reached his peak. President Barack Obama, after all, is giving a major speech on tourism at Walt Disney World on the very day that the Marianne Gingrich interview is to air, arguably doing a favor for the parent company of the network that may have done him a favor as well.
“I was not a great person then, but I have learned from my mistakes.
Barack Obama, however, all too often doubles down on his.”
Such an approach, preferably taken today before the interview airs, would provide the former House Speaker with an opportunity to put the skunk on the table in such a way that he is in better control of the optics surrounding the interview with his former wife. When it comes to marital litigation, I always advocate such an approach — each spouse can and will have something bad to say about the other; I’d rather my client introduce his or her shortcomings on our terms rather than on the terms of the other side.
Such an approach also gives Newt the opportunity to turn the dialogue back onto his core arguments against President Obama quickly, effectively and directly. Whether it be the president’s failure to project strength with regard to foreign policy time and time again, or whether it be the way that the president’s continued belief in the merits of government intervention in the private sector backfires repeatedly, turning the tables in such a way allows Speaker Gingrich to acknowledge his own shortcomings, atone for them, and then shift the focus on the failures of the president.
“Here goes the MSM talking to my ex-wife for two hours,
but they’ve never spent a minute looking into Obama’s college records.”
Without diving down the deep, dark rabbit hole of birtherism, it might be worthwhile highlighting to the American public that we really, truly do not know much about the president of the United States. Much to the chagrin of John Kerry, college transcripts became a staple of presidential politics in the 2004 election, and it might be worth knowing–or at least planting the seeds of doubt–about how our fearless, brilliant leader performed in school.
Such an approach would also provide the former Speaker with the opportunity to highlight what we do know about President Obama’s philosophies, from his own words in his two autobiographies to the various associations that so many of us tried to talk about in the days, weeks and months leading up to the 2008 election. The danger here is that we once again rehash old arguments — just as, to a certain extent, Newt Gingrich’s infidelity is built into his poll numbers, Barack Obama’s associations with folks like William Ayers, Tony Rezko and Rashid Khalidi are most certainly built into his.
“Two words: Vera Baker.
Don’t know her? Ask the mainstream media why.”
Consider this the nuclear option. The Baker story never really gained traction with the mainstream press, and by bringing it up now Gingrich could look petty and vindictive himself. However, if done skillfully, the very nature of the media response to the Baker story could be characterized as an indictment of media bias. After all, it did take the mainstream press more than one year to cover the infidelities of former presidential candidate John Edwards after the National Enquirer broke the story prior to the Iowa Caucus in 2008.
“Yes, I wasn’t a good person then, but how is this substantive?
I challenge Barack Obama to a three-hour substantive debate on issues.”
It doesn’t take a genius to acknowledge that Newt Gingrich’s strength has been in the copious amounts of debates seen on the GOP side over the past ten months or so. I believe that most conservatives and Republicans, regardless of which candidate they believe would make the best president of the United States, firmly believe that Newt Gingrich is best suited to debate Barack Obama.
This approach, like the second approach above, would put the skunk on the table while putting the issue of his infidelity in perspective. For example, many states across the country–this one included–still are seeing more than ten percent unemployment. Just yesterday, President Obama killed an oil pipeline project that would have produced tens of thousands of jobs in the short term and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the long term, all while simultaneously decreasing America’s dependence on oil from unstable and unfriendly Middle Eastern nations.
“The amount of new clients we have seen since the Boeing facility opened in North Charleston is incredible,” says Anthony LaMantia. “And we are just catering to those with problems in their marriage and with their children. If we have seen such an increase in work, imagine what the restaurants have seen, imagine what the auto dealerships, the hair salons, the supermarkets, the moms and pops of the local economy here have seen.”
“And that’s, what? Four thousand? Five thousand people in just one assembly facility in North Charleston?” LaMantia asks. “Imagine those 20,000 jobs from the pipeline, spread out across several states. We should be talking about this, not Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife.”
Yes, we should. Marianne Gingrich is a woman scorned, a woman who has said on several occasions since 1999 that she could end her ex-husband’s career with a single interview. This country has serious problems, problems that need not be colored by one opinion or another in order to be apparent. There is no dismissing our rising debt as merely a manifestation of a jilted spouse. There is no ignoring the threat of a nuclear Iran simply because of questions into the credibility of those who bring up the topic.
We are very much in trouble here in the United States of America. Like many of the clients who walk through our doors, we are in desperate need of stability. If the man best suited to help is imperfect, so be it.