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Friday, May 13, 2011

Sociopath alert: Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, who declared that he was running for President yesterday, is someone whose sociopathy I've always been unsure about. There was that one famous incident where he asked his first wife for a divorce when she was in the recovery room recuperating from a cancer operation. Marriage is difficult and many people end up getting divorced, but to ask your wife for a divorce while she's still in the hospital gives off the very distinct -- and malodorous -- scent of sociopathy. (That version of events has been disputed by Gingrich himself, and his daughter has said that it was her mother who originally suggested the divorce.)

But apart from that one possible incident, I hadn't heard much about him that broadcast sociopathy, and you can't draw such a conclusion from just one incident, especially if it may not have happened as reported. I did read once that one of the people who had worked for him had once said, "Well, he may be a sociopath, but he's our sociopath." That still was not enough to convince me; a lot of people use the word who don't necessarily have a good feel for the syndrome.

The "Early life" section of the Wikipedia entry on Gingrich doesn't have any glaring clues which foretell sociopathy, as is sometimes the case. His mother's marriage to his biological father reportedly fell apart within days, perhaps a small hint to a troubled background. But after that Gingrich was raised by his mother and stepfather in what seemed a relatively stable way.

But then this article by John Podhoretz appeared in this morning's NY Post:

Podhoretz hinted at Gingrich's out of control ego several times. But there was one quote that really jumped out: Gingrich explained his various infidelities by saying, "There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

The quote reminded me of Bill Clinton's explanation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky: "I've tried to do a good job taking care of this country, even when I haven't taken such good care of myself and my family and my obligations."

That was enough for me. 

Lots of people have affairs. But only sociopaths justify them as a byproduct of excessive patriotism and hard work.

(Here is Part II of the case for Gingrich's sociopathy.)


Anonymous said...

Welcome back Newt. Maybe a modest increase in the average IQ of the field, but certainly not in character. When do the serious candidates declare?

John Craig said...

G -
I'm usually impressed by Gingrich's intelligence whenever I see him interviewed. He always dissects the Democratic position very effectively. But it is hard to knowingly mark your ballot for a sociopath.

Another strike against him in the general electorate's eyes is that he looks like a piece of pudge; they tend not to like to vote for fat boys. (I've heard it said that this would make it hard for Christie to be elected as well.)

Anonymous said...

John, I agree in general with your pudge point, but I think in CC’s case it may be an electoral positive. He is respected and admired by much of the electorate for his direct "face the facts style" on difficult issues. This stands in stark contrast to the evasive, dissembling and cowardly politics of so many others. He is similarly direct and honest about his own weight, and it adds authenticity to his politics.

John Craig said...

G --
I would vote for Christie myself, but people are always swayed by appearance, whether they realize it or not. (And they're probably more swayed when they don't realize it.) I agree with your analysis of his style.

Anonymous said...

With Newt Gingrich, I've always thought that it's hard to believe that he's a sociopath. He comes across as intelligent, just an average, pudgy looking man.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
There's nothing average about Gingrich except for the way he looks. He's an incredibly smart man who's about the best debater I've ever seen. He never loses his nerve, he's always got the facts at his fingertips, and he's never intimidated by anybody or any situation. Whether he's sparring with other Presidential candidates in a primary debate or sparring with a newscaster on TV, he's always impressively sharp. But that nerve, that almost superhuman confidence, and the contempt that comes through on a fairly regular basis all stem from his sociopathy.

If he had been a better-looking guy he might have ended up as our President at some point.