Reuters has the first of what will prove to be many soft and fuzzy profiles of front-runnin’ Newt Gingrich’s helmet-headed helpmate, Callista.
Last summer, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, hosted a band reunion for alumni. Callista Gingrich attended and took a place among 25 French horns. As the band practiced for its concert on a bright July weekend, her husband, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, sat patiently in the hallway outside.
“He was very low-key,” music professor Timothy Peter recalled. Never mind that Gingrich’s campaign for the Republican nomination had imploded a few weeks earlier, with the mass defection of his staff, who complained, publicly, that Gingrich was putting commitments to his wife ahead of his campaign duties – in particular a June cruise of the Greek islands.
Five months later, Gingrich is leading in many polls, and campaign press secretary R.C. Hammond credits Callista with the turnaround. Several times over the summer Newt considered dropping his candidacy, Hammond said.
“She was the glue that held the campaign together.”
How lovely, and speaking of blowing the French horn, kudos to Reuters for mentioning that Callista toughed out a grueling six year apprenticeship letting Newt bounce his neuticles® on her chin (because with Newt, “eatin’ ain’t cheatin‘”) while he was still married to wife #2. No, that’s not the wife with cancer whom he dumped at the hospital. The one after her.
Early advisors to the Gingrich campaign cautioned that putting Callista front and center would be a constant reminder to family-values voters of their six-year affair, which began in 1993 when he was a Congressman married to his second wife and she was a congressional aide 23 years his junior.
It was going on at the same time that Gingrich was vociferously leading the prosecution of President Bill Clinton for a sexual dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, which would expose him to charges of hypocrisy as well.
After college, Callista headed to Washington to work for a Congressman she knew from Wisconsin. She had been a radio host in high school and considered pursuing her interest in broadcasting at Boston’s Emerson College, according to Hammond.
Instead, she met Gingrich and began the long affair that carried through to Newt’s resignation from Congress in 1999 following a stormy tenure as speaker and a formal reprimand for ethics violations. In December of that year he divorced his second wife, Marianne, and married Callista eight months later.
And now Newt Gingrich is a good Catholic, just like Callista!
Among the changes in his life since marrying Callista, Gingrich has converted to Catholicism, taken up golf, and embraced his wife’s love of music. Even as the campaign accelerates, she has rarely missed her bi-weekly choir practices at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, according to music director Peter Latona.
“She’s almost religious about it,” he said. She also plays French horn in the Fairfax community orchestra.
Just like they always say: blow what you know….