The Campaign Spot

With a Tiffany’s Bill Like That, Call Him Newt Bling-rich

Between Arnold and Pepe LeCrook running the IMF, this was among the more depressing Morning Jolts in a while. So I picked the Newt Gingrich controversy that was most bewildering and bizarre:

Newt Bling-rich

So many Newt Gingrich stories, so little time. But let’s start with the little blue box.

Politico: “Newt Gingrich, a fiscal conservative? Not when it comes to Tiffany’s. In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for two decades, retired in 1999. But his wife, Callista Gingrich, was employed by the House Agriculture Committee until 2007, according to public records. She listed a “revolving charge account” at Tiffany and Company in the liability section of her personal financial disclosure form for two consecutive years and indicated that it was her spouse’s debt. The liability was reported in the range of $250,001 to $500,000.When asked by POLITICO whether Gingrich has settled this debt, and why he owed between a quarter-million and a half-million dollars to a jeweler, Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s spokesman, declined to comment. ‘No comment,’ he said in an email.”

In the grand scheme of things, compared to say, offering a sound-bite that will be used against every incumbent House Republican in 2012, this may seem like small potatoes. But I look at stories like this and wonder if our political class don’t just travel in different circles that we do; they travel in different realms of existence, it would seem. I’m glad that post-Speaker life offered Gingrich a chance to enjoy a quality of life that was magnificent, even opulent.

But when it comes to being a quarter-million to a half-million in debt to a jewelry company… sorry, Newt, I can’t say I’ve been there, and exceptionally few Republican primary voters can say that, either.

Dave Weigel: “I’ve been working on other stuff today and couldn’t keep track of the buffeting Newt Gingrich is taking even if I wanted to. Politico’s scoop about the Gingriches’ debt to Tiffany’s is the kind of detail, like John Edwards’ haircuts or Dan Quayle’s spelling, that lends itself so easily to Jay Leno monologues that it might never fade. It’s like watching a Street Fighter II character get flurry-slapped by E. Honda. And it’s all happening to a fascinating candidate whom no one would call the frontrunner.”

It would make it particularly challenging for Gingrich to be the standard-bearer for the party that wants to reign in runaway spending and control the debt, no? And while having a massive debt to a luxury company is politically problematic, the fact that Team Gingrich doesn’t appear to have been prepared for that inquiry at all is vaporizing those last few molecules of reassurance that he and the folks around him are up to the arduous task of a winning campaign.

I don’t often link to left-of-center columnists bashing Republican figures, but I marvel at how Newt has made it so effortless for them now. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart: “ What on earth did he buy? Look, I have had one of those cards for almost 20 years. But I have been a little afraid to use it much for fear of one day having to live out of one of those blue boxes because of an inability to meet the monthly payments. On the rare occasions I do use it, the bill is paid in full. Wait, that would make me something of a fiscal conservative. Would that Gingrich could continue to make the same claim.”

I suspect that upon hearing the news, Maureen Dowd reacted like Meg Ryan in the diner scene in “When Harry Met Sally.” She’ll be writing about this for years.

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