Newt Gingrich's Latest Problem? His Massive Tiffany & Co. Debt
This is the kind of politician-spending-habit story that won't die, now being labeled the GOP equivalent to that pesky John Edwards haircut. Ridiculous as such stories are, they have a way of catching on in the media and refusing to let go. In the New York Times this morning:
It has been a week since Politico broke the news that while working for the House Agriculture Committee, Mr. Gingrich’s wife, Callista, filed forms for 2005 and 2006 disclosing her husband’s “revolving charge” of $250,001 to $500,000 with Tiffany. Mr. Gingrich, insisting his jewelry buying habits are his own business, has declined to say what he bought.
But the glittering strand of diamonds that Mrs. Gingrich wore last month to the Washington premiere of the couple’s latest documentary movie looks strikingly like one that Tiffany advertises for $45,000. And Time magazine’s Web site on Tuesday posted a slide show of Mrs. Gingrich wearing various baubles that seemed straight out of the Tiffany catalog, including what looks like a $22,000 pair of diamond and gold starburst earrings “inspired by electrons orbiting in the nucleus of an atom.”
Okay, okay, you say, this is gossipy and sordid (wait, her necklace inspired by electrons and atoms? Do Republicans even believe in that stuff or do they think they're god-particles?). Articles like these bring the level of discourse down. And yet...
Should the personal spending habits of politicans matter that much, or should we focus on politics? Well, let's face it, Americans loathe the appearance of hypocrisy, perhaps too much. And in an era of austerity for many, this can't loo good. Here's why the Times says those endless jewel bills won't leave Gingrich alone.
As House speaker, Mr. Gingrich preached the virtues of fiscal conservatism; now he is struggling to explain how spending large sums on jewelry fits in with that philosophy. And while a spokesman for Tiffany confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Gingrich had paid the debt in full, with no interest, parrying questions about a six-figure jewelry bill is hardly what his campaign needs at a time when many Americans are out of work or have lost their homes.
The episode also reinforced what campaign strategists like to call “negatives” — in Mr. Gingrich’s case, questions about his personal life, which includes two divorces and a six-year secret affair with Mrs. Gingrich, then Callista Bisek, when she was a House aide and he was speaker.