Bad Apologies Are Worse Than No Apologies

Let’s say you’ve been married three times.

According to your first wife, you left her when she was recovering in a hospital after cancer surgery.

According to your second wife, you asked permission to have an affair and dumped her during a Mother’s Day phone call just months after learning she might have a condition leading to Multiple Sclerosis.

Let’s make this a bit more complicated: You want to run for president. As a Republican. And you know that primary voters in Republican elections are among the most socially conservative members of your party.
What should you do?

If you’re likely 2012 GOP candidate Newt Gingrich, you offer a preposterous explanation for those affairs.

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

Wait…what? He cheated on and left two wives because of his patriotism?

Mr. Gingrich’s path to the Republican nomination was never going to be easy, but he’s making a tough situation even worse. Female voters who know about Mr. Gingrich’s sordid love life are already leaning against his candidacy, but now he’s something even worse: a guy who not only cheats on his sick wives, but has the audacity to try to spin it as a positive.

In this situation, there’s only one thing Mr. Gingrich should have said:

“I am embarrassed by the way I conducted my personal life years ago, and I offer no excuses. I know that voters will judge me, and they have every right to. I can only hope that the way I have conducted myself over the past decade will be part of their calculation.”

When I analyzed Newt Gingrich’s possible candidacy last August, I wrote that, “…the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior – and Mr. Gingrich’s track record suggests he is almost pathologically determined to stray off message and create unnecessary distractions.”

I gave him a “C-“ at the time. Mr. Gingrich continues to earn every bit of that grade.

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