Gingrich is a “Berlusconi”

Repeatedly knocked down by political missteps and personal scandals Newt Gingrich has emerged as the force in the GOP nomination race.

His penchant for living a politically dangerous life is reminiscent of another bombastic politician: Silvio Berlusconi.

There is something magical about Newt Gingrich.  How any politician can be that resilient is shocking, even scandalous.  Repeating mistakes that nearly sunk Clinton once and emerging relatively unscathed must take a lot of political skill, some blind luck, or a folksy appeal to an electoral base.  Sounds familiar? Silvio Berlusconi has been the master of such political Twister for over two decades.

Below the two playboys are compared and a few key “milestones” of their political careers are highlighted.  One cannot help but marvel at the similarities between the two when accounting for differences in cultural palates of naughty behavior: Newt Gingrich is the Silvio Berlusconi for a Family-Values Republican audience.

Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi

  • Silvio divorced his first wife, Carla Elvira Dall Oglio in 1985.
  • Silvio was convicted in 1990 of lying about his membership in Propaganda 2, a shady quasi-Masonic Lodge, however, the conviction was ultimately extinguished by an amnesty law.
  • In 1998, Silvio got 2 years and 9 months for bribing tax inspectors; however, the conviction was later overturned by a statute of limitations.
  • In 2003, Silvio was acquitted of a false accounting charge laid by his government, while the next year President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi refused to sign a bill which weakened independence of judiciary.
  • In 2007 Oggi magazine published “Berlusconi’s Harem” with photos of him with several young women at his villa.
  • In 2008, a former topless model, Mara Carfanga became his Equal Opportunities Minister.
  • In 2009 Berlusconi’s wife, Veronica Lario, left him because he “consort[ed] with minors.”  He apparently attended the birthday party of an 18 year old model.  It should be noted that Silvio met Veronica while she was standing topless performing in a play called “The Magnificent Cuckold” in 1980.
  • Later that year recordings of him speaking with a prostitute in his bed were released.
  • Silvio’s “bunga bunga” parties were investigated as well as his relationship with 18-year old belly dancer Karima el-Mahroug.

Newton Leroy “The Newt” Gingrich         

  • Newt was married to his former geometry teacher, Jackie Battley (7 years his senior) from 1962-1980.
  • He left Battley in 1980 after having an affair with Marianne Ginther, whom he subsequently married 6 months before the divorce with Battley was finalized. He also may or may not have visited Battley in hospital to discuss the terms of divorce.
  • When Gingrich served as Speaker of the House 84 charges were laid against him and a $300,000 fine was levied against him by the House Committee on Ethics.  He was the first speaker in the history of the United States to have ethics violations laid against him.
  • During his term as Speaker he had an affair with Callista Bisek, an aide 23 years his junior while leading the campaign to impeach President Clinton for perjury arising out of the Lewinsky affair.  He married Bisek in 2000.
  • Gingrich was paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac for “strategic advice” after he left office.
  • Newt was endorsed in the GOP nomination race by none other than that pillar of chastity and fidelity, Herman Cain.
  • Newt promised to remain faithful to his wife if elected President in 2012.
  • John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, called Gingrich “inconsistent, erratic, untrustworthy and unprincipled.”

As it stands both men have some difficulty telling the truth and staying faithful to their partners.  They both share a knack for being very flexible on political principles.  Both men are viewed as somewhat scandalous in their respective countries and both have been able to display a strange sort of charm to the electorate in remaining so resilient.  In short, they have both been playboys but not too much to hamper their political success.

Direct comparisons may be difficult as Italy and the United States have different aggregate expectations of their leaders’ behaviour while in office.  As a result, Newt’s resume is light compared to the legendary feats accomplished by Il Cavaliere in his lifetime.  However, when taking cultural differences into account one can only conclude the following: Newt Gingrich is Silvio Berlusconi toned down to be palatable to a family values GOP audience.

This article was the first in the #2012 Series covering the U.S. Election on