Bob Livingston Muses on the Morality of Public Figures

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 19 2012 11:16 PM

Bob Livingston Muses on the Morality of Public Figures

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Everybody, everybody saw it coming. When John King asked Newt Gingrich to respond to ABC News's interview with his second wife, it was obvious: Newt would attack the media and get a "moment." In the spin room, I asked Family Research Council president Tony Perkins how he liked the answer.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

"I was thinking that John King threw him a softball," said Perkins. "That's been Newt's strong point, taking on the media. Quite frankly, people like that, because there is a sense that the media is biased toward conservatives. Unfortunately, I think they played right into Newt['s hands]."

Advertisement

Romney surrogate John Sununu agreed with that. "They made it easy for him to merely deny and move on," he said. "But I don't think it was anything more than clumsiness on their part. I don't think they did it deliberately."

I walked over to former Rep. Bob Livingston just as he was getting a version of the question. Livingston, we all remember, has a unique perspective. He was one of the Republicans who helped impeach Bill Clinton. When Gingrich resigned in disgrace, Livingston briefly became speaker-designate -- until his own affair became public knowledge, and he resigned. Tonight, Livingston was citing Clinton for proof that Gingrich would endure and thrive.

"Bill Clinton is one of the most charismatic public figures in American society today," said Livingston. "He's still got a lot of problems of that nature that if you guys wanted to talk about, you could talk about. You don't, because he's a charismatic guy."

I wondered how far Livingston could take the comparison, because Clinton wasn't actually running for anything.

"He finished eight years in office as president of the United States!" said Livingston. "We impeached him in the House, meaning we charged him. The Senate did not convict him. So he went on to complete his term. Now he's got more money than God!"

So did the Clinton saga give him an idea of what sins Americans were willing to forgive?

"I think exactly that! I think that the American people are a forgiving people, and they understand that nobody runs for office as a perfect human being. We're all flawed in some fashion, and the question is not so much what your flaws are, but can you perform in the interest of the people, and do they have the trust in you to endow you with the opportunity."

At this point, a BBC reporter incredulously asked Livingston if he forgave Clinton.

"I've seen Clinton on a number of occasions," said Livingston, "and we get along very well."

The reporter asked if Livingston regretted impeachment. "Wait a minute," he said. "We're not talking about impeachment. I'm telling you, I get along with Bill Clinton. He's fun to talk to. You want to go back and talk about the impeachment, I'll tell you why we impeached Bill Clinton. He lied under oath. Newt Gingrich has not lied under oath. You are typical of the people who've misunderstood the whole impeachment stuff."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 3:59 PM The Trailer for Taken 3 Is Here, and Guess Who’s on His Phone Again
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.