Schadenfreude and Hypocrisy


The very first German word that I ever learned was “Schadenfreude.”  What’s sad and funny at the same time is that I learned it from Lisa Simpson.  It was the first of many for this old German major, but for those not in the know, Schadenfreude means “shameful happiness.”  Schadenfreude is that particular emotion experienced when something bad happens to someone else and you feel pretty darn good about it.  That’s how I feel about Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne Ginther, taking to ABC News to tell the American people why Newt Gingrich would be an unsuitable choice for president.  As a side note, I might add that German is a wonderful language that has a particular ability to convey exceedingly complex ideas in one relatively concise word.

There are a whole lot of reasons why Newt Gingrich shouldn’t be president that have nothing to do with the women in his life.  Newt’s record is hardly consistent with his rhetoric.  For one thing, he accepted a pretty tidy sum of money for being an “advisor” to Freddie Mac.  That’s a polite way of saying he was a lobbyist who essentially got paid to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Republicans who were calling for an end to Freddie.  Since Freddie is still around, one can only assume that Newt had his way with them and was therefore worth his $1.8 million price tag.  It is not surprising that this man has been prosecuted for so-called “influence peddling.”

What is particularly galling about Gingrinch, especially in light of what is known about his personal life, is that he tries to pretend that is a morally upstanding individual.  Even without Ginther’s remarks, set to air on ABC less than 48 hours before the South Carolina primaries, you don’t have to look all that hard to find out how Gingrich historically behaves behind closed doors.  He left his first wife while she was battling uterine cancer.  Although the actual incident has been debated in the media, what is known is that he left his wife while she was known to have cancer, he was having affairs, and the divorce battle was apparently quite bitter.  According to an old article by Salon, The First Baptist Church in his hometown had to take up a collection to help provide for the family he left.

Gingrich gave nearly a repeat performance in his marriage to Marianne Ginther.  Ginther is claiming that Gingrich left her shortly after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Ginther claims that she was aware at that point that Gingrich had been having a long-term affair with his current wife, Callista Bisek, who was working as his aide at the time.  Incidentally, Gingrich also condemned then-President Bill Clinton for somewhat similar behavior.

A lot of people will say that their private life is nobody else’s business.  Everyone is entitled to their privacy.  However, when one goes into the political arena, much like when one makes it big in Hollywood, you give up some of that privacy in exchange for political power and recognition.  To think that people will not be curious about the individual in question is foolhardy, given that most people, frankly, are nosy, and that we live in a society where it seems like everyone tells everything – even the things that you don’t really want to know.  Does this truth make the loss of privacy okay?  Not necessarily, but at the end of the day, it’s difficult to stop the morbidly curious.

Privacy issues aside, I’ve heard a lot of Europeans make the claim that Americans care too much about their leaders’ private lives.  A line that I often heard in Germany and France was that we needed to stop being so “Puritan” and allow that nobody is perfect.  This is true.  We are all flawed individuals.  However, I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with expecting your leaders to live up to certain standards.  Do they have to be perfect?  Of course not.  It’s an unreasonable expectation.  However, there is nothing wrong with being desirous of a leader who holds himself to high standards both intellectually and morally.

Does one’s behavior in his or her private life have any reflection on how good or bad a leader he/she will make?  In many cases, it seems like the answer is yes.  It seems to follow logically that a person who has no problems leaving a sick spouse for their side piece wouldn’t have too many moral qualms about abandoning an issue in favor of a position that is more politically palatable.  Now that might not always be the case, but like it or not, people tend to have similar traits in all arenas of their lives.  We judge people by their actions, and in this case, Mr. Gingrich’s actions are neither personally nor politically palatable.

At the end of the day, everyone has to decide for him- or herself how they feel about moral issues such as this, but for my part, I’m content to let my judgment rest as it is: someone who cannot be trusted personally likely cannot be trusted professionally.  That has been my experience in life, and that seems to be the experience in politics, as well.  So I hope you’ll pardon me my own personality flaw as I curl up with a cup of tea and smirk to myself as Newt Gingrich finally gets as good as he gave.

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About The Lady Libertarian
I am American, currently expatriated but hopeful about getting back home one of these days. Besides reading and writing about politics, I enjoy camping, sailing, canoeing, making pie, and traveling. I hope you'll enjoy this blog and find it informative and accessible.

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