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President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shared similar fidelity failures during their time in office, but new accounts of their relationship suggest that the two were closely bound by their flaws, so much so that the two would privately discuss their indiscretions over drinks and cigars.
Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader and FreedomWorks chief, sat down with Marvin Olasky of World magazine for an interview Thursday that drifted to talk of the sex scandals of the 1990s.
A transcript of the conversation, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Armey: When I heard that Newt had been carrying on an affair for all the years that we’d worked together, I went home and said, “Honey, I had no idea about this.” She said, “Of course not. You’re the last person in town Newt would have wanted to know about this.” Newt was scared of me. What I discovered: Clinton found out about the Gingrich affair and called Newt over to the White House for a private meeting between the two of them. Clinton said, “You and I are alike.” Which meant, shut up about Monica or I’ll start telling your story.
Olasky: Was it blackmail or bonding?
Armey: Newt and Clinton actually developed sort of a bond over it. They had many meetings that we didn’t know about where they’d drink wine and smoke cigars and talk about their girlfriends. It’s fascinating; why would you confess to your mortal enemy what you wouldn’t tell your closest friends?
A 2008 description of their relationship describes a different, but — if Armey’s description is correct — perhaps not fully understood dynamic:
As president, Bill Clinton distrusted then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and the Republican felt the same way about Clinton. But in a shocking revelation, we’re learning that the political foes–desperate for a heroic legacy–made a secret pact to fix the nation’s most problematic programs like Social Security. The plan crashed, however, in the Monica Lewinsky
scandal. “Monica changed everything,” says former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
According to Armey’s contention, the period of Clinton-Gingrich cooperation could have been motivated by their private connection, only to be destroyed when the scandal went public and partisan tensions again pervaded Washington.