Newt Gingrich, 1995, on Infidelty and “Dune”

Friendly tweeters point us back to a 1995 interview with Newt Gingrich for Wired, conducted by Esther Dyson. Its actually jarring to hear one of the most powerful politicians in America – he was then Speaker of the House – talking so plain. Take his comments on whether infidelity matters, made before he would carry out the affair with the woman who’d become his third wife.

Dyson: Take leaders or politicians. How important is personal morality versus what they do for the country? Private vices versus public leadership.

Gingrich: If it does not directly impact his or her public capacities, it’s not important. The truth is, whatever allegations there were about Clinton, he had the sheer grit to rise above it in New Hampshire. It ended up scarring but not crippling him.

He no longer says that this stuff is unimportant. He says he made mistakes – the implication is that leaders shouldn’t do this stuff. Newt 2011 is more religious than Newt 1995. Another example:

Gingrich: I believe human nature is vastly more conservative than human technologies. I find Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene very helpful. Just as you have genetic evolution, you can have cultural evolution and save all the good pieces. So we save Mozart.

Dyson: Ideally.

Gingrich: Ideally. That’s right. Unless we destroy ourselves.

Hard to imagine our current Newt referencing one of the world’s most famous atheists like that. Apropos of nothing, though, this is my favorite part of the interview.

Frank Herbert in Dune wrote that the possible number of futures is virtually infinite. So you never know. The team that organized itself around Walker and Weber and Mack and Hunter and me has probably accelerated what might have happened anyway.