Newt Gingrich: Leading Clinton impeachment wasn't hypocritical

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich talks with Karen and Tom Quiner, of Des Moines, Iowa, at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, Monday, March 7, 2011, at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa. AP

Gingrich Press Conference
CBS

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday that it wasn't hypocritical of him to lead impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in the 1990's, even though he was having an extramarital affair at the time, because the impeachment case was "not about personal behavior."

"Obviously, it's complex and, obviously, I wasn't doing things to be proud of," Gingrich said. "On the other hand... I understood that in a federal court, in a case in front of a federal judge, to commit a felony, which is what he did, perjury, was a felony. The question I raise was very simple: should a president of the United States be above the law?"

The former speaker's past indiscretions have become a matter of discussion again as he considers jumping into the 2012 presidential race. In recent months, Gingrich has been confronted with questions about his infidelity and multiple marriages by a Christian-affiliated media outlet and by his detractors at a speech at a university. His personal problems will likely prove to be a political liability most significantly early on, when Republicans must appeal to social conservatives in Iowa, the first state in the nominating process next year.

When asked on Sunday whether he considered himself in a "glass house" as he lead the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Clinton, Gingrich said yes. However, he said it was imperative for him to continue with the impeachment.

"I thought to myself if I cannot do what I have to do as a public leader, I would have resigned," he said. "Now, look, I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don't think I'm perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness."

"But I also think over time, if you look at my total record, I'm a pretty effective leader," Gingrich continued. "I fight for this country and I fight for the changes we need with tenacity and I take a fairly tough beating, including from you and others, in order to stand in the arena and stand up for what I believe is really important."

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