- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bob Livingston, a successful D.C. lobbyist who served in Congress under then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and is one of the biggest boosters of his presidential campaign, said he and Mr. Gingrich have grown since their days in the House, when both of them were accused of marital infidelity.

“We’ve had issues — we’re all human,” Mr. Livingston, 68, told The Washington Times on Tuesday. “I’ve got my life together. I have my wife of 36 years and eight grandchildren. My life is together. I think Newt can say the same thing with his life. He’s risen within the Catholic community. We grow up, and like the Bible says, leave behind childish things. I know Newt and I both have.”

Mr. Livingston had been tapped to succeed Mr. Gingrich as speaker in 1998 but, under intense media pressure, chose to withdraw and retire after he admitted to extramarital affairs.

Before his fall from grace, Mr. Livingston, a Republican from Louisiana, was the chairman of the prestigious House Appropriations Committee. The allegations of his infidelity were discovered at the height of the GOP-led impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.

During Mr. Livingston’s speech in which he announced the end of his candidacy for speaker and his resignation from the House, he urged Mr. Clinton to resign as well. Mr. Clinton, in turn, decided to remain in office and told Mr. Livingston he should, too.

Mr. Livingston made the comments to The Times in an interview about his support for Mr. Gingrich’s come-from-behind presidential campaign. Along with former Rep. Bob Walker, Mr. Livingston is co-hosting a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Mr. Gingrich in Washington on Wednesday night.

“He can win the nomination — and I think he will, mainly because he is the only candidate in the entire race who has actually solved major problems for the country, and we have such devastating problems right now, and the best qualified person to tackle and solve them is the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich,” Mr. Livingston said.

Mr. Gingrich “led the Republican troops out of the wilderness” and returned them to the majority in the House for the first time in 40 years, Mr. Livingston said.

“He cut and eliminated programs, cut taxes, reformed welfare; we balanced the budget,” he said. “He was the general, the one that guided us, and he did it with a popular Democratic president, Bill Clinton.”

Now Mr. Gingrich is surging in the polls as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination, but his two divorces have raised questions among evangelical voters. One evangelical leader, the Rev. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, drafted an open letter to Mr. Gingrich last week urging him to address the issue of his “marital past directly and transparently.”

Mr. Livingston makes for an interesting backer of Mr. Gingrich. He defended the speaker on the House floor when others pushed to drive him from office, but his announcement in 1998 that he would challenge Mr. Gingrich for the speakership prompted Mr. Gingrich to resign.

Mr. Livingston said he disagreed with Mr. Gingrich’s decision to target Mr. Clinton for impeachment in 1998 instead of highlighting the GOP’s record of reducing the size of government and balancing the budget.

“I took him on for tactical reasons,” Mr. Livingston said. “[The late New York Rep.] Gerry Solomon and I spoke out in favor of him, and I defended him against [former Rep.] Tom DeLay. I took him on because I was mad. … Here I was going around the country raising all kinds of money, and he said he was going to speak about Clinton’s problems, and we should have been talking about our record cutting the size of government.”

“He made a tactical error, not a strategic one,” Mr. Livingston said.