In a moment that evoked the famous tear shed by Hillary Clinton on the eve of her upset win in the 2008 New Hampshire primary, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich choked up Friday morning in front of a group of moms, recalling his mother, Kit, who died in 2003.
“I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends,” said Gingrich when moderator Frank Luntz asked him to recall a moment with his mom. At the end of her life, said Gingrich, his mother lived in a long-term care facility, which helped him understand and get interested in brain science, a subject dear to his heart. He frequently tells voters here that he recently gave a lecture on brain science at the University of Iowa.
“She had bipolar disease and depression and she gradually acquired some physical ailments, and that introduced me to the whole issue of quality long- term care . . . . and that introduced me to the issue of Alzheimers,” said Gingrich, who chatted with the founder of a popular website for mothers at Java’s Joe’s coffeehouse here.
“My emphasis on brain science comes indirectly from dealing with . . . ” His voice broke and his eyes welled with tears. “See, I am getting very emotional,” he said, “but dealing with the real problems of real people in my family. And so it’s not a theory, it’s in fact, my mother.” As tears spilled, he said, “I do policy much easier than I do personal.”
Afterward, as the moms came up to shake his hand and pose for photos with the Gingriches, who were joined at the event by his two daughters, Jackie and Kathy, their husbands and Jackie’s two children.
Gingrich turned to his 10-year-old grandson, Robert Cushman. Their exchange was picked up by C-SPAN’s boom microphones. “I was emotional,” said Gingrich as he patted his eyes with a tissue.
“It’s OK,” said Robert, “It’s OK.”