Stolberg's Front-Page Fixation on Ging's Bling

Will Newt Gingrich's big credit line at Tiffany's define his 2012 Republican presidential run? The Times seems to hope so. Wednesday's front page "Political Memo" by Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Gingrich's credit line was bejeweled with a headline that sounded like a liberal wish: "All That Glitters May Redefine Run by Gingrich."

To the long list of rich-guy foibles that turned into defining campaign moments - John Edwards's $400 haircut, John Kerry's kite-surfing, John McCain's inability to remember how many homes he owns - let us now add Newt Gingrich's $500,000 revolving line of credit at the luxury jeweler Tiffany & Company.

One difference: The Times ran their April 20, 2007 story on Edwards' haircut not on the front page, but on page 15.

The way Mr. Gingrich sees it, as he said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, he's "a guy running for president who pays all of his bills," who lives within his budget and who is in fact "very frugal."

The way some voters out in the rest of America might see it, he's a guy who paid more for jewelry than some people pay for their houses.

It has been a week since Politico broke the news that while working for the House Agriculture Committee, Mr. Gingrich's wife, Callista, filed forms for 2005 and 2006 disclosing her husband's "revolving charge" of $250,001 to $500,000 with Tiffany. Mr. Gingrich, insisting his jewelry buying habits are his own business, has declined to say what he bought.

Really sinking her teeth into the story, Stolberg picked up on a Time magazine slide show to assert that Callista Gingrich wears jewelry "that seemed straight out of the Tiffany catalog," while asserting the story has, after a week, already indelibly stuck to Gingrich:

Tiffany's or knockoffs? The Gingrich campaign won't say. But at this point, it no longer matters, according to political strategists of both parties. What matters, they say, is that the Tiffany story is sticking to Mr. Gingrich, helping to define - or perhaps redefine - him in the critical early days of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

That's up to the Times and other media outlets, isn't it? Then Stolberg compared Gingrich's personal spending habits to make his "preaching" of fiscal conservatism appear hypocritical.

As House speaker, Mr. Gingrich preached the virtues of fiscal conservatism; now he is struggling to explain how spending large sums on jewelry fits in with that philosophy. And while a spokesman for Tiffany confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Gingrich had paid the debt in full, with no interest, parrying questions about a six-figure jewelry bill is hardly what his campaign needs at a time when many Americans are out of work or have lost their homes.