Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gestures during a campaign stop in Dover, N.H., Monday Jan. 9, 2012.

What we say about others frequently reveals more about us than about them. Such is true with Newt Gingrich's recent comment calling Mitt Romney a liar for not acknowledging personal responsibility for a Super PAC ad supporting Romney's candidacy for president. Gingrich is wrong.

Like it or not, Super PACs are independent of the candidates and their ads are constitutionally protected free speech under the 2010 United States Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

But more revealing in Gingrich's comment is that it demonstrates, yet again, his personal volatility. Having repeatedly touted the virtue of candidates taking the "high road," Gingrich now charts a course below the "low road." His unsavory and misinformed accusation of Romney is easily the most negative comment that has been advanced to date by any candidate in the Republican presidential field.

Politics can be a tough game. A candidate should fully expect his or her record to be examined at length and any weaknesses exposed. Perhaps "negative advertising" has become too common, and its effectiveness remains open to question.

My own view is that it does not work very well in Utah. But even when employed, civility demands some limitations in the response and ensuring exchange. Gingrich crossed the line. Absent the most egregious circumstance, a direct accusation of the type made by Gingrich moves beyond almost everyone's sense of what is appropriate.

Far more troubling than any personal affront, however, is what it reveals about Gingrich's propensities when in a tight spot and feeling a bit of desperation. That appears to have been the circumstance the last day before the Iowa caucuses when the intemperate comment was made.

In presidential politics, few character traits are as important as the ability to remain cool and collected in the face of adversity and when the pressure is on. Steadiness and stability are of paramount importance. There is no room for a "loose cannon." A tendency toward volatility is not a favored character trait when electing a president of the United States who also serves as Commander in Chief and as the defacto leader of the free world.

Kay McIff is a former district court judge and represents Sanpete, Sevier and Emery Counties, District 70, in the Utah House of Representatives.