My first reaction was: Put a fork in him—he’s done! When Newt Gingrich’s second wife went public with the charge that he had not only cheated on her, but proposed an “open marriage,” I assumed that his carefully cultivated image of being a “changed man” had been fatally punctured. It was not.
Much to my surprise, the media pundits began making excuses for him. They chanted in virtual unison: It happened a long time ago. It was a private matter. This was old news. ABC should never have released the information—especially before a primary election. And besides, he had apologized for his conduct.
One media psychologist even went so far as to suggest that Newt might get additional votes fromSouth Carolinamen who secretly wished they too could have open marriages. There was surely nothing here to scandalize a sophisticated person.
But the cherry on the sundae came that evening. The CNN moderator began the latest Republican debate by asking Gingrich for his response to the news, to which Newt replied that this was an appalling query. How dare he be asked this? And how dare his wife make such an accusation?
At this, the audience exploded in wild applause. Yes, this was unfair! And yes, Newt was right to go on the offensive! These spectators were pleased to see Gingrich launch into his patented anti-media mode—with an even better counter-assault than usual.
Suddenly, before our eyes there occurred an amazing transformation. A man who grievously insulted his former wife and violated what were once sacred social standards metamorphosed into a martyr. Now it was he who had been wronged.
Yet what would have happened had the moderator ignored the elephant in the room. He was not the one who created the issue; ergo pretending that nothing occurred would have been a gross violation of journalistic ethics. Surely, people would have wondered why he was derelict in his duty.
But getting back to Newt’s original behavior: It was disgraceful! Moreover, knowledge about it was new to the public domain. I, for instance, was aware he had cheated on his wife, but I did not know he contemplated an open marriage. Newt has been saying he is not a “perfect man,” but this was far worse than that.
Newt has also been saying he had a religious conversion and asked for forgiveness. This supposedly made his former acts acceptable. Nonetheless, consider our reaction if Adolf Hitler survived WWII, then had a religious epiphany and begged our forgiveness. Would we have let bygones be bygones?
Needless to say, Gingrich is no Hitler, but neither was his transgression a minor affair. He, by his own admission, was a serial philanderer. He is also a man who has twice left wives when they became seriously ill. (Contrast this with Romney who steadfastly stood by his wife when she contracted MS.)
Gingrich’s character is beyond reprehensible. He is a moral pygmy! Do we really want a human being who is so sleazy in the White House? Sure, he can deliver a zinger during a debate, but does this qualify him to make the delicate decisions required of a president?
And, as to the matter of whether he has changed, how long ago was it that he portrayed himself as a positive, avuncular figure? Yet, it didn’t take him long to become a feared “media terminator” because meanness has always been a central constituent of his personality.
People do not change as radically as Gingrich would have us believe. One’s words can change, but actions tend to remain consistent. Hence Newt should be judged by what he does—not what he says.
It was also just yesterday that Democrats told us that private character did not matter. They insisted that we forgive any indiscretion of a successful Democratic politician. Is this what Republicans are coming too as well?
This thought terrifies me, but if southern Republican voters decide that flagrant marital infidelity is irrelevant, then we, as a nation, are clearly headed over a moral cliff at breakneck speed.