The Moral Argument against Newt Gingrich

photo by Gage Skidmore

Apparently South Carolina is the exception to this report that America hates Newt Gingrich.

When I saw the news that Newt had won the South Carolina primary, I couldn’t help but think, Are we really this desperate to nominate someone else besides Mitt Romney? I know I’m biased because I support Romney, but I can at least see the appeal of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. And if either of them managed to win the Republican nomination, I wouldn’t have a big problem voting for them in the general election.

Newt, on the other hand, I just don’t get. Forget the fact that his conservative bona fides are far from impeccable (I mean, he filmed an alarmist global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi) and some of his ideas sound more like Joe Biden’s infamous gaffes than legitimate conservative solutions. From a purely moral stand point, the Republican Party cannot possibly ask its base to support a Gingrich candidacy in the general election.

The GOP is, after all, the party many consider to be the home of most Evangelicals and social conservatives. It’s the party that claims to stand up for traditional family values. It’s the party that believed Bill Clinton and John Edwards were morally unfit to lead our country.

How can it suddenly assert that moral character has nothing to do with man’s qualifications to ascend to the Presidency? How can it ask its Evangelical, socially-conservative base to support a man like Newt as it’s first non-Protestant candidate ever. How can it possibly nominate a man who:

  • Dated his high school geometry teacher while still in high school (before eventually marrying her shortly after graduating)?
  • Repeatedly cheated on his first wife while serving in Congress?
  • Served his first wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital battling uterine cancer?
  • Proposed to his second wife before his divorce from his first one was final?
  • Repeatedly cheated on his second wife while serving in Congress and then informed her of the affair over the phone while she visited her mom for Mothers’ Day?
  • Cheated on his second wife at the same time he was leading the attempt to impeach President Clinton for his sexual indiscretions?
  • Blamed that affair on his patriotism?
  • Asked his second wife for an open marriage?
  • Divorced his second wife after she was diagnosed with MS and the doctor told him she needed to avoid stress?
  • Proposed to his third wife before his divorce from his second one was final?
  • Converted to Catholicism because his third wife “dragged him” to mass and then asked the Catholic Church to nullify his second marriage?

Say what you want about President Obama, but the man appears to love his wife and children, and the media and the public have noticed, just as they previously noticed the good marriages between George W. and Laura Bush, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. (I’m only 30 so that’s as far back as I remember presidential couples.) In fact, Ronald Reagan is the only divorced president in the history of the nation, and his first wife left him against his wishes. (Recent divorced politicians to miss out on the presidency include John McCain, John Kerry, Rudy Giuliani, and Bob Dole.) Even Bill and Hillary Clinton were given credit for remaining married despite Bill’s dalliances. It’s not just Evangelicals or social conservatives who look for a healthy marriage from presidential candidates. The country as a whole prefers it.

That’s why I just don’t understand this fascination with Newt Gingrich. Republicans may think his marital history will make him seem more normal or accessible, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 12% of Americans will be married more than once, and only 3% will be married 3 or more times. That means Newt’s three marriages make him seem normal to a very small amount of people currently living in the United States.

Not only that, but can a man incapable of remaining faithful in his personal life be trusted to remain faithful in his political life? This wasn’t a solitary indiscretion in a life otherwise characterized by integrity. This is a pattern of behavior, and one that seems to plague every aspect of life if you look at his record and listen to what he says.

I obviously can’t speak for all conservatives, but I at least want to speak to those who claim to be Evangelicals or social conservatives. I understand if you have problems voting for a Mormon, but the answer to those problems shouldn’t be someone who apparently operates without a moral compass. If moral character was a strike against Bill Clinton and John Edwards in your mind, then it should also be a strike against Newt Gingrich. Vote for someone who stands firm in his beliefs and remains faithful to his wife and children. Don’t allow politics to make you hypocritical about your beliefs and standards of behavior. Send a message that we expect our representatives to behave morally and ethically regardless of their religious or political affiliation.

“Let them revere nothing but religion, morality and liberty.” – John Adams

*If you haven’t already, read my political disclaimers to see where I’m coming from in regards to the church and politics.

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