When republican governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, was embroiled in a scandal relating to his highly publicized affair a friend of mine was annoyed because apparently some talk show hosts were calling for his resignation. He was of the opinion that republicans should stick together and not “eat their own,” and he thought a strong resume on fiscal conservatism was the higher priority. I tended to agree but that misses the point. The question was this: what gives anyone the right to presume to tell other voters what qualities should be important to them in a candidate? In a time when some are voting because they like someone’s toothy smile or cool sunglasses, it’s not my place to say whether or not infidelity should be a deal-breaker for someone else.
That’s why when Newt Gingrich was once asked about his past indiscretions and whether or not it was a legitimate issue in the campaign his answer was exactly right. He said it was a fair issue to bring up and that whether or not this disqualified him for POTUS was a choice for voters to make (I’m paraphrasing, of course). Then he expressed regret over his past mistakes and stated that he had asked God for forgiveness.
Let’s contrast that with what we saw from Bill Clinton who first went to great lengths to cover up his infidelities and smear and denounce his accusers, and then dismissed his behavior as a “personal issue” that was no one’s business but his (remember the wagging finger?). As I opined back then, Clinton’s attempt to deprive voters of important information about his character and then to issue proclamations about what should or should not be relevant to voters smacked of the worst kind of imperialism. The notion that citizens have no business making judgments about the behavior of a man with the power to impact all of their lives, well that’s all part of the terrific Clinton legacy. The true test of a liberal is to see if he will sacrifice the ideals of a nation to advance his own interests.
But back to Newt. In light of the damning accusations recently launched by his ex-wife I’d like to relate a personal story that might give people pause for thought.
We moved to a new state when my son was starting first grade. I was concerned about him adjusting to the move but he soon made friends with a boy in school and so we became friends with his family. Life-long residents there, they sort of adopted us. The dad coached the boys’ T-ball team, we had barbecues and took the kids on outings to the beach, etc. As we got to know them, however, it eventually became apparent that there were serious problems in their marriage, and the more time we spent with them the more clear the reasons became. The wife, who was otherwise great to be with, seem to take pleasure in making the husband miserable. She belittled him, picked fights in public, undermined his authority as a parent, literally spent them into bankruptcy and had gained about 100 pounds during their 12-year marriage, among many other things. Reluctant to separate my son from his best friend, we endured many an uncomfortable time in their presence because of her tendency to openly express her anger or disappointment in him. He, on the other hand, would do what he could to ignore or placate her to keep peace in public. Five years later or so the husband finally decided to call it quits, and with her “good riddance” he moved out.
About a month or so later I was with the wife at a school function when she informed me that the husband was “having an affair.” She knows this from having hacked into his cell phone messages, and she feels wounded and betrayed. I was in disbelief. She sincerely believed herself to be a victim. Later, at the monthly Bunco get together, she informed a sympathetic crowd of women that her husband had left her and was cheating on her. Since they heard only her version of things, she had everyone’s immediate sympathy. This experience is always in the back of my mind when someone professes to be the injured party in a marriage gone bad.
The point of this post is not to defend or excuse anything Gingrich may have done or to suggest that people don’t have the right to judge a candidate on his morals. It is simply to say that things are not always as they may seem. The fact that Gingrich’s daughters appear to be defending him suggests to me that there is much more to the story than we know, but each of us is entitled to draw our own conclusions.