Cal  Thomas

A longtime conservative friend sent me an email after reading something positive I had written about Newt Gingrich: "Whoever votes (for) or supports Newt for president is out of their mind."

It wouldn't be the first time I've been called crazy.

He continued: "You can believe in redemption, as I do, but you are not thinking seriously if you support a person for president with the baggage he is carrying. What an example for our children and future generations when we dismiss character as the foundation for leadership."

There's more, but I get his point.

The evangelical Christian population of South Carolina apparently believes that while character is a good thing, the ability to defeat President Obama and dismantle the welfare state is more important.

Here, in part, is how I responded to my friend: What is the standard for selecting a president and who decides? Franklin Roosevelt cheated on Eleanor with Lucy Mercer and perhaps others, yet he helped to win World War II and led us out of the Great Depression. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson used a questionable encounter between U.S. and North Vietnamese vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin to ram a resolution through Congress that sucked us deeper into the Vietnam War, which needlessly killed more than 58,000 Americans. Johnson had one wife, but allegedly had a roving eye.

Richard Nixon by all indications was faithful to Pat, but unfaithful to the Constitution. Gerald Ford and Betty (who was divorced) were pro-choice on abortion, which is anathema to social conservatives. Jimmy Carter was a faithful, church-going, Sunday school-teaching, born-again man. He was a profile of what social conservatives say they want in a president, yet they now judge him a failure. Ronald Reagan was divorced, but a good president.

Bill Clinton kept the tabloids, talk radio and mainstream media busy with his marital transgressions. His apologists said sex was a private matter between him and his family and had no bearing on his ability to do his job. George W. Bush spoke of being "redeemed," as Gingrich does, but from alcohol, not women. The judgment of history is yet to be rendered on his eight years in office.

And now we have Barack Obama, who is the husband of one wife and seems to love her and their two daughters. But conservatives don't like his policies.

A New York Times editorial last week castigated Gingrich, not for his three marriages and acknowledged adultery, but for his "sermonizing." The newspaper thinks that because of his past sins Gingrich has no right "to tell Americans how to run their lives."

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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