Kathryn Lopez

Yet 'trust but verify' is a political proverb. Gingrich's recent years appear to have involved a commitment to public policy, as well as to family and his newfound faith. Confessing our failure, demonstrating a purpose of amendment, these are at the heart of Christianity. Of course, the voting booth is not the confessional, and for the most prudent reasons, voters can't be as merciful with their elected officials as they are with their neighbor.

Or can we?

Gingrich is just a man, too. And his lack of finesse about his sins may simply result from a discomfort with speaking about his failure publicly. Nevertheless, he has to. And in being publicly reflective, he, probably inadvertently, is doing what he does best: teach.

Back in January I wrote a piece with Seth Leibsohn, co-author with Bill Bennett of the upcoming book "The Fight of Our Lives," welcoming freshman members of Congress to Washington and urging them to be good and decent. For legislators, our capital can be a city of temptation: you may be away from your family; in many cases, you're keeping irregular hours, attending a whirl of social events. There are no excuses for slip-ups, but there is value in knowing the enemy is very much there, and that you need to protect yourself against it.

In this way, Gingrich actually provided a little bit of a public service in one of his least articulate moments. If you can get past the ridicule, he serves as a cautionary tale: That boundlessly powerful feeling you get when you're doing things you deem important for the world can get you into trouble. Beware. As he told the crowd in Iowa, Newt Gingrich 2011 hits the stage "with maybe a little more wisdom" than the Newt Gingrich who was king of the 1994 Republican revolution.

As for that whole presidential dust-up: It's not the craziest idea ever. And, if we can all put cynicism aside just for a moment, maybe, just maybe, the fact that Gingrich can seriously consider such a notion is testimony to a little, amazing, transformative thing called redemption.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.