Conservatives must wake up each morning ready to do battle with a "secular left" who believe the American people have an impractical value system. This "secular left" thinks the ideals that have built our nation - devotion to God, traditional family and American nationalism - are outdated.
We must engage them in the public square and in the media. We must engage them in the chambers of city councils and in the halls of Congress. Because if we lose the fight, they will erode the foundation of our great nation.
That was the gist of a conservation I had with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich right before an event he hosted for me during my gubernatorial election campaign. It was early October 2006 and the political climate in Ohio and across the nation was poisonous for Republicans.
Gingrich knew I was in an uphill battle, but he still came to Ohio.
Gingrich was committed to campaigning for conservative candidates who would join him in fighting the "secular left." It really didn't matter if the candidates were in a position to pull off victories. It only mattered that they stood for traditional American values and were engaged in advancing the conservative cause. He was laying the ground work for the retaking of the cultural and spiritual debate from the left and bringing it back to the right of center. That's where he thinks the country is.
In that context, it's striking to see how badly the mainstream media and most political pundits missed the crucial point of Gingrich's recent conversation with Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson. The media focused on his admission of an affair. They obsessed about his confessed "mistake." They delighted in his confession, "There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards."
But with those words, Gingrich took a great step towards restoring his public and political reputation. The courage of his confession demonstrated he has found the humility necessary to lead this great nation.
Gingrich has cast himself as an imperfect man who seeks God's perfecting grace and as an American leader who understands the underpinnings of American greatness. And he seems to understand the essence of John Adams' belief that, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
While media the missed his grand statement, others did not.
In an open letter, the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote, "I have been very impressed with the spiritual maturity of this man and am convinced that he has been honest and forthright in clarifying his past failings and his quest, as a Christian, for God's forgiveness."
Rev. Falwell went on to say, "I well remember the challenge we evangelicals faced in 1980 when our candidate, Ronald Reagan, was the first presidential candidate who had gone through a divorce. We wisely made allowance for God's forgiveness and America was the beneficiary of this historic champion."
Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation amplified Rev. Falwell's sentiment. He thinks social conservatives will embrace Gingrich and told the Wall Street Journal, "He says he has gone down on his knees to ask God's forgiveness for his weakness. Our people are very oriented toward accepting that."
Also, there has been little discussion of Gingrich's latest book, "Rediscovering God in America," which gives a scholarly review of the foundations of faith in our historic public square. The book is part of a grander conversation Gingrich is having with the American people. That conversation is continued at Newt.org where he states, "defending God in the public square," is the nation's second greatest challenge after defeating our enemies abroad.
I know, from personal experience, the yearning within the conservative base of the GOP for Gingrich's type of leadership. With undeniable fallibility on his path through life, he nonetheless acts like a man who knows where he is going and where the nation needs to be taken.
King Solomon said, "A good name is rather to be chosen than riches." Can Gingrich's good name among conservatives transfer into electoral riches? I don't know, but his understanding of the nation's essence -- devotion to God, traditional family and American nationalism -- makes Gingrich a potentially formidable presidential contender.
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