The major headline on the Drudge Report said it all: NEWT ON TOP. Largely written off as a potential Republican candidate for president as recently as last month, Newt Gingrich has suddenly surged to the head of the pack. But do his past moral failures disqualify him from leading a party that claims to stand for strong, conservative family values?
It’s obvious that Gingrich’s rapid rise in the polls is tied to his excellent performance in the debates, just as Gov. Rick Perry’s rapid fall from the top is directly related to his poor showing. And while former Gov. Mitt Romney continues to perform well, he has not been able to convince his detractors that he is a true moral conservative. At the same time, surprise frontrunner Herman Cain has been dogged by accusations of sexual harassment.
But can you be a true moral conservative and violate your marriage vows, not once but twice? And are the accusations against Cain, even if true, any more serious than Gingrich’s affairs and divorces, with the added fact that Gingrich is now married to the woman with whom he committed adultery? (This was also the case with his second wife.) Or do glaring moral failures such as these have little or nothing to do with his ability to lead the nation? (After all, Ronald Reagan was divorced and remarried too, albeit only once.) Or has Gingrich learned from the error of his ways and emerged a better man?
On the positive side, Gingrich is a political statesman with vast experience and knowledge, a man who could easily dominate President Obama in a debate. In the current campaign, he has not waffled in his positions, he has not put his foot in his mouth, he has focused attention on defeating Obama rather than sniping at his Republican opponents, and he has been quick to call out the media for its all too obvious bias. And for years, he has consistently pointed to the importance of faith and has spoken without apology about the need to recover our Judeo-Christian heritage.
On the negative side, the man who helped craft DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, has been married three times, leading to the very relevant question, Which is more destructive to the institution of marriage, heterosexual adultery and divorce or homosexual unions? We should also remember that while Gingrich was leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton he was committing adultery. This is not simply a moral failure but one that speaks of real hypocrisy, not to mention that all adulterous affairs involve deceit and disloyalty.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.