This morning, Newt Gingrich appeared on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. Perhaps the most telling part of the interview was the segment in which Wallace courteously brought up the issue of Gingrich's serial marital fidelity, and his recent explanation that at least some of his personal behavior was motivated by his "passion for the country."
Gingrich is a brilliant guy -- with plenty of good ideas. But the problem with his presidential run was exemplified by the interview. The fact that his cheating (on two wives) needed to be discussed is the precise reason why his presidential campaign is a poor idea.
Even setting the morality of his past behavior completely aside, the strategic fact is that every minute spent discussing Gingrich's personal behavior (as Democrats would inevitably do throughout a presidential campaign) is a moment that can't be spent discussing policy, the direction of the country, and President Obama's dismal record.
When President Clinton's disgraceful and wrong personal behavior was an issue, at least we were in an era of peace and prosperity, where distractions like serial adultery didn't intrude on discussions of crises, pending and present. Now they do.
No doubt, as Speaker Gingrich says, he has sought forgiveness and reconciliation for his past wrongdoing. No doubt he is a bold and original thinker. Probably, at 67, he has changed his ways (although who can be sure?).
But oftentimes, self-indulgence -- even in the past, over-and-done-with -- has a price. And that price may be that past behavior is simply too much of a distraction in serious times to render one a serious candidate for President.
Gingrich may be an asset to the field, insofar as he will articulate ideas and raise issues that force fellow candidates to clarify their thinking and emulate his creativity. But, for me, that's how far his value in the field goes, and no farther.