This time I should’ve been the one listening.
But listening can be tough sometimes when you’re an analyst and a commentator, and people around the country – listeners, readers, media, candidates, causes, businesses, etc. – come to you to find out why things are happening and what may happen next. Analysis and commentary is one of the few things in life I’m really good at. My car expertise begins and ends with changing a tire. Any toy that comes with the phrase “some assembly required” my kids immediately take to my wife. And when that much-anticipated Zombie apocalypse finally happens I’m going to have to heavily rely upon my gun-toting “doomsday prepper” friends to survive.
But analysis and commentary I can do. It’s how I provide for my family, and since it puts food on my kids’ table regularly somebody must think I’m pretty decent at it. Yet this time I swung and missed.
I am 39-years old so a little young for the Reagan era. I wasn’t legally able to obtain a driver’s license yet when Reagan left office. Like many my age, my conservatism was actually honed by listening to Rush Limbaugh and cheering on Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution of 1994. In my era, Gingrich is a transformative figure. He’s still the only man alive to win a national election on conservative principles. He played a part in establishing much of the conservative infrastructure we take for granted nowadays. There are only two authors I ever sought autographed books from: Bo Schembechler and Gingrich.
Yet despite my fan boy crush, I am well aware of his peccadilloes. He’s on his third marriage. He lost the Speaker’s gavel because of a caucus revolt against his leadership. He inexcusably backed Dede Scozzafava. He rightly stood up against the TARP, and then reversed course and backed what I believe may be the most criminal legislation in American history. These are just some of the reasons why several people close to me told me I was making a mistake when I endorsed him for president during the 2012 primary.
Yet I pointed to the fact he is one of the few national figures in the GOP that has the wit and knowledge to effectively communicate what we believe in today’s short-attention-span-society, which I believe is very important to our movement going forward. He was the only candidate last year that was really speaking to what I believe is the biggest threat to liberty and morality in America—judicial supremacy (which is really the judicial oligarchy Jefferson warned us about). And I was also impressed with the way Gingrich was willing to speak openly about his past moral transgressions, including one very blunt joint appearance on my radio show with Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. As a Christian I’m a sucker for a good redemption story.
However, there’s a reason I have often compared Gingrich to King David in the Bible, beyond the marriage infidelity both have in common. Both were also extraordinarily God-gifted leaders whose legacies were tarnished by their slack of self-discipline. Both were often at their best when pursuing power and at their worse once they obtained it.
While on vacation I was reminded of that comparison when I saw Gingrich say that Republicans should accept the destruction of marriage as “inevitable.” As a historian Gingrich should know better. He should know that marriage and free market economics are the essential societal bedrock components of western civilization, without which liberty isn’t possible. I know firsthand he should know that, because he has communicated right to my face that he does.
In a letter to The Family Leader just 13 months ago, Gingrich said:
“As president I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. I will aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in state and federal courts. I will support a federal constitutional amendment (defending marriage). I will oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to redefine marriage.”
So which is it, Newt? Do you want to defend marriage or not? Those words do not read like someone who thought destroying marriage was “inevitable?” Did you mean them?
For the past week Gingrich has been rightly urging conservatives to fight the fiscal cliff tax increase. Maybe Gingrich should be urging us to surrender instead, being that our slide towards bankrupt statism seems “inevitable” after all. As a father with three small children at home, I’m looking for leaders who will fight to stop our “inevitable” destruction as a free republic, not come to grips with it. Especially on an issue like marriage, that is 31-4 (89%) at the ballot box.
Gingrich was arguably the most gifted political figure of his era. He could’ve been an American Churchill. Check that, he should have been. Despite all that he has accomplished (which I’m thankful for) his legacy still includes a waste of potential. He could’ve led us out of the wilderness. Instead we’re still circling the mountain (or the drain).
Several of you warned me about this, which is why despite his obvious gifts Gingrich failed not once but twice to coalesce conservatives when he was the presidential frontrunner. Some of you were once bitten and twice shy. Now I get it.
I still have a soft spot for Newt, and he’s still one of the few politicians I’ve met whose intellect I actually respect. But that’s not enough to believe he should hold the highest office of this land. If someone won’t defend marriage, the oldest institution in God’s created order, then what can you count on them to defend when it’s hard?
Those of you that warned me were right. I was wrong. This time I should’ve listened to your analysis.