Perhaps I have been too busy to notice, but I have not seen much from the late-night comics on one of the best sources of comedy material provided for them in a long time. It just seems like such great fodder for spoofing by Leno, Letterman, Conan, etc. I'm talking about Newt Gingrich's explanation for cheating on his first two wives.
Let me say that I was once a fan of the former House Speaker. I even have a photo of myself with him in 1994 from one of the times I met him during my own political career. I was actually proud of having that photo on my wall at the time. Not so much anymore.
Until Gingrich's recent interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, the number one lame excuse of all time had to be "the dog ate my homework," followed, of course by, "I did not inhale." But Newt's doozy has taken political spin into a whole new universe. It goes like this: "There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."
That is exactly what Gingrich told CBN's David Brody concerning his adultery with his current wife, Callista, which occurred while he was still married to his second wife, Marianne — with whom, incidentally, he cheated while still wed to wife number one, Jackie, who had been his high school geometry teacher and who claims Gingrich dumped her while she was recuperating from cancer surgery.
Newt married Jackie in 1962. He was 19, she was 26. In the spring of 1980, after 18 years of marriage, he walked into her hospital room and announced that he was leaving her for Marianne. Eighteen years later, he did the same thing to Marianne, informing her he was marrying Callista, who was his congressional aide at the time and who is 23 years his junior. He subsequently converted from his Baptist faith to Catholicism and requested from the Catholic Church an annulment of his marriage to Marianne.
As he prepares to run for the presidency, it is not only necessary but important that we examine New Gingrich's personal life as it relates to his character. There are those who will claim, as they always do, that a person's personal life should have no bearing on the job he or she does in public office. This argument ignores the facts. Of course, it is not a universal truth that good family men also make good public servants. After all, Jimmy Carter apparently never strayed (except when lusting in his heart), and he was one of the biggest disasters ever to sit in the Oval Office. However, it is axiomatic that trust begins at home, and men like Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich are not trustworthy.
Gingrich is shoveling a boatload of horse manure at Evangelical Christians (apparently the last group to care about such things) when he says he committed adultery because of his great love of America. As Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace told the former Speaker, "My wife would never buy that one."
I believe fervently in forgiveness and in redemption, but Newt has it all backward. A man with character does not love his country so much that he works too hard, which makes him stray from the values in which he claims to believe. That kind of warped thinking puts country first, his personal life second and God last. Rather, a man of character must put God first, family second and country third. That is the kind of man (or woman) for whom I could vote. And Newt Gingrich is not that man.
As my wise-beyond-his-years younger son says, "Any man who would deliberately cheat on the person in this world whom he supposedly cares for most will not think twice about cheating on me, whom he has never met."
© 2011 by Doug Patton
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns of sage political analysis are published the world over by legions of discerning bloggers, courageous webmasters and open-minded newspaper editors.