Let me get this straight. We, the party of traditional family values, are seriously considering nominating for President a man who did the following:
- Cheated on his first wife and and divorced her while she had cancer.
- Cheated on his second wife for 5 years and divorced her while she had multiple sclerosis.
- Lied about his affair while he led the effort to impeach President Clinton for lying about an affair.
- Did all of the above while building a career as a public figure as a champion of families, traditional values, and moral standards.
OK. Got it.
Before you go down this path, please consider the likely consequences of this outcome:
First, we are going to lose the election in a landslide. The American people will excuse many things, but they will not excuse a hypocrite. Newt is pretty much the world heavyweight champion of hypocrites. If we pick him, it will make the entire Republican party look like hypocrites too. Twelve years after trying to impeach a President for cheating on his spouse while in office and lying about it, we will have chosen to nominate for President a man who … cheated on his spouse while in office and lied about it. Shhhh, maybe nobody will notice the coincidence.
Second, we will forfeit the ability to defend family values and moral standards for at least a generation. For example, do you oppose gay marriage? Well, you can forget that. Can you imagine the next time that comes up and we try to argue that it “undermines the institution of marriage”? We will get laughed at.
Third, it’s going to destroy our general credibility, and expose us as a group willing to say and do anything to win. We will demonstrate with our actions that we are willing to overlook a staggering character flaw as long as he says things we like about government and the economy and is strident in his criticism of those we dislike. We will demonstrate that consistency of principles means nothing to us.
Character is doing the right thing even when it conflicts with your own interests and desires. Re-read the four bullets at the top of this post. Can you really claim that Newt is a man of good character? That he is trustworthy? That he is a man of integrity? That he puts the welfare of others above himself? So are those things not important to you, or is pandering to your ideology just more important?
Some of the arguments made to excuse his behavior are absurd:
- “Oh, but he has repented, and has been forgiven!” Please. The prisons are full of repentant criminals. People who get caught tend to do that. It’s the only way they can still get what they want.
- “Nobody is perfect. You are not perfect.” Nobody is not running for President. Neither am I. Newt is.
- “His personal life is nobody’s business.” Only if you think that character does not count, and that we were all full of crap in 1998.
- “Marianne is just a bitter ex-wife.” Completely irrelevant to Newt’s behavior in 1998.
- “The media is out to get him.” Ditto.
I know some of you like Newt because he is a pugnacious fellow who is going to take it to Obama in the debates. Well, combative candidates do not win the Presidency. Optimistic leaders win the Presidency. That is why candidates typically pick a running mate who can act as an attack dog. The attacking has to be done, but not by the guy at the top of the ticket. Give Newt a talk show on Fox if you like the way he skewers people.
One last thought. You love Newt because he says the right things. Twelve years ago he was saying the right things about family values and morality. Turns out he did not mean it. At all.
So how do you know for sure that he means what he says now?