A Newt has crawled into the craw of voters in America. The pudgy, porcelain-skinned former House Speaker from Georgia, Ph.D.-toting former college professor, ivory-white haired champion debater, bare knuckle advocate of the Constitution now stands on the precipice of the Republican nomination to be America’s next head of state. Emerging like a bear from the Alaskan wilderness, Newt Gingrich has thrust himself back into the political arena, slashing the competition with his hairy claws dipped in the honey pot of liberty.
Voters like Newt ‘cause he takes on all comers. Voters love him because he’s Rah-Rah and razzmatazz and clever as hell. Voters adore him ‘cause he’s fearless and smart and redefines the term “Holy Terror.” Even the staunchest Democrats must admit that he’s at the very least entertaining. But beyond that lies a man that operates with a cut-your-heart-out mentality, the grizzly ready to pounce. Nominees: Is there anyone that wants to get into a debate with this man? Without pause, Gingrich has already challenged Barack Obama to seven, three-hour debates on national television. The gauntlet has been thrown, and thrown with vigor.
While Gingrich surfs on this tidal wave down the Atlantic to Florida, voters in the Sunshine State should take a moment to reconsider more than just his words in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina over the last several months. Surely there is more to this man than this.
We should first begin with the question that John King boldly posed to begin CNN’s Charleston debate on January 19. King began, “As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview to The Washington Post and this story has gone viral on the Internet. In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?”
In a pulsing moment, Gingrich offered an icy response. “No, but I will.” The Palmetto State crowd erupted as if it had won the blue ribbon at the county fair. Many left their seats to offer high applause.
Gingrich continued: “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through personal things. To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before a primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”
And further: “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”
Gingrich’s comments regarding the liberal media were indeed heard by the conservative base, and it’s the kind of thing that needed to be said and underscored. But conservatives, I think, need to hear more. I need to hear more. I voted for Bob Dole and George W. Bush (admittedly, twice) and I find myself wondering who to vote for on March 13 in the Alabama primary. My mind tells me to vote for Gingrich, but my gut tells me otherwise. Why?
I believe that the American public needs to know that Gingrich is a changed man, that his 2009 conversion to Catholicism was more than just political posturing. I want to believe in The Taming of the Newt before I cast my vote for Gingrich for lead actor.
Nathan Harden of The Huffington Post stated: “Here’s the problem: If Gingrich is a changed man, he ought to have used his time on camera during the debate Thursday night to explain how and why that change came about. What greater opportunity could he have had to tell America how he made terrible choices in the past, but is now a new person, how he once was lost but now is found? Instead, he chose to use that moment to portray himself as a victim of liberal media bias. He chose to point his finger and scold another. There was scarcely a hint of contrition in his demeanor.”
Let’s quickly examine the only other viable candidate, in my opinion. Rick Santorum seems like the safe choice, the Lou Gehrig of Murderer’s Row. He seems like the kind of man that values family and conservative values and hard work. He’s seems solid, consistent, and strong. He’s been an attorney and yet appears to be interested in America’s middle class. He’s the kind of guy that could swing votes from the more moderate line of Democratic voters. But Santorum presents the all-difficult question: Date the new guy or stick with the tremendously flawed yet terrifically-convincing beau?
The most important question in this election has become not “Who is the best candidate?” but rather “Who can defeat Barack Obama?” Barack Obama won the 2008 election because he had charisma and a great marketing campaign. He appealed to voters’ emotions, voters’ passions. If Santorum, who has neither the charisma of Obama but seems every bit as intelligent, can begin to appeal to the hearts of voters and somehow find some Billy Sunday-like charisma, he can win. Santorum should hammer home Gingrich’s infidelities if he wants the nomination. He should do what John McCain should have done in the 2008 election—go after his opposition. If he fails to do this, he will simply revert back to the same title that McCain quietly represents— Senator—only with “former” attached to it.
As for Gingrich, questions still remain. I submit to you, Newt, to answer the question. Why did you cheat on your wives? Would you do it again? Because I believe that if you’re not morally convicted of these deplorable acts, you certainly wouldn’t have any problem lying to me or the three hundred million other constituents within your jurisdiction.
Very few Republican voters question whether or not Gingrich can spar with Obama in a debate and deliver a TKO. But it is naïve to assume that questions about Gingrich’s morality will not creep up and bite him in the end. Newt, I like what you say, but I’m not sure I like what you do. Don’t make me wait until the general election to reveal the kind of man you are. Even brutal honesty might be enough for me. Even a statement such as “I’ve had a problem with commitment in the past. I promise the American voters that from now on I will live a life of integrity and honesty and I will respect the meaning and the commitment, under God, of covenant marriage.” That, I can respect.
I would be willing to vote for a man that admits his mistakes, that admits that he has been exceedingly wrong in his moral choices but chooses now to do differently. I refuse to vote for a man who continues to do what much of the liberal media and other cowards in this country have been doing for years—finger pointing.
America needs honesty, Mr. Gingrich. My vote on March 13 waits for your reply.