To his credit, however, stranger things have happened. In fact, according to the article, he believed in the early 1980s that he would become Speaker of the House, which most people in Congress found patently absurd. Yet, in 1994, that's exactly what he accomplished when he led his party out of the legislative wilderness in the "Republican Revolution." The Democrats held the majority of the seats in the House of Representatives for FORTY years!!! Gingrich's coup was an amazing feat. Much of the success, though, was due to a backlash of President Clinton, particularly on his health care reform initiatives, led by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Voter turnout was kind of low. In fact, many of the voters who helped Clinton defeat Bush in 1992 likely stayed home in 1994, allowing the "revolt of the angry white male" to "take back Congress." Republicans are hoping for a repeat this fall, but I don't think they'll manage to take back control of Congress simply because people still remember that it was Republican control of both the Executive and Legislative branches that got our country into the economic crisis we are still feeling today.
In 1994, Congressman Newt Gingrich presented his strategy in a pamphlet he called "Contract With America." This was more like a Contract ON America. Some of Gingrich's ideas included bringing back orphanages, turning back the clock to the 1930s and 1940s; ending welfare; and balancing the budget...to the point of shutting down the government in 1995. In fact, in the ultimate case of irony, it was the government shutdown of 1995 that allowed unpaid White House interns to have closer access to the president when many Executive Branch employees were furloughed until Clinton and Congress agreed on the budget. During this shutdown period, Monica Lewinsky was able to capture the wandering eye of our lustful president and the rest is history!
During the budget standoff, Clinton won the battle but lost "the war." It was the case of two alpha-males in a showdown about who was the bigger bad ass. Speaker Gingrich forced the government shutdown and the American public blamed Congress more than the President for it. Little did we know at the time that a slutty intern was doing her part to keep the president's morale up. By the time the relationship was exposed and became the #1 topic of conversation for the entire year of 1998, Speaker Gingrich thought he could increase the Republican margins in the House by emphasizing the President's "immorality" in every speech he gave. Turns out, in 1998 (the only year in which I did not vote since reaching the age of eligibility, partly due to my disgust over the scandal), the Republicans actually lost seats including several high profile Senators and Congressmen who were the biggest adversaries of President Clinton (namely, Senator Al D'Amato of New York and Senator Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina). Despite the national "referendum" on Clinton's sex scandal (Gingrich had stated that the 1998 mid-term was nothing more than a referendum on the Lewinsky affair) showing that the American people sided with the president, the Republican Congress still voted for articles of impeachment during a lame-duck session (I remember seeing the "breaking news" on TV at the airport for my flight back to Atlanta for Christmas break during college).
There was a "coup" within the Republican Party over Speaker Gingrich, who resigned not only as the Speaker but also as a representative for the Congressional seat in Georgia he had just won for another term. He was never my representative in Congress (thank God!), but I learned enough about him from the local press in Georgia to know that he was as slimey as they come. My former Congressman was Ben Jones, who played "Cooter" (the mechanic) on The Dukes of Hazzard. He was defeated in 1992 after serving two terms and spent his time trying to bring media exposure to Gingrich's unethical financial schemes through a PAC.
The reason why I don't think Gingrich has a realistic chance at the presidency, though, is because of his lack of character. He is the ultimate hypocrite and the Esquire article, which features extensive insight from Gingrich's second wife, points this out quite plainly for all to read. You have to wonder about a man who would try to make the 1998 mid-term election a "referendum" on President Clinton's adultery while he, himself, was guilty of cheating on his wife! That's right. While Gingrich was running around the country giving speeches to conservative groups outraged by our president's "immorality", Gingrich was having an affair with his Congressional aide. I remember reading an article in the aftermath of his resignation that Clinton had called him on the carpet and tried to "connect" with him on a personal level. Apparently, both Clinton and Gingrich believed that receiving oral sex from someone other than their wives did not constitute "adultery." This view is actually quite common among guys I knew in the Navy, as well.
In the article, Marianne Gingrich said a lot of interesting things about her former husband, particularly the conversation she had with him after she learned that he was cheating on her. She mentioned a speech he had given in Erie, Pennsylvania about compassion and family values. "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?" she asked him.
His response was: "It doesn't matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."
This morsel of Newtism tells us EVERYTHING we need to know about this slimey politician. He's definitely a neo-conservative down to the marrow of his bones. Though some of his ideas aren't all bad (he actually deserves credit for forcing Clinton to balance the budget, which resulted in the surplus our country enjoyed from 1997 through 2000; and he made a secret deal with Clinton to salvage social security and medicare for the far foreseeable future), neo-conservativism is what got our country into the mess that we're in now. The basic philosophy of this movement stems from Plato's Republic, where the ideal form of government is rule by the "Philosopher Kings." I will admit that while in college, though I wasn't aware of it at the time, I was "sold" on the ideas of the neo-conservatives (particularly that philosophers or deep thinkers make the best kind of leaders and that we have a moral obligation to spread democracy to nations suffering under the grip of despotic, autocratic dictatorships).
Seeing neo-conservativism in practice, though, woke me up to the reality of the underlying dishonesty and cynicism at its core. According to neo-conservative philosophy, lying to the masses is actually considered a "virtue" because they believe that most people are too ignorant to know what's best for them, so telling them what they want to hear in order to manipulate them into going along with the philosopher king's plans is considered perfectly acceptable. That's exactly how the invasion of Iraq was sold to the American people. On lies upon lies. And the karmic consequences of this unjust war resulted in the collapse of our own economy with so many people out of work and unable to find jobs.
Marianne Gingrich reveals a man with no moral compass. She said: "Newt always wanted to be somebody. That was his vulnerability...Being treated important. Which means he was gonna associate with people who would stroke him, and were important themselves. And in that vulnerability, once you go down that path and it goes unchecked, you add to it. Like, 'Oh, I'm drinking, who cares?' Then you start being a little whore, 'cause that comes with drinking. That's what corruption is--when you're too exhausted, you're gonna go with your weakness. So when we see corruption, we shouldn't say, 'They're all corrupt.' Rather, we should say, 'At what point did you decide that? And why? Why were you vulnerable?"
In another telling description in the article quotes a former Congressional colleague, Mickey Edwards: "I've known Newt now for thirty years almost, but I wouldn't be able to describe what his real principles are. I never felt that he had any sort of a real compass about what he believed except for the pursuit of power."
These are the patterns of a neo-conservative. Morality is for the masses, not the "philosopher kings." And if Newt is anything at all, he is most definitely a lifelong studious thinker. While its great that he loves ideas and has shown that he can compromise to achieve great things for our country (despite the moralistic rhetoric he tells his conservative, evangelical base), the fact that he lacks an inner moral code is bothersome. Even Clinton has a moral center that does not waver (his compassion is legendary and he has shown in his fights against the Republican-controlled Congress that he will protect those who depend on government services to survive. That's one line he won't cross). As I told the Fundy co-worker a decade ago (which pissed her off): "I'd rather be a sinner like Clinton than a hypocrite like Gingrich." I stand by those words to this day. If you go back and look at Clinton's campaign speeches (against Bush in 1992 and Dole in 1996), you won't see any personal attacks on either men. He was even gracious to the Republican successors to the Speaker of the House after Gingrich resigned (both Bob Livingstone and Dennis Hastert had committed adultery as well). Clinton has never claimed to be something he wasn't, so he was never a hypocrite. He had his flaws and it nearly cost him his presidency as well as his marriage, but not once did he ever attack an adversary on personal grounds. His criticisms stuck with the issues.
Its entirely something else when a person PRETENDS to be something they are not, such as Gingrich. I have a close friend who believes that politicians should talk about and legislate morality, EVEN IF they violate their own moral claims. I was stunned when I heard him say this. I tried to get him to understand what he was saying (that it was okay if a person tells someone else how to conduct their lives when they are guilty of doing the very thing they condemn), but he couldn't because he believes that its important to set a moral standard to abide by, even if we fall short of it. My problem with moralists, though, is that many people are pretending to be something they are not while condemning others who disagree with their morality and live according to their own values.
Its always much worse to be a hypocrite than a person who just lives a sinful life without condemning other people for doing the same. There is a reason why hypocrisy turns people off and makes us more cynical. If you can't live the values and morals you profess, then you have NO RIGHT to demand that others live by your standards. After all, if you can't live by them, why would you expect someone else to? Since I prefer honesty over morality, I much prefer someone who does not pretend to some morals just to win votes. Be honest with your life and let others have the same right.
If Newt Gingrich does run for president in 2012, I predict that his campaign will go the same way that Rudy Giuliani's campaign did in 2008. The Republican primaries are dominated by the religious right who vote their values. They are the ones who demand that candidates stick to the narrow confines of their religious views. Abortion and guns seem to be the first two issues of importance, followed by praises to Ronald Reagan. Giuliani had a hard time gaining support of this key constituency because of his mayorship of New York City, which put him in the "socially liberal" camp. Additionally, his well-publicized divorce did not help. Mormon Mitt Romney did not find traction with this group either, because no one really knew where he stood on core issues. He flip flopped on several issues.
I think Newt will face the same questions from the religious right. The most important thing to know about Newt Gingrich is that as a 16 year old, he fell in love with his twentysomething year old Geometry teacher and married her after he graduated high school. When she was recovering in the hospital from cancer years later, he served her divorce papers so he could marry Marianne, who became his wife during the middle part of his life (the time when he won a seat to Congress in the early 1980s all the way to the turn of the millennium). During the time when he was telling conservative voters that President Clinton needed to be impeached for the Monica Lewinsky affair, he was cheating on Marianne with a younger Congressional aide. This pattern of behaviour is hard to ignore, especially if people really mean what they say regarding values. If you vote your values, it does not make sense to support such a cynical, manipulative politician like Newt Gingrich. Neo-conservatives view religion much like Karl Marx did: an opiate for the masses, but philosopher kings know better than to believe in all of that. Its not surprising that many neo-conservatives tend to be secular Jews.
Finally, the other nail in Gingrich's presidential ambitions coffin is the fact that he converted to Catholicism. Evangelical Christians have an uneasy alliance with Catholics, which seems mostly centered on the abortion issue. However, the reality is that many evangelical Christians view the Catholic Church as "the great, abominable church" that is ruled by Satan (Pat Robertson has been known to reiterate this point in his books and on his propaganda network). Its unlikely that this group would want a Catholic President, convert or not.
Marianne was asked about her former husband's conversion to Catholicism. She laughed before explaining that "It has no meaning. It's hysterical," she said. "I got a notice that they wanted to nullify my marriage. They're making jokes about it on local radio. The minute he got married, divorce, married, divorced -- what does the Catholic Church say about this?"
The best thing she said about him, though, was: "When you try and change your history too much, you lose touch with who you really are. You lose your way."
That's what happens when a person lacks an inner moral compass. We have plenty of evidence about Newt Gingrich already to know the most important thing when it comes to choosing a president: he cannot be trusted. I truly hope the evangelical Christians will neuter this Newt during the 2012 Republican primaries, if he decides to run. Don't be conned by his false moralism. He's a neo-con, through and through, and after the past decade, no one should be conned again!