For those who may have missed it, Newt Gingrich was under very heavy scrutiny by social conservatives in Iowa. He has a lot of explaining to do regarding some of his ugly conduct with his first wife during their separation. If you recall, Mr. Gingrich “Pearl Harbored” his wife with divorce papers while she was undergoing chemotherapy threatments and it was subsequently discovered that he was already in another relationship at the time. With one of his staffers. In secret. Awesome, Newt. Just…awesome.
Well these days, Newt suddenly has a flush of expressions of fidelity with religious conservatives circling his campaign. He said about two months back that he would be highly uncomfortable with an atheist in the White House, suggesting that any President who wasn’t guided by a higher power scared him “unimaginably.” Of course, many of us agree with the sentiment but question whether Mr. Gingrich has the moral authority to make such statements.
He did, however, use this family and faith summit as an opportunity to speak (with what sounded to me like conviction) about his past moral troubles. He said this, for example:
“After I got married and things got more complicated – for obvious reasons…we had two kids, I was getting very busy in politics, my wife got sick…well I started to slip a bit away from my religious upbringing. I found after a time that there was something missing inside me…that I felt hollow deep down, and it was like the harder I worked, the more hollow I got. This emptiness creeps up on a man when he’s not paying attention to God…and it caused me to make mistakes…to cause my loved ones pain. And it was around this time that my friend Trent (might he be referring to Trent Lott? Not sure…) gave me a copy of the two books that form the fundamental philosophy behind Alcoholics Anonymous. I wasn’t drinking at the time, but that hole inside me had all the same symptoms and the more I thought about it…the more I read from the Big Book…and the more I realized I had to focus on my faith. Now I’m on great terms with my first wife and my two kids…we’re very close…but the main point of this…and what I would say I learned from my mistakes…is that we’re all small and weak and we all need help. There is a very real part of every soul that will always be hollow if we don’t fill it with our faith. I said a while back that I didn’t feel comfortable with an atheist in the White House and it’s because I realize how unfit for such an important task one man is without a higher authority. Any man, I think, who thinks he can be President of the United States and do all of that work without any help from God terrifies me.”
I still think Newt thinks too much of himself when it comes to his command of history and the unassailable righteousness of his beliefs (and I think he’ll be a bit of a tough sell to moderates unless he tones down the confrontational tone in debates at the National level) but I also believe in redemption and second chances and forgiveness of past wrongs when honest contrition is given first. And this seemed honest to me. He is now a regular practicing Catholic and there does seem to be a noticable drop in his roughness other than his antagonistic feelings toward the media. Maybe w shouldn’t judge him by his past actions alone…maybe he’s a better man today.