The Politics of Divorce

Newt Gingrich's candidacy should not be judged by his past marriages.

There is no doubt that he has a checkered past, lined with Congressional investigations and ex-wives left under bitter circumstances. Before endorsing him yesterday, Gov. Rick Perry even tried to use Newt's infidelity as an issue in the campaign. During one debate, Gov. Perry compared marital fidelity to loyalty in business essentially saying that if you can cheat on your wife, who won't you cheat on?

The personal character and integrity of a person is a big part of judging their leadership potential. A leader needs to earn trust to be effective.

However, I don't trust Newt any more or any less than the other candidates because of his failed marriages and alleged infidelities. In fact, most people would probably give the integrity and honesty award to Ron Paul...but that does not mean he will get all the votes.

Voters have to judge candidates on a wide range of character questions. First, they have to check the potential criminal or corrupt conduct in a candidates past.

Second, they have to ask questions about their personal relationships with friends, family and business partners. We all give character references when applying for work, so why shouldn't we ask the same of candidates for elected office?

Third, we have to evaluate their conduct in a position of leadership. Were they effective? Did they stomp on their workers or treat them well? Were they mean spirited and arrogant or were they humble?

Finally, we have to evaluate their statements up against how they live.

That last point is where Newt is in trouble. Hypocrisy will sink you in politics faster than almost anything short of a criminal conviction. If Newt's faith and family values position starts to look like massive hypocrisy in the light of his personal failings as a hunsband, voters may sour on him.

Newt has pushed hard to convince voters that he is a reformed man who is now a devout Catholic.

There is one problem, Catholics don't look kindly on divorces. Not one bit.

Newt has two divorces under his belt. It is not uncommon in America society today, but it is not any more acceptable to the Catholic Church than it was 100 years ago. I would not expect to see a Catholic bishop endorsing Newt publicly anytime soon.

Newt's real problem is not the divorces or the ex-wives or even the infidelity. It's the fact that he has spent the entire campaign trying to cast himself as the moral authority of the Conservative movement within the Republican Party. His quest to become the anti-Romney candidate for Republicans is based on his Conservative credentials not only on fiscal issues, but also on matters of faith and family values. He is outspoken against abortion and gay marriage, much more forcefully than Romney. The problem is that the messenger has to be pristine in order to tell someone else how to conduct their moral activities. Newt is far from pristine, by his own admission.

I fully expect my politicians to be flawed and to talk out of two sides of their mouth. It is my responsibility as a voter to call them on it. However, Christian Conservative Republicans across the country will have to be convinced beyond a doubt that Newt's personal behavior won't overwhelm his values message.

He is off to a good start in defending himself; but, hypocrisy is a word that gets heavier with time and harder to shake off your reputation. The longer that thought sits in the minds of voters, the more it will sour and eroded the other positive images of the candidate.

I won't judge Newt's candidacy on his ex-wife's interview or his personal past, but if he continues to cast himself as a faith and family politician, I might change my mind. I can vote for someone with a sorted love life, but I won't vote for an open hypocrite.



Filed under: National Goverment

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