I was going to say that Newt Gingrich is detestable, but that’s not quite right. After all, I don’t know him personally. A man runs for President and all of a sudden qualities of character that would otherwise seem innocuous if a bit unpleasant are magnified into matters of grave concern.
Which is more to the point. It’s one thing to have a beer with your neighbor who is always in and out of marital and other personal troubles but you like him because he’s smart and entertaining and knowledgeable and just overall interesting, and occasionally even inspiring and lucid and visionary. Not that you agree with everything he says, or even understand him half the time.
But the idea of electing the guy President of the United States is lunacy. You don’t hand positions of frightful power to men who are unstable, erratic and undisciplined, even though they might be brilliant in their way. And that’s really what this amounts to. It would be like electing the late Christopher Hitchens president. Endlessly interesting, but frivolous and dangerous at the same time. A toddler with a loaded gun.
I feel badly for his second wife. It was bad judgment for her to go public with her complaints about him, but on the other hand he injured her and treated her shabbily. And now the world is treating her shabbily, rewarding him through votes, and by implication treating her as if what he did to her doesn’t matter, a mere trifle. That’s not fair. Not that anything can be done about it at this point.
Now if you want to get technical about it all, apparently since he hooked up with his most recent wife Newt converted to Catholicism and his previous marriages were annulled, so as a result he never did commit adultery because he was never really married in the first place. Which of course is not to say that he has conducted himself honorably either.
And this, I think, is important: character matters, but a man’s sins should be between him and his confessor. This is the Catholic and Orthodox way, and it’s vastly superior to tawdry and extravagant public airings that inevitably degenerate into prurient spectacles. They are pointless and distastefully voyeuristic, and we wind up wallowing in it.
And it’s also very selective. There are seven deadly sins; lust is only one of them. No one “exposes”, dwells on or even discusses a presidential candidate’s gluttony or greed or anger or pride or envy and yet all of these are at least as destructive as lust. There is no articulable or rational reason why the sin of lust is any more shameful than the others – but we feel that way. It’s a cultural specific thing. It probably has something to do with our protestant roots. Run it out to its logical extreme and you get some of the worst aspects of Islam and sharia law, or puritanical arguments that a woman’s exposed ankle or shoulder is a scandal.
I know I’m only speaking for myself, but I’ve really had enough of it. It’s all right to make an assessment of character in an overall sense; but the nitty-gritty of this or that sin is none of my business. Newt has his excesses, I understand that. And for that reason and others I pray he is never elected president, and I don’t believe he will be.
But the moralizing obsession with sexual sin has also become plainly excessive. And incoherent. And if the ultimate rejection of Newt Gingrich is seen to be the result of that it will reinforce the bizarre cultural schizophrenia about it all, where a distinctively American, mindless moral severity thrives right alongside an equally mindless, startling and open sexual permissiveness.