Gingrich rise and fall: A question of decency?
Newt Gingrich’s earlier spike in the polls, and Republican voters' enduring wariness of ‘Mr. Clean’ Romney, raise the question: How is it that voters loathe Obama, with a personal history of high moral standing and liberal policies, while supporting a conservative with a history of immorality?
Newt Gingrich slid rather quickly in public opinion polls, but his earlier ride to the top revealed a monumental miscalculation on the part of some Republicans. Among other things, it showed a serious underestimation of people’s thirst for integrity and public decency in presidential hopefuls.Skip to next paragraph
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Perhaps those who swarmed behind the former House speaker are now rediscovering that important factor – helped on by a barrage of negative ads and leaflets unleashed by his rivals, detractors, and “super political action committees,” known as super PACs. The attacks try to paint Mr. Gingrich’s public and private behavior as either hypocritical or lacking in ethics and morals.
The great contrast here is loathing a president of high moral standing for his policies while supporting a conservative with a history of immorality.
Gingrich is the only speaker of the House of Representatives to ever have been disciplined for ethics violations – for which he paid a whopping $300,000. Whatever happened to the public decency prerequisite for presidential nominees?
New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was denied the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, because among other things, he was a divorced man. That was a moral yardstick at the time – irrelevant, yes, but at least a sign of moral interest on the part of voters.
Politicians can survive much but not public ridicule. I recently read with amusement that Gingrich has taken his fourth “no-adultery pledge” after having cheated on two of his three wives. Drew Sheneman, cartoonist of the Newark Star-Ledger, wryly observed that at least “he always married his mistresses afterward,” giving a new twist to family values.
A group of Christians in Iowa is directly attacking infidelity as one reason for conservatives to stay away from Gingrich. It is not an inconsequential matter – as Herman Cain, once a GOP front-runner, discovered after being accused of sexual harassment and having an adulterous affair. The allegations forced him from the race.
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Gingrich flew to the top of the polls as part of the “anybody but Mitt” phenomenon. But his rise also was a barometer of the intensity of Republican hatred for President Obama’s policies – which conservatives see as socialist.
GOP media strategist Rick Wilson recently conducted a focus group in which Republicans were asked if they would rather kill the president’s health care law or kill Osama bin Laden. The GOP focus group said they preferred to “kill Obamacare.”
The Affordable Care Act provides health coverage for millions more Americans, and yet the litmus test for too many Republicans seems to be simply: “Is our guy mean enough to beat Obama?”