"Boys will be boys, but boys will not be presidents" -Ronald W. Reagan
Conservatives love Reagan quotes. Any republican candidate worth their flag pin would be remiss not to slip a good Reaganism or two into each day's campaign efforts. They make great sound bites on Fox news. But I suspect this particular Ronnie line won't be written into any of Newt Gingrich's stump speeches.
This obscure little tidbit was not part of any grand speech, but an offhand remark Reagan made in 1984, upon his learning that then-presidential candidate Gary Hart had been caught having an affair. Reagan didn't really exploit this fact in the campaign. He didn't need to. Voters vetted Hart on his own merits and decided that he was better off a historical footnote than leader of the free world. Hart failed to grab the nomination, so he never went head to head with Reagan anyways. Folks who were alive back then can vaguely recall Hart's antics when prompted. Kids today know him as "Gary Who?"
So fast forward 2.5 decades. Today we have a front-runner who has a long history of fidelity issues. OK, so he's had an affair or three. So what? Other than that, he talks a really good game. He surged to the front on a combination of slick statesmanship during the early debates and an enduring lack of enthusiasm for the guy who seems to be the republican heir apparent, Mitt Romney. Following the implosion of Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann, Gingrich floated to the top, the best of what's left. Those calling themselves "true conservatives" flocked to him, most of them hoping nobody noticed that they were holding their noses while doing so.
Me? I can't do it. I won't do it.
There's a couple reasons why. Some of them don't have anything to do with his infidelity issues. For one, he's a Washington insider. How can anyone with 30 years inside the beltway under his belt promise anything remotely like change? He talks an exceptionally good game when it comes to political rhetoric. Under normal circumstances, most people would call that "BS." Yet here we find ourselves with little in the way of alternatives, so suddenly it's repackaged as something more appealing. Politicians say all sorts of things to get people to vote for them, but people are buying it this time.
That's OK, I guess. But while I can find much that I like about what Gingrich says, and many of his ideas make sense to me, I always come back to his infidelity issues. Why? Why should I care what he does behind closed doors? Those issues are between him and his ex-wife (wives). Why should anyone else care?
That...is a darn good question. It suggests that voters should look the other way when it comes to his personal life. Looking at it like that offers a loophole where an otherwise solid conservative voter can take the thorny moral issue off the table and focus on the issues that really matter. Simple stuff.
Or is it? Fine, I'll spot you the issues between a man and wife are their issues, and theirs alone. But, strictly looking at it as a legal matter, you still have the undeniable fact that he broke his promise to be faithful, and by doing so, breached a legal contract. He lied, cheated and deceived, all in violation to a mutual agreement that was legally binding.
Are you getting that part? He LIED. He CHEATED. He DECEIVED. And he did it more than once. Now he's asking me, you and the entire country to forget about all that and pay attention only to what he's talking about now. He's telling us that we can trust him to stick to the new promises, while forgetting the old broken promises that pockmark his history.
Even if you like what he says, do you trust him to follow through? What is it in his history gives you the idea that he's even capable of doing so?
I've asked myself that question, rolled it over and over in my mind. I really want to believe in Newt. But in the end I have to trust my own spider sense. I don't believe him when he says that this promise is the one he'll finally keep.
That's why I won't vote for him. Integrety matters to me so I just can't. Can you?
The best thing that can happen to the Republican party is for Newt to fade to the background, become the Hart-like footnote he deserves to be.