Skip to comments.Newt Gingrich: America’s Next Catholic President?
Posted on 12/21/2011 7:19:10 AM PST by marshmallow
Michael Brendan Dougherty asks whether there will be a second act to Newt Gingrichs mind-boggling political career
Newt Gingrich has surged into the front of the polls in the Republican race to be the next president of the United States. He would be Americas second Catholic president, and its first chief executive with two ex-wives. His political resurrection has managed to outrage his former colleagues, the media, and conservative intellectuals. It is a contradiction of almost all received political wisdom.
Gingrichs campaign seemed to have expired last summer when most of his staff resigned and the candidate took a holiday in Hawaii. He is the man who led the charge against Bill Clinton for perjury about an adultery, while he himself was a serial adulterer. He is an egghead autodidact who wants to lead a conservative coalition that now believes much expertise is self-interest with a PhD. He made most of his money after he left Congress in the kind of crony deal-making between private and public institutions that the Tea Party rose to challenge. And yet he is the current favourite among self-identified Tea Partiers.
Gingrichs personal background is that of a Yankee transplant in Georgia, who won election to Congress in the late 1970s and established himself as an energetic backbencher, one who seemed to be at arms length from both the conservative and liberal wings of his party. He described himself as a conservative-futurist constantly pitching gigantic technological solutions to problems that didnt seem entirely political. To wit, he once suggested the building of a mirror system in space [that] could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for night-time lighting of the highways. Also in 1984 he dared to suggest that America build a large array of mirrors [that] could affect the earths climate and extend the growing season of farmers. He is constantly pitching gimmicky solutions to almost any problem in society or government, some of them found in science fiction novels, others taken from business management gurus.
Gingrich has also had a colourful personal life, having married his high school maths teacher, Jackie Battley, in 1962. She was 26 and he was 19. Not long after his election he began an affair with Marianne Ginther. A legend grew up around the divorce that Gingrich had given his wife the divorce papers while she writhed on her death bed from cancer. But Battley is still alive. And so is Ginther, whom Gingrich cheated on with his young Congressional aid Callista Bisek in the 1990s. Gingrich married the Catholic Bisek in 2000.
He rose to become Speaker of the House in 1994 when he helped to lead the GOP to its first congressional majority in two generations. It was hailed as a Republican Revolution and it resulted in historic welfare reform, and years of budget surpluses. But it ended in utter acrimony, and Gingrich became one of the least popular figures in Washington. Somehow this part of his career has been forgotten.
Over the last decade, Gingrich had two career tracks. On the one side he made money selling his influence among conservative Republicans to the drug industry and to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. He lobbied for the government expanding its subsidies to pharmaceutical companies and to mortgage makers. Conservatives have loathed the budget-busting results. On the other side, Gingrich morphed into a social conservative. Whereas in the 1990s Gingrich was the first member of Congress to call for Christmas trees to be re-named holiday trees, he now routinely bashes political correctness and secularism. He made a 2006 documentary and book with his third wife Calista called Rediscovering God in America, which he hawked at conservative gatherings. In this documentary he appeared wearing a crisp suit rather than sackcloth and ashes.
That, of course, is the other outrageous part of Gingrichs career: his seemingly easy road to redemption. It required just a political pivot. No one has been asking Newt Gingrich to do contrition the way John Profumo did, by releasing all claims to power and status and spending decades doing menial charity work though no one would object if Gingrich tried. But at times Gingrichs ambition to appear strong in the face of challenge has led him to give preposterous explanations for his erratic personal behaviour. Earlier this year he told a reporter from the Christian Broadcasting Network: Theres no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. This mea culpa seems more like Pontius Pilate sitting on Oprahs couch than the conversion of a modern-day St Paul.
There is a persistent joke among Right-leaning American intellectuals that the conservative movement is a front group for making Catholic converts. William F Buckley Jr, who put it together, was a devoted Catholic, and many of the movements major and minor intellectuals have converted. In the past decade that trend extended to more conservative public figures as Senator Sam Brownback, Florida governor Jeb Bush, and journalist Robert Novak were received into the Church. Gingrich converted in 2009, admitting his attraction to the Churchs history, which he discovered touring Rome, and his admiration for Pope Benedict XVI.
But Gingrichs religious professions, so unlike his political announcements, have been humble. Over the course of several years, I gradually became Catholic and then decided one day to accept the faith I had already come to embrace, he told the media in 2009. As a political figure he has compared himself to Charles de Gaulle, Abraham Lincoln and the Duke of Wellington, but he has, thankfully, never compared himself to the martyrs and saints.
And that is part of what seems to be working for Gingrich politically. When challenged about his affairs in public debates he encourages audiences to investigate his record and acknowledges that candidates should be judged on their whole public record and their personal integrity. His face seems to hint that his unpopularity in the 1990s and at times during the last decade caused him to suffer, a redemption through high negatives in public surveys.
The goodwill his candidacy has suddenly generated may not be enough to take him to the nomination. He lacks money, organisation, and he is still one of the most undisciplined political figures in modern America. But there is a subset of GOP voters who desire nothing more than to see him debate with Barack Obama. And his biography hits notes of personal redemption and political second acts that can drive a media narrative for months.
Gingrich has benefited because of reticence about his closest rival Mitt Romneys insincerity and his Mormonism. He is the latest and most plausible of the Not Mitt Romneys in this election cycle. But his candidacy could easily implode if he proposes some other scheme involving mirrors or if compares himself to Cicero.
Even if a Newt candidacy is risky and inadvisable, it wouldnt be the the first time Americas conservatives have had an unlikely champion. Over 30 years ago, media-hating conservatives rallied to Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood divorcé and union leader who had liberalised Californias abortion laws.
Of course, Americas social conservative voters want to nominate better candidates than they have in the past, but their coalition to defeat what Pope Benedict calls the dictatorship of relativism is itself a mutable and ever diversifying group. It tolerates all sorts of contradictions in the pursuit of its immediate political goals. And now with the spectre of a second term for Barack Obama terrifying social conservatives, it should be no surprise that it would tolerate the living outrage that is Newt Gingrich.
Michael Brendan Dougherty is politics editor at Business Insider
He’s got RELIGION???
THE HORROR—THE HORROR!!!!!!!
Say not so.
Santorum is also Catholic.
If he’s still Catholic when he takes the oath...I figure he will convert to Mormon once he realizes he can do an Executive Order and make Polygamy legal...(as long as he can get a deal on that 10% tithe - maybe a 5% kickback).
Would be great to see Calista’s face when she finds out she’s going from 1st wife (1st Lady) to 2nd wife (housecleaner)...:-)
Posting your personal fantasies.
Posting your personal fantasies.
His Catholicism is actually an angle he should exploit politely
He has baggage from his past and I don't quite like what he's done (don't like it at all), but I see him as a viable candidate who can reverse what Obama has done.
Is he the super-conservative that many of the super-conservatives here want -- NO. he's no Palin and if Palin was running she'd get my vote, but she's not.
however, he is against abortion, gay marriage, Islam, socialism. He also is sound fiscally -- he passed a balanced budget remember, and he knows where to cut
Perry I like too, but he doesn't know DC - some of what some candidates have said (a blanket 10% cut) is not as smart as what, say Cain said -- cutting deeply where one CAN cut deeply and not a blanket cut
Also, quite frankly overtly saying he's Catholic would lose him a lot of votes from a few GOPers (or at least that's what I see on FR) and lose a lot of votes from the dim-undecided and the undecided crowd.
Yes, another reason to not elect Newt — He will take all his orders from the Vatican and turn the USA into an all Roman Catholic country. Just like the blessed saint John F. Kennedy tried to do. (sarcasm)
I just can’t wait for the MSM to start publishing this line of reason; in fact, I will not be surprised if ole Tingles Mathews himself might even start it.
“...and he is still one of the most undisciplined political figures in modern America.”
I don’t buy this. I think it’s a product of media kool-aid freely shared across the political spectrum.
The most radical liberals fear this guy.
We can but hope! I believe Newt will be the American Churchill. He will lead us in the dark times to come.
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Gingrich Represents New Political Era for Catholics
Gingrich Represents New Political Era for Catholics [ecumenical}
Newt Gingrich on Catholicism and JPII
Why Newt Gingrich Converted to Catholicism
Exclusive: Newt Gingrich Opens Up on Catholic Conversion and Embracing 'Overt Christianity'
Newt Gingrich on his conversion to Catholicism
Gingrich Keeps Quiet on Catholic Conversion (received into Church over the past weekend)
Exclusive: Newt Gingrich conversion details; plans release of JP2 documentary
Gingrich to Become Catholic During Easter Season
The Newt Evangelization: Gingrich to become Catholic
Callista is a homewrecker. Newt changes religions almost as often as he does spouses. Mitt Romney, at least in the conduct of his personal life, is more of a Catholic than Newt.
Rick Santorum is a much better choice. Rick has had the same religion and same wife all of his life.
He does not give speeches about The Constitution then goes out and undermines it. Or gives speeches about Reagan and then schemes with Clinton like you know who.
Newt is worse than McCain and Lindsay Graham-nesty. When we thought Newt was fighting Clinton, it was all a sham. He and Clinton passed the worst new world order laws to sc*ew Americans. MFN for China, GATT/WTO, NAFTA, money for the NEA, IRS and UN, the list is long.
Newt is a Pelosi Republican and a Pelosi Catholic.
Anyone running is better than Newt except maybe Huntsman.
What a problem for some people. The next President could be a Catholic, a Mormon, or a guy they think is a black Muslim from Africa. They must think it is end times or something.
Newt had a far better ACU rating than Rick Santorum did.
JFK got 80% of Catholic vote....way beyond usual tendency of Catholics to vote Dem
Carter did very well with evangelicals even though he was so kumbaya
Mormons tend to vote for Mormons...and Jews for Jews
It matters though given the decline of faith overall it probably means less today