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Make Mine Freedom

Monday, February 06, 2012

Marital Fidelity in Presidential Politics

In 1998, Democrat President Bill Clinton came under fire from Republicans and Conservatives for lying to Congress and for having an allegedly sordid affair with intern Monica Lewinski. Prior to his election in 1992, then candidate Bill Clinton faced a similar scrutiny for his marital infidelity as Newt Gingrich is now. At the time, Democrats claimed that Clinton’s private life would not impact his professional life, and Republicans replied to the contrary.

Like Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich has come under attack from the religious faithful who observe his marital infidelity and echo Rick Perry’s sentiment that if a man will cheat on his wife, who else will he cheat on? Or, more succinctly, if a man will violate the oath he takes at marriage, what other oaths will he violate? These are good questions and worthy of consideration. They are certainly important. No doubt about it, but in politics they tend to be driven by fear, not rational thought.

Bill Clinton’s supporters and Rick Perry’s speculation are both correct but not completely so. As usual, the truth tends to live in the middle of two extremes. The truth is marital infidelity suggests a certain lack of commitment that may or may not carry over to the commitments of responsibility held by the President of the United States. It is the uncertainty, and therefore, the fear of a negative outcome that mitigates the whole issue.

A married couple may have perfect fidelity to each other while either one or both has trouble making and keeping commitments in every other area of life. At the same time, a man (as is more likely the case—but not always) may cheat on his wife but maintain loyal commitments in other areas of his life. The assumption, then, that a man who cheated on his wife will automatically cheat on other commitments is faulty and irrational.

Constitutionally, marital fidelity is not a requirement for elected office. Article VI of the Constitution states: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article VI). Perhaps, the religious test they prohibited was not just whether a candidate or office holder belonged to a specific church, sect, or religion, so much as it was that they thought it inappropriate to judge a candidate based on religious beliefs and performances.

Nancy Reagan is or was Ronald Reagan’s second wife succeeding Jane Wyman. Apparently, it was Wyman who initiated the divorce. Though it is held that the reason for the divorce was Reagan’s zeal for politics, the facts are clear: Reagan was a divorced and remarried man when he was elected President. Despite his divorce, Reagan turned out to be a pretty good president. Yet, if the religious test had been administered, Reagan, having been divorced, would not have passed, would not have been President, and would not have brought about the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall.

We know Bill Clinton was a philanderer—women kept coming out of the woodwork all throughout the 90s especially during the Lewinsky scandal as if his Presidency had made him the conquest of their lives. Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Gina Gershon, and Elizabeth Gracen are four of the alleged fifteen extra-marital affairs Clinton had. But the scandal was less about Clinton’s excessive libido than it was about defiling the office of the President of the United States. Had his alleged excursions with Miss Lewinsky occurred in a hotel room, news of it might never have broken. Unfortunately, Clinton lacked the necessary wisdom in the matter and thought the oval office made a better and more convenient place for blissful philandering. Still, many think Clinton was a good President; and honestly, when compared to Obama, Clinton was the perfect President. Again, if the test had been administered, Clinton never would have made it to the Governor’s mansion in Little Rock—let alone become President.

John F. Kennedy was also believed to be a womanizer. It is widely held that he had an affair with Marilyn Monroe while he was the President. In many regards, he also turned out to be a pretty good president being more conservative as a Democrat than many Republicans claiming to be conservative are today. Had the test been administered to him, the US might never have entered the space race.

Marital infidelity is both distasteful and unfortunate especially when children are involved. It inherently means that one spouse (not always the man) has been unfaithful to the other spouse, their marriage vows, and their children, if any. Where the family is the nucleus of society, its destruction is a terrible thing any time it occurs.
A good marriage takes a lot of continual effort from both husband and wife. It cannot be done absent-mindedly. There is no autopilot for a marital relationship. Some of us have worked hard enough to maintain and sustain a good marriage. Others have been lucky enough to enjoy a good marriage without much effort while others, still, have bungled their marriage for one reason or another and perhaps continue to bungle subsequent marriages.

Unfortunately for him, Newt Gingrich falls into the category of one who has bungled his marriage through none other than adultery. Fortunately for him, marital fidelity is only a tangent in the political world. Those who denigrate politicians like Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and others because of marital infidelity are doing so from a ground of indignant piety, not from any solid political standpoint making the real test of marital infidelity a religious one rather than one of political competence.

The Ten Commandments state clearly, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Where the Ten Commandments are widely accepted throughout all of Christianity, many view adultery as a grievous sin—as they should. Under the law of Moses, the religious law that ruled Jerusalem at the time Christ was on the earth, Adultery was punishable by death from stoning. But, when the Pharisees brought an adulterous woman to Jesus hoping to trap him in the law, Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Make no mistake about it. Jesus did NOT condone the adultery. Rather, he turned her guilt upon her accusers. No one is perfect.

Aside from the dogmatic considerations of repentance and grace, who is to say that Mr. Gingrich has not done all he can do to repent of those indiscretions? Isn’t his repentance a subject that rests solely between him, his ex-wife, his ecclesiastical leader, and God especially if we who are observing him do not belong to his Faith or Religion? Perhaps, in answer to these two questions, we might reiterate Christ’s admonition: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at [him]” (John 8:7).

According to the pious and zealous, the ideal candidate is one who upholds his marital vows as much as he does his career. But, what is the cost? Do we search for only those candidates whose marriages have been perfectly sound?
A candidate with a perfectly sound marriage won the last election, and has led the nation into reckless spending habits, Socialism, and virtual destruction. Therefore, the marital fidelity of a candidate, though an important indicator of character, cannot and should not be a deciding factor in the race for the President. As much as an individual may not like it, there are far more considerations with greater consequence and impact than a candidates marital issues or lack thereof.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have, as far as anyone knows, had lasting marital relationships full of fidelity. The accomplishment is commendable for all of them. However, all of the candidates, including Gingrich, have drawbacks as a potential commander-in-chief.

Romney is the businessman that recognizes how fiscally messed up the federal government is. He’s a fixer. BUT, he’s a moderate, not a conservative. Some capitulate his record as governor by citing that he was a Republican governing a very liberal state. Ann Coulter has excused “Romneycare” by saying it was constitutional because it was enacted on the state level and that it was the free-market solution at the time—it was the conservative thing to do. Unfortunately, only the first half is true. Because of the 10th Amendment, “Romneycare” is constitutional where “Obamacare” is not. Unfortunately, such capitulations ultimately prove the undoing of candidates and supporters alike. There is nothing free-market about a government mandate—nothing conservative about bigger government. While Governor of Massachusetts, Romney guaranteed the state he would not change the laws concerning abortion, and reinforced the court as the final say when a girl under 18 wanted to have an abortion. He was as far left as a Republican can be without changing parties.

Today, his plans, at least as expressed in the debates so far, fail to capture the totality of the condition of the United States. He wants to help the “middle-class.” So, he’s caught up in the faulty notion that there are economic classes of Americans. There are rich and there are poor. There are also those in between. The beauty of the United States is that there is no caste system. A poor person can work hard, make him or herself better and join the ranks of the wealthy. It has happened repeatedly. But it can’t happen by treating only one segment—no matter how large or small—of the nation’s population. Worst of all, he supports the authority to indefinitely detain US Citizens on US Soil.

Any candidate who is willing to entertain the possibility of denying US Citizens the power of the Bill of Rights is not Constitutionally minded and will make for a poor President. It is something that is far more important, in my opinion than a prospective President's marital fidelity.

Rick Santorum also favors NDAA’s indefinite detention but in a muted way. He is a Neocon, a “big government conservative.” Neocons, while better than their Progressive counterparts in many ways, see the government as a useful tool to accomplish conservative and quasi-conservative ends to the same extent progressives do for liberal ends. The big flaw in Neocon thinking is that they can use the government to bring about a change in the behavior of people. Newt Gingrich was absolutely right when he said that “Right-wing social engineering is no better than Left-wing social engineering.” No matter how much morality, virtue, and honor are missing in this country, none of them can be restored by the government. Period. Morality, virtue and honor must be restored by the people. When moral, virtuous and honorable themselves, the people will not stand for scallywags in government.

Ron Paul is the only candidate on record against indefinite detention, but he is not a conservative so much as he is a Constitutional libertarian which means that he thinks government ought to be restricted to the bounds set by the Constitution. Paul sees civil liberties for what they are. He would allow other countries to do as they please including the development of nuclear weapons. He would not engage in a war of aggression, but only a defensive war. These are all good things. However, though many people take exception to Paul’s foreign policies, his problem is leadership. During his tenure as a Congressman, he has been consistent in voting with the Constitution, but not once has he led the Congress to revert any of its unconstitutional activities, its spending, or any other element of his campaign platform. Were it not for his lack of leadership, Ron Paul would be the only reasonable and viable candidate for President.

Still, it remains that these three candidates outweigh Newt Gingrich in terms of marital fidelity. They are to be commended for it, and they all espouse conservative rhetoric. But, rhetoric is simply the art of using words in an argument. Conservative rhetoric rings true to conservatives because it, cites the Constitution, and proclaims limited government and sound fiscal policies. The problem is: unless the rhetoric is rooted in principle, it can change at a moment’s notice. One indicator of a vacillating mind is the frequency at which the rhetoric changes.

The cold, hard truth is that there is not a candidate, who has a perfectly sound marriage and is also committed to the limited federal government created in the Constitution, the United States as both a concept and a nation, and the values the founders laid out when they fought for and won independence from Great Britain. Those who perfectly fit the bill have obviously not heard the call of their country.

Remember that Christ’s injunction was: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at [Gingrich]” (John 8:7). It wasn’t “he that has not been adulterous,…,” and it wasn’t, “he that is has never had marital issues,…” Rather, He said, “He that is without sin…” That is inclusive of all sin. Furthermore, Christ said to the adulterous woman, “go thy way and sin no more.” If Christ, being sinless, can forgive an adulterous woman, perhaps Christians, being imperfect, can be more forgiving with regards to Newt Gingrich’s infidelity.

Gingrich has his flaws, and they are far more potent politically than is his infidelity. As Rick Santorum likes to observe, Gingrich agreed with and supported a health care mandate for twenty years. However, Newt has repeatedly clarified that he was not alone in that position—that it was the “conservative” position for many years—but, that he had determined for himself that an individual mandate would not work at all. Ironically, it seems Ann Coulter’s defense of Romney would be better applied to Newt Gingrich, who, unlike Romney, has distanced himself from the issue.
Almost as disturbing and a hundred times as solid, Gingrich sat on a couch in an infomercial with Nancy Pelosi in support of the politically driven science of climate change. But, Gingrich has repeatedly, again, stated publicly that it was the most stupid decision he’d ever made and then went on to refute global warming/climate change as a serious science.

Perhaps the most worrisome critique of Gingrich are the Youtube video clips of him admiring the likes of Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These three men were the spawn and promulgation of the Progressive movement in US politics. Nauseating, isn’t it?! Unfortunately for Gingrich detractors, the clips are not long enough to provide sufficient context or understanding for the statements. As a historian, he may very well have found admirable qualities in these men in spite of the evil they brought upon the US.

But, never mind all that. And, never mind that Gingrich helped to implement Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. Never mind that it was Gingrich who led the Republican take over of Congress in 1980 and again in 1994, that it was under Gingrich’s leadership that Congress balanced the budget, decreased the capital gains tax, and reformed welfare, and that those actions led to growth throughout the US in every industry, because the man cheated on his wife—because he has failed a religious test.

Newt Gingrich is not perfect. No one is. There are larger issues at stake than Gingrich’s infidelity or alleged admiration of Woodrow Wilson or his couch sharing with Pelosi. Obama must be evicted from the White House!
In order to do that, we need a leader with the fortitude to be a fighter. Romney beats around the bush when it comes to Obama. He’s inadequate for the job. He’ll work with the status quo instead of upsetting the apple cart. We need a fighter. We need Newt.