Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nose of Newt

Just in case you've been living under a rock, last week former House Speaker Newt Gingrich formally announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Aside from being an undisciplined intellectual who resigned his seat in 1998 after being re-elected, his three marriages and multiple extramarital affairs -- one of which was in full song while he was leading the charge to impeach Pres. Bill Clinton -- will be tough to overcome with evangelical Christians and similarly self-righteous Republicans.

The newly minted candidate's first interview after launching his run was with -- wait for it -- Sean Hannity on Fox News. Reminded of press reports about his personal life, Gingrich responded,
"Well, if you are a conservative, you have to start with the assumption that you are not going to get an even break from the elite media. And that's just reality."
On today's edition of CNN's "Reliable Sources," host Howard Kurtz asked Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle if the media are, in fact, "trying to tarnish Republicans." Her take:
"Well, you can't help it with Newt Gingrich. I mean, it's like Cyrano de Bergerac expecting you to not look at his nose."
For this independent citizen, that captures the problem with neo-conservative ideology in general and Newt in particular.

I couldn't possibly care less about his marriages and affairs. Sure, I recognize the perception of hypocrisy and I know poetic justice when I see it, but I'm far more interested in a candidate's demonstrated ability to make critically sound choices, to lead and, most especially, to govern. Most Americans don't approach elections that way, of course -- I know that and so does Newt.

His are self-inflicted wounds. He has every reason to expect (if not welcome) scrutiny, but what does he do? He blames the media for calling attention to (you should pardon the expression) his pickle.

It's too early for me to say that his failure to take complete responsibility for his actions -- including their consequences -- is a deal-breaker. But if I voted tomorrow, Newt Gingrich wouldn't pass the laugh test.