The emergence of Mitt Romney today into the 2016 political arena has caused me to think more about what we lost in 2008 and 2012. (Perhaps we are only now beginning to grasp how much was at stake.) I’m reminded of what David French wrote about Newt back in 2001:
I’m much less amused by growing evangelical support for Gingrich. Yes, he’s pro-life, but so is every single Republican in the race (it may be the only issue they all agree on). But what about the three marriages? The serial affairs? The ethics reprimand? And let’s not forget about humility. Newt Gingrich may well have the most transparent self-regard of any leading politician in America. I have a serious question: If evangelicals choose to reject numerous alternatives and wrap both arms around a serial philandering, hopelessly grandiose politician, then what is our distinctive witness in this process? Do we have one?
In retrospect, David could’ve been writing about Donald Trump. Remember this moment a couple of days before the South Carolina primary?
In 2016, Donald Trump is everything Newt wanted to be. And just a reminder, his indiscretions were a significant issue in the race. As David wrote back then:
-Gingrich shut down the government partially because he was annoyed at his seating on Air Force One . . . and admitted it to the press.
-He was the first sitting Speaker reprimanded for ethics violations, with the vast majority of Republicans voting against him.
-Even before Clinton’s resounding re-election, Gingrich was arguably the least-liked politician in the entire country, with only 9% of (yes, you read that correctly, nine percent) of Americans wanting him to become president and 49% calling him “scary.” By 1997, his approval rating was a dismal 25%. He became known as the “nation’s most unpopular politician.”-Even as Bill Clinton was being impeached, Newt Gingrich was carrying on an affair(and not his first), an affair he carried on for years before ending his second marriage, a marriage that was also born in an affair.
-Despite being an open secret in Washington, Gingrich didn’t publicly admit his affair until 2007, almost a full decade later, as he mulled a presidential run.
-He endured revolts against his leadership, including revolts led by some of the House’s leading conservatives.
-He finally resigned in disgrace in 1998 even as his nemesis, Bill Clinton, continued to enjoy shockingly high approval ratings.
So, his petulant fit throwing at the debate may have made evangelical Christians sick of political correctness to stand up and clap. But what voters miss — with Gingrich AND Trump — is this:
Giving the middle finger to political correctness is not enough.
As we look for a candidate who will have the guts to stand up to political correctness in 2016, we must not compromise on the values we hold dear.
“Gingrich 2.0” certainly won’t be what it takes to make America great again.