Though I am not political, some moments in the political world spill over into things I do care about. One of them is unfolding at the moment. The disclosure of Newt Gingrich’s marital infidelity, and on-going extramarital misconduct resulting in his second divorce and third marriage, is one of those rare moments when the United States has an opportunity to make a significant moral error. It is true we have had past presidents who have engaged in sexual misconduct while in office. Some were discovered only after they left office. President Clinton, of course, was known to have done so while still serving. But the United States has never elected a man whose extramarital affairs were publicly known before the election. Such conduct has always been disqualifying. This is because the United States has always cared about morality as much as about policy.
Apparently many political commentators cannot see the difference between offering an adulterous man whose sins are publicly known before the election as a candidate to the nation’s highest office, in contrast to later discovering we’ve inadvertently elected an adulterous man. [Grover Cleveland was a bachelor and young when he may have fathered a child, not a married adulterer. He paid child support and was never conclusively shown to be the father.] When given the choice beforehand, adultery should always be disqualifying. Yet such “conservative” commentators as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have championed Newt Gingrich after the disclosure; even Sarah Palin has defended Mr. Gingrich after it became an issue. Gov. Rick Perry has also endorsed Mr. Gingrich after this moral failing has become public.
Mr. Gingrich is ego-maniacal. He was dishonest and thrown out of Congress for his ethical lapses. His infidelity to his wife is mirrored in his infidelity to high office while serving in Congress. If he betrayed his wife before, and betrayed his public office before, he is unworthy to be trusted again. His very public penitence I view more as public theatre than humble submission to God. He proclaims his God-given forgiveness as a shield against criticism, rather than a matter of private devotion. Such conduct always raises a question about sincerity. He is ambitious, self-centered, now using religion to justify himself, and unworthy of renewed public trust. When someone has been involved in such a troublesome history I would expect they would voluntarily disqualify themselves by never running. I understand and sympathize with failed marriages and moral lapses. They happen. But contrition and ambition are incompatible. Some personal failings are so great they disqualify. At least from the right to hold an office of public trust which was designed to be viewed as much as a “pulpit” of righteousness as a seat of power.
He was careful yesterday to deny wanting an “open marriage” because the definition of the word used in the question does not quite fit his immoral conduct. He was not prepared to welcome his wife joining him in extramarital sexual relations, as “open marriage” implies. He wanted to do that alone. He wanted his wife to “share” him with his paramour. (This loophole allowing the denial was fed to him by Rush Limbaugh.) Therefore he could probably pass a lie-detector test about his denial of wanting an “open marriage.” Yet he wants his adulterous companion to be the nation’s First Lady, and himself to occupy the high position originally designed for George Washington– the most trusted man of his generation. A man whose morality was beyond question. A man who led by example, freeing his slaves in his will as the example he hoped would end slavery without requiring the nation to be torn apart. Newt Gingrich will bring dishonor to any office he holds because of his inability to look beyond self-interest and personal glorification.
When a person is known to be an adulterer, they are by definition also a liar. Liars and adulterers are by any scriptural definition wicked. When a nation on this land chooses to uphold a wicked man to head their government, they are ripe for destruction. (See Mosiah 29: 27; Alma 10: 19, Helaman 5: 2.)
You uphold such a man at the peril of national destruction. His campaign has also exposed the underlying confused morality of some popular political commentators.