|Newt and Callista Gingrich|
“I'm announcing my candidacy for President of the United States, because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security, to an American energy program, to a balanced budget” (Gingrich announcement video. May 11, 2011). There is little doubt that Newt Gingrich has a rich political life and begins his bid for the presidency with an impressive resume', both in Washington and professionally. Gingrich earned a doctorate degree from Tulane University and went on to become a professor of History and Environmental Studies at West Georgia University for eight years before serving in Congress for twenty years, and as the Republican Speaker of the House for four. His background is impressive both in width and breadth as he served on a multitude of committees from national defense to health care. “Under Newt’s leadership, Congress passed the first balanced budget in a generation, leading to the repayment of over $400 billion in debt. Congress also cut taxes for the first time in sixteen years and reformed welfare, leading to over sixty percent of welfare recipients either getting a job or going to school. In addition, the Congress restored funding to strengthen our defense and intelligence capabilities, an action later lauded by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission” (newt.org). Newt Gingrich, 67, enters the race with clear name recognition and a reputation as an intellectual and idea guy, but his private life may prove problematic for him as he seeks the presidency.
Newt Gingrich announced his official candidacy for the 2012 presidential race and within days was already doing the back-pedal shuffle due to his tendency to find himself in the center of controversy, yet again. Throughout Gingrich's public life he's been plagued by his own political blunders, in 1997, “after a lengthy investigation, he was fined $300,000 by the House Ethics Committee for violating rules against using a tax-exempt organization for political purposes” (cnn.com), while investigating then President Clinton for the Monica Lewinski scandal, he was involved in keeping his own extra-marital affair secret "I drew a line in my mind that said, 'Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept ... perjury in your highest officials" (msnbc.com). Gingrich has led a personal life worthy of the most titillating daytime soap-opera; his first marriage to his high school geometry teacher ended with her publicly stating that he brought up his desire for a divorce while she was hospitalized; a claim he disputes. A few months after his divorce he married again only to find himself sorting through the mire of another public divorce a few years later. His third wife, Callista, was a Congressional Aide, 20 years his junior, who he admits that he was involved with while he was still married to his second wife.
What is unknown today is whether or not Gingrich's rocky personal life will sully his reputation or will he see the the same support from the Christian groups that rallied behind George W. Bush, even though his behavior demonstrates his values differ from those on the Christian right . If Gingrich's personal life was the only concern for his electability, he might still be a viable candidate, but within the first week of announcing his run for the presidency, he found that he had alienated himself from some of his own party members when he stated "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,' he said. 'I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare solution for seniors.' Apparently the GOP establishment doesn't think Ryan's plan is risky. So they pounced on Gingrich, forcing him to furiously backtrack from his initial assessment” (cnn.com). In all fairness to Gingrich, he's found himself like so many politicians, between a rock and a hard place. The public cries out that they want a straight-shooting politician to “say it like it is”, but when a politician does, they are lamb-basted for not saying “the right thing”. The irony to Gingrich's latest stumble seems to be not from stating his beliefs, but for not defending them once he's pressed. Roland Martin, CNN political writer, commented that “he's right. The proposal pledged by Ryan is a radical one, and if you look at the reception it has received at the town hall meetings of Republican members of Congress, you would also conclude the plan is a whole lot to ask of Americans.” Gingrich's intellectual prowess is not the question, he likely has usebful strategies and insights to offer the Republican party, but running as their candidate for presidency is probably not the best that he can offer.
“Gingrich may just be best served as a thinker and not a candidate” (Martin)
Walter, Falcone, Dwyer. “Republican Presidential Contenders for 2012." abc News. 17 May 2011.ABC News Internet Ventures.16 May 2011.<http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/2012-republican-presidential-candidates-abc-news-guidebook/story?id=12164311>.
Martin, Roland S. “Gingrich wrong to back down from GOP critics.” cnn.com. 21 May 2011. Turner Broadcasting Network. 21 May 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/05/21/martin.gingrich/>.
"Gingrich admits having an affair in Clinton era." msnbc.msn.com. 9 Mar. 2007. Associated Press. 21 May 2011. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17527506/>