Newt Gingrich came out of the South Carolina primary as vibrant and as alive as the monster depicted in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” This win in the Palmetto state resuscitated his campaign for the Republican presidential bid to run against Barack Obama. Though pleasing some, Gingrich’s resurgence in popularity has not been so welcome among many conservatives and Republicans who rightly question Newt’s ability to stay faithful to any particular ideology or person.
Gingrich’s history of conflicting statements is enough to vindicate this suspicion. On the campaign trail and in the televised debates in the current race for the White House, he has repeatedly said that he is an ardent supporter of Ronald Reagan’s administration and presidency in the 1980s. Yet he has been quoted before, claiming that the administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are two of the presidencies he most admires. The former speaker of the house has also referred to himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” As those who study history are aware, Roosevelt was the first and one of the leading Progressives of the 20th century.
Despite his spoken admiration for the three most significant progressives in American political history, Gingrich still claims he has the conservative credentials for the job. As a conservative, Gingrich would do well to prove to Americans that he wants and is capable of reducing the size and scope of the federal government. Praising FDR’s New Deal hardly attests to that desire. What’s more, he also voted for the creation of the Department of Education, a department created under the big-government Jimmy Carter administration. Ironically, this is the department that Gingrich’s other hero, Ronald Reagan, wanted to abolish.
Gingrich’s credibility on social issues has also left many conservatives uneasy, and rightly so. For most conservatives, marriage is a central issue. Gingrich, however, is on his third wife, yet claims to be a devout Catholic and social conservative. Though his own public views may differ from his private actions, his personal record makes one wonder about the sincerity of his public views. Marriage for most conservatives means “one man, one woman.” Is Gingrich really committed to that view? Or does he believe in something like “one man, three women”? Even if his conversion is sincere, his past record could easily tarnish the conservative commitment to traditional marriage and family values. After all, do we want a man who has been married three times to serve as the representative of these views?
The former speaker of the house has a few inconsistencies to explain and reconcile. From his presidential heroes to his personal life, Gingrich has elephants in the room that he needs to address squarely if he wants to convince conservatives that he is worthy of their trust. Otherwise, they will continue to see him as a man who cannot remain faithful to his beliefs or his personal commitments.