You don’t have to be a Christian to know that we are all flawed or, if you will, sinners. You just have to be awake.
It’s worth keeping that simple fact in mind as we move into what is likely to be the most consequential presidential election season of our lifetimes. Like it or not, we are going to be choosing between flawed individuals, competing to defeat an incumbent who is so flawed he is in the process of destroying our country at home and abroad.
I had that thought in my head Sunday night while listening to Newt Gingrich speak at the summer bash of the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Beverly Hilton. The former speaker delivered an excellent speech, demonstrating once again his considerable intellectual skills and ideological depth. Indeed, there is no one on either side of the aisle who comes to mind as his equal in these areas. It would be a pleasure to watch him debate Obama one-on-one during an election. We might get to see a living, breathing version of the cliche “cleaned his clock.”
Gingrich spoke last night of foreign policy, reminding a sympathetic audience of the absolute importance to the United States and indeed to Western Civilization of the survival of Israel. He had nine concrete proposals, the headliner being that he would move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on his first day of office. He also made clear he would name our enemy in the War on Terror, not hide its identity seemingly deliberately in the manner of the current administration, which won’t even brand the Ft. Hood murderer an Islamist when Major Hasan’s own business cards made his ideological motives clear. He would further tighten sanctions on Iran, isolating the Islamic Republic, and abandon the ludicrous policy of negotiating with the mullahs, not to mention with the homicidal Syrian president.
Point-by-point he was on the proverbial money, or nearly. You can read the speech here.
But… and you knew there would be a but…. all this was occurring only days after Newt’s presidential campaign had been deserted by 24, count ’em, 24 staffers — during a time of tremendous economic uncertainty when everyone, including, and maybe especially, “political pros,” needs a job. Something must have been seriously wrong.
I have heard talk of “what was Newt doing taking a Greek cruise with his wife, what about the $500,000 revolving credit at Tiffany’s,” etc. But peculiar as those things are… well, peculiar to creepy… there is the larger overall problem that Gingrich has with human engagement. He wants to be anointed because of his intellect when intellect is only one component of being a president — and quite possibly not the most important one. As one who spent a lot of time (and his father’s money) on his education, it’s hard for me to write but there are things more crucial than cerebral analysis in being president — like the ability to lead and inspire. Newt, because of personal flaws, may have forfeited that.
But again — we’re all flawed. Bill Clinton was able to lead (and pretty well) despite immense personal flaws. Life, in case you didn’t notice, ain’t simple.
So what’s a poor voter to do? For one, pay attention. The Monday night debate in New Hampshire will be more important than the usual for Gingrich as he moves to right his campaign. He made a good start in front of the Republican Coalition on Sunday, but it was still only a start. The odds are against him, not just be because of his own behavior, but because America badly needs a fresh, or at least new, face on the national scene.
Obama’s administration has been an amalgamation of the worst of fuddy-duddy old line liberalism with payoffs in the form of czar appointments to reactionary leftists with ideologies out of the 1930s. The results have been catastrophic. I’ll give Newt a second (or tenth) chance if he can put an end to that. But the most important thing, by far, is that it end.