In Impromptus today, I have some debate notes, and more than a few of those notes concern Newt. Of course! Attention must be paid, as an American playwright once wrote. A key question is, will his “past,” to use a handy euphemism, hurt him (electorally)? I’m not really sure. In my column, I say, “When you think about it, betrayal and divorce are as American as apple pie.”
This doesn’t sit well with some people, obviously — but I believe it corresponds to reality. Conservatives are always singing hymns to the Great American People. And they are always decrying the collapse of “family values,” abortion on demand, the vast consumption of porn, litigiousness, political correctness . . .
Well, what people tolerates and embraces these things? Have Papua New Guineans sneaked in here and replaced us Amurricans?
As to whether Gingrich’s “past” should be an issue, it depends on the individual voter. No one can tell a person, “You must vote on these bases, and no others.” In this country, you close the curtain behind you and vote as you wish, for the reasons you wish. Each person will have his priorities. I sometimes quote a Lyle Lovett song: “It may be no big deal to you, but it’s a very big deal to me.”
Years ago, I remarked in the office that I was sorely disappointed to hear about my hero Henry Hyde, the conservative Illinois congressman. (He had a bout of homewrecking.) One of my colleagues mocked me for prudery, or something. I could only say, “We all get to pick what we value: what we admire, what we disdain; what is important to us, what is less so.”
One great question about Newt is probably unanswerable, and it is this: Has he reformed, repented, “put off the old man”? If so, let there be rejoicing throughout the land. Or has he merely retired? You know what I mean? For some men, there comes a time when you simply retire, simply call it quits, and settle on the current mistress. There is the female equivalent too: You slut around for as long as you can, while you can still excite lust in men, and then you stick to old Joe, or whoever the incumbent is.
These are “hard sayings,” to use King James language, but I’m not sure they’re wrong sayings. And if Newt, that maestro, convinces primary voters that the liberal media are out to get him and must be defied, he will score big.