By Carole on Dec 10, 2011
Another day another debate or at least it seems that way in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Tonight's rhetorical battle will be fought in the first caucus state of Iowa and newly minted front runner Newt Gingrich is expected to be the favorite target of moderators and fellow candidates alike. Mr. Gingrich's very long and very public career offers up plenty of professional and personal vulnerabilities so expect plenty of slings and arrows directed at him tonight. But the big question is will any of it really matter to the voters?
Certainly Mr. Gingrich's apparent flip flops on such issues as climate change, US involvement in Libya and the health care mandate will be brought up and the former speaker will attempt to spin away from his previous, less than conservative positions. But will the man who infamously called Representative Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) Medicare Reform plan, "right wing social engineering" be able to convince the Republican base to ignore those past positions? Will they really believe that a President Gingrich would be conservative enough to lead the nation in the "right" direction?
Tonight may also bring reminders of how Mr. Gingrich was the first speaker of the House to be punished for an ethics violation. In 1997, the House voted by an overwhelming 395-28 to reprimand and fine him $300,000 for, as Mr. Gingrich himself admitted, unintentionally but materially misleading the House Ethics Committee and failing to keep a college course he was teaching insulated from partisan politics. What was the beginning of the end of his tenure as speaker seems like a rather minor infraction in light of more recent ethics violations by House members. Consider Representative Charles Rangel's (D-New York) being found guilty of 11 violations resulting in censure; the strongest penalty the House can impose short of expulsion. Compared to that, Mr. Gingrich's ethical lapse might be overlooked by voters.
On the personal front, the former speaker's two divorces and serial adultery would have made his winning the GOP nomination absolutely impossible just a few years ago. But even many evangelical Christians, who make up a large segment of Republican caucus goers and primary voters, seem to be willing to forgive and forget the sins in his marital past.
Bottom line, if Mr. Gingrich continues to lead in polls taken after tonight's reminders of his professional and personal record, will it be because we have lowered the bar for presidential candidates to meet society's own decline in matters of character and integrity? Or have we simply given up on finding an honorable candidate; accepting that the best we can hope for is someone whose failings have already been so completely exposed thereby limiting the possibility there might still be damaging surprises for the opposition to reveal?
|« Don't Bet On Romney||How About The Political Apprentice Instead? »|