Cover Story

Has Newt Gingrich changed?

"Has Newt Gingrich changed?" Continued...

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

For an update, see "Changing horses: GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich suffers exodus of senior campaign staff members," by Marvin Olasky.

Brief chronology

1993: Gingrich/Bisek affair begins.

1994: Republicans gain a majority in Congress.

1995: Gingrich's first year as speaker; Clinton/Lewinsky affair begins.

1998: Clinton's perjury and obstruction of justice leads to impeachment in December.

1999: Gingrich, no longer in Congress, announces he is suing for divorce, and his affair becomes public.

2000: Gingrich marries Bisek.

2011: Gingrich runs for president.

A Human Tragedy

The nation should be grateful to Gingrich for his role in promoting historic welfare reform in 1995 and 1996. He has my personal gratitude for publicizing a book I wrote on poverty-fighting. Gingrich has recently been ridiculed for saying that as speaker he was so passionate about changing the country that he "worked far too hard" and let other passions get the best of him. But one night in 1995, close to midnight, we were talking in a Washington restaurant. He seemed exhausted and I asked how to pray for him. He said, "You know, the physical things." It seemed he was referring to his 18-hour days. Maybe he was referring to something else.

The press meme in recent weeks has been that Gingrich is not as smart as many thought. Here's a disagreement: On coming up with brilliant ideas he leads the GOP presidential peloton. But the physical things, and in particular the heart things, cannot be separated from the brain. In 1999 I wrote a history book that profiled 13 American leaders and concluded that unfaithfulness in marriage was often a leading indicator of unfaithfulness to the country. I couldn't overlook the questions about Gingrich. That many of Gingrich's views are mine as well does not allow me to ignore his record.

This doesn't mean we should hiss Gingrich now. Even the apostle Paul wrote about his own ongoing struggle with sin. This means that we cannot choose sinless political leaders-they don't exist. All face enormous temptation and have great opportunity to sin. All will fail, maybe not committing adultery but disappointing us in some way. That's why we need to look for leaders who not only vote the right way and say the right things but see themselves as sinners relying on grace. Leaders of that kind are more likely to avoid self-righteousness, accept criticism, and learn from errors.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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