Can’t say just how glad I am that Newt Gingrich has joined the race for the Republican nomination for President.  No matter how many times I’ve listened to Newt speak I’ve always been impressed with his thoughtful and brilliant analysis.  Newt is a man of ideas and now we’ll see whether the baggage he brings along will sink his ship.

As a co-author of the 1994 Contract with America, Gingrich was in the forefront of the Republican Party’s dramatic success in that year’s Congressional elections and subsequently was elected Speaker of the House. During Gingrich’s term as Speaker, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 reform of welfare, a capital gains tax cut and the first balanced budget since 1969.

Where Newt’s problems begin are in his personal life.  Will misdeeds in his personal life be enough to turn away the most conservative members of the Republican Party?  I hope not.  Remember, after what came to light during the Clinton administration, he was still very well liked and was re-elected.  Clinton was re-elected because people believed his was a good President even if less than a stellar man.  Believe it or not, it is possible to have personal failings and public successes.

Gingrich has been married three times. In 1962, he married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old and she was 26. In the spring of 1980, Gingrich left Battley after having an affair with Marianne Ginther. News reports have often mentioned that Gingrich visited Battley while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery to discuss the details of their divorce, but it is clear that the press has had its sights on Gingrich ever since he was the House Minority Whip.  Gingrich has disputed the account as has his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, who has written that it was her mother who requested the divorce, that it happened prior to the hospital stay (which was for the removal of a benign tumor, not cancer), and that Gingrich’s visit was for the purpose of bringing his children to see their mother, not to discuss the divorce.  Six months after the divorce from Battley was final, Gingrich wed Marianne Ginther in 1981.

In the mid-1990s, Gingrich had an affair with House of Representatives staffer Callista Bisek, who is 23 years his junior. They continued their affair during the Lewinsky scandal, when Gingrich was a leader of the Republican investigation of President Clinton for perjury in connection with his alleged affairs with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky.  When the affair became known, Gingrich’s affair became fodder for the left-wing pundits and far right claiming the hypocrisy of his statements in condemning Clinton’s behavior.  In 2000, Gingrich married Bisek shortly after his divorce from second wife Ginther and they remain married and have worked together on numerous projects.

The harping on Newt’s indiscretions harkens to “let those without sin cast the first stone.”  While we’d like all our public servants to be pristine and without reproach, reality is that the majority are far from perfect.  Earlier this year Gingrich addressed his past infidelities by saying, “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”  My response is, save it.  Simply admit you’re not proud of your behavior, that it was wrong and you’re a flawed individual.  Aren’t we all.  Perhaps everyone’s failure doesn’t include marital infidelity, however we don’t walk without sin.  It’s not for you or me to forgive him; it’s for his family, his faith and his soul to resolve.

When the Democrats were screaming that Clinton’s personal life was between him and his family, they were quick to condemn Newt for his own personal shortcomings.  The media jumped right on the bandwagon calling him a hypocrite and liar.  I give neither of these group’s pronouncements any credence.  Character matters, but judging someone on their public character versus private character makes a world of difference.  My preference would be that someone’s private behavior never be exposed to the world and we’d only focus on their public actions.

I would like to be a better man.  Anyone who doesn’t either has an inflated view of themselves or very low standards.  I take Newt at his word that he regrets his past private behavior and I put it aside.  Even if I accept that he was hypocritical in his opposition to a President of the United States carrying on an affair with a intern and lying about it under oath, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t change a thing.  Ask yourself whether you think President Kennedy’s well documented inappropriate behavior with several women, including Marilyn Monroe, makes him less of a President or simply a flawed man?  Most will conclude that Jack Kennedy was an excellent President who just happened to make some poor personal choices.

Would I prefer it if Newt hadn’t made some poor choices in his past?  Yes.  But when I pull that lever in the voting booth I want to be choosing the best person for the job of President rather than the purest of souls.  Life often means taking the good with the bad.  Given the current Republican field, I believe Newt Gingrich is the strongest candidate and more importantly he is someone I truly believe had the wisdom and vision to put our country on the right track.

Do not forgive Newt Gingrich for his past behavior as it is not your place to do so.  Hold him to the highest standards when it comes to his behavior in office as the Presidency is our domain and we should be the final judge; his policies shall be scrutinized and his actions will be measured.  It’s the same standard the American people will apply to anyone seeking the presidency and those serving in the White House.

I hope everyone in the Republican Party will judge Newt on what he can do for our country rather than failings in his personal life.  It is “all about the future, stupid.”