Newt Gingrich loves history.
He will understand then why the Republican Party must not nominate him. We tried nominating an aging former Speaker of the House scarred by scandal and lost an election we should have won.
Newt Gingrich is James G. Blaine for the twenty-first century.
Like Gingrich, former Speaker Blaine was a man of amazing accomplishments and talents. Also like Gingrich he had longed for the White House, but had seen it won by lesser men.
Finally, in a weak field his time came. But a run for President of the United States has always stripped a man of every fig leaf that covers his nakedness. Few of us could stand such scrutiny and James G. Blaine could not.
He had used his time near power to enrich himself and the scandals of his past were tattooed over his record obscuring all the good he had done.
The scrutiny to be President is greater than that of almost any job and few can stand it. Rogues have become President, see Warren G. Harding, and cads have been able to do some good, see Franklin D. Roosevelt, but mostly when a roué runs he is exposed.
Even the most honorable candidate, like Theodore Roosevelt, will not have unblemished history, but the scars we see will be those of victory over human failings, not indulging in them. Blaine’s problems were captured in the political cartoon “The Tattooed Man” a terrible heritage for a man who tried to go further than character would allow.
The President of the United States has three basic jobs: head of state, head of government, and Commander in Chief. Like Blaine, Newt Gingrich has made himself unfit for all of them.
The role of head of state gives you access to the largest pulpit in the world, what Theodore Roosevelt called the “bully pulpit.” Fortunately, it is a civic pulpit and not a religious one. We are electing a civil role model to represent us to the planet on human concerns, not a pope, pastor, or priest to pray for us to God.
Some might argue that a candidate like Romney has broken the Ten Commandments by a “defective theology.” Fortunately for Governor Romney, we need him to argue for human life, liberty, and happiness—not stand as a prophet or priest before the Almighty.
Speaker Gingrich has, I am told, developed a sound theology toward divine things, but has sadly a bad history in loving humans well. If electing a President to talk about theology to the nation, the traditional Christian might prefer Gingrich to Romney.
But the bully pulpit should never be used that way and will not be used that way. Instead, in these times it must be used to defend the right to life and traditional marriage.
By his choices, Mr. Gingrich has marred his ability to make that case beyond all hope. He cannot use the bully pulpit as we need him to use it.
Mr. Gingrich has attempted the role of “head of government” in the past. A weakened Bill Clinton seemed unable to govern and Mr. Gingrich wrested control of the agenda from him.
The result was a disaster for the Republican Party and helped reelect Bill Clinton. Mr. Gingrich has never run anything successfully. His campaign this year is constantly marred by staff turnover, organizational flaws, and lack of funding. Mr. Gingrich is undisciplined mentally and rhetorically.
While a good campaigner may not be able to be a good head of government, a bad campaigner surely will never get the chance. Each failure in House leadership and failure in controlling his own “consulting” organizations branded Mr. Gingrich.
A lifetime of failure to govern leaves him unfit for the next level.
The President is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. As a civilian he must command non-civilians, but this requires having their respect. A President also has the ability to press the nuclear button, start a war by imprudence, or destroy the peace with an errant word.
Mr. Gingrich has never shown the prudence in speech or action we need from the man with the bomb.
None of this is to deny Mr. Gingrich’s skills. He is and has been a major player in American politics. He is a transformational figure with great gifts, but like an equally gifted man, James G. Blaine, his weaknesses mean he never will or should be President.
Like Gingrich, most of us should never run for President. We covet the grace that God gives but the media has not and never will give. We wish to be judged as men and women and not as Leaders of the Free World.
We temper our expectations to our character and past errors.
God has a good work for Mr. Gingrich, but over the years he chose to use his connections to enrich himself. That tattoo will not vanish. He indulged his desires at the expense of his character. That tattoo will not vanish. He has refused to discipline his intellect.
For his own good and the good of the party, Mr. Gingrich should retire to head a think tank or teach at a college lest he be remembered simply as a freak in the nominating show: the Tattooed Man of 2012.