This post is a bit late in coming, but this topic has been weighing on my mind for the past week, so I had to say something.
About two weeks ago, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife gave an interview in which she talked about how Gingrich asked her for an “open marriage” so that he could remain married to her but continue the affair he had been having with Callista Bisek, the woman who would become his third wife. By the way, it’s important to note that he proposed to Marianne Gingrich (wife #2) while he was till married to wife #1.
When asked about it during one of the debates, Gingrich was furious, claiming that “the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office,” and that he was “appalled that [they] would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that.”
I watched the opening part of that debate with my boyfriend’s parents, both of whom are Republicans who agreed with Gingrich that the ex-wife’s interview had no place in the debate. The fact that their relationship started when he was still married to his first wife was undoubtedly an influential factor in their opinion, and that is why I did not argue with them when they brought it up. I knew that I could not condemn Gingrich without also condemning my boyfriend’s father, and I didn’t want that.
Still, I was dying to scream that Gingrich was being hypocritical. My boyfriend’s mother tried to say that Gingrich wasn’t just saying that because it was his affair, that he would have said the same thing regardless of who the interview was about, but I find that really hard to believe. As the above interview pointed out, Gingrich was having his affair while he was the Speaker of the House, calling for Clinton’s impeachment because he lied about his affair, claiming that “there is no administration in American history with less moral authority than the Clinton/Gore administration.”
Statements like that are what make his ex-wife’s interview relevant, as does the fact that Gingrich is running for the party which claims to be the part of moral and family values, the party that claims that we must protect the sanctity of marriage. I fail to understand how two men or women getting married harms marriage but Gingrich’s two divorces and affairs don’t. Plus there’s the fact that he left his first wife after she was diagnosed with cancer, and he left his second wife after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I guess that whole “in sickness and in health” clause wasn’t really all that important.
If you’re going to claim to have moral authority over the rest of America, you have to live up to those standards. If you’re going to condemn others for having affairs, you can’t have an affair. If you’re going to say that everyone who does drugs should be thrown in jail, you should never have done drugs (yes, I’m referring to another GOP president). If you’re going to say that marriage should be between one man and one woman, you should not ask your wife for an open marriage.
People’s personal lives are relevant when they’re running for public office because these are the people who determine how the rest of us live. Does it matter to me if the gas station attendant cheated on his SATs? No, because it doesn’t interfere with his ability to give me the right change when I buy a soda. Does it matter to me if my doctor cheated his way through medical school? Yes, because that means that he doesn’t actually know everything he needs to in order to treat me. The two jobs are not the same, so people aren’t held to the same standards. As long as the man down the street doesn’t try to stop me from sleeping with my boyfriend before we’re married, it doesn’t matter to me if he sleeps with someone before he’s married.
The second you try to stop someone from doing something, though, you have to make sure that you stop doing that thing, as well. If you’re going to call everyone who cheats on his wife morally bankrupt when you’ve also cheated on your wife, you have to accept the fact that that means that you’re morally bankrupt, as well. And if you’re going to claim to be the party of morals and claim that everyone else is a sinner who can’t be trusted, then you damn well better make sure you live up to those morals, because if you don’t then you’re nothing but a hypocrite.
Can you be a good politician and have cheated on your wife/husband? Yes. Can you claim to be the moral candidate and have cheated on your wife/husband? No. It’s the same as eating meat. Are you a bad person because you eat meat? Of course not. But if the president of Vegans-R-Us ate meat, that would be a very big deal.