Dancing the dance of redemption in Charleston
Here amongst the rocking chairs on the sun-lit porches of Charleston, the Grand Old Party has dished up a right old morality play. It stars a man called Newt, whose marital infidelities are as old and as webbed as the Spanish moss dangling from the oak branches here.
The former speaker and his personal baggage are testing how strong the power of redemption can be in the Bible Belt when what’s at stake is the pursuit of power. I have come across one evangelical Christian after another who is torn between indignation at the state of Newt’s heart and delight at the sharpness of his elbows.
Tony Perkins, the impossibly groomed president of the Family Research Council, one of the most powerful lobbyists for Jesus in America, told me that he was indeed perplexed by Newt’s past behaviour, especially by his take it or leave it proposal of an open marriage to his second wife. But he also appreciates that the Republicans need a warrior to take back the White House from Barack Obama.
Thank God for redemption and the oft-repeated truth that all men are flawed. America can be very forgiving and It looks as if redemption is winning the day, especially when spiced with righteous indignation. Last night at the presidential debate Newt was as puffed up as a blow fish in anger as he wagged his finger at the moderator and thundered Zeus like that a question about his errant libido was the most despicable thing that he could imagine.
CNN’s John King swallowed hard and took cover as men in the audience were swept to their feet baying for the blood of the “elite media” – that includes me I suppose – who had dared to raise the issue of character in a presidential candidate. The women stayed seated and after the debate one of them told me how the combination of Newt’s behaviour and his sermonizing about family values made her feel sick.
It turns out she was a Romney supporter and it goes without saying that Mitt has most to lose from Newt’s redemption. While the GOP is tearing itself apart in a vicious family feud the White House is sitting back, taking notes and punching their air. No wonder President Obama broke into song yesterday at a fundraiser.
Follow @mattfrei on Twitter.