20 Jan 2012

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.

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2 reader comments

  1. byrdele says:

    It is true, that people can change. And who am I to say whether Newt the Newt has changed his libidinous ways? People can change if they wish. Many do not wish to do so. Therefore I have no idea of what is going on in his private life now. His private life would be a factor in my voting for him. But so would his politics. He was, if I am not mistaken, a rather moderate Republican when he was Speaker of the House. Now he’s as radical as they all are – Democrat or Republican. I, myself, am probably what most people would call right wing Christian (Catholic). And frankly – I’ll vote for Ralph Nader any day, even though we don’t see eye to eye on some major points. Because at least he is honest. I know people who have worked for him and he is above board at all times. He doesn’t mince words and I like most of his platform. I wish that Americans would start electing some of the so-called 3rd Party candidates. It would alarm the radicals and maybe they would settle down to doing that for which they were elected – running the government. Sigh.

  2. Philip Edwards says:

    Matt,

    Seriously, do you think any of it really matters except as a sort of tragi-comic sideshow?

    Do you remember when George Herbert Walker Bush (“Poppy” to his mates) was running in the primaries? Do you recall he and his opponents were dubbed “the seven dwarves” because they were so thick and useless? Bush won and went on – like all ex directors of the CIA would – to get the USA embroiled in foreign wars while ripping off the economy. No surprise there, then.

    The tragi-comic part this time around is the spectacle of the President of the USA singing at the GOP nonsense. With his country in a state that promises to be worse than the Great Depression, he can find time to behave like a juvenile school kid instead of a statesman?

    Whether Obama or Gingrich (or whoever) wins the election won’t make an iota of difference. The centres of US power will remain where they have always been. As Ben Bradlee once told his reporters, “Look for the money and the women.”

    Tragically for the rest of the world the USA tinkers on the brink of becoming a National Security near-fascist nation. It is an out-of-control, undemocratic rogue state and its president little more than an itinerant clerk.

    Sooner or later the historical invoice will have to be paid.

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