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Jewish World Review Aug. 24, 1999/ 12 Elul, 5759

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Naughty Newt? -- THE EYE OF NEWT doth wander. Dating hath wrought Newt Gingrich's divorce. Since the current Mrs. Gingrich is not possessed of addiction to power, the courts of uncontested dissolution will grant Mr. Gingrich proprietary freedom so as to continue his prom adventures.

The featured photo of Mr. Gingrich strolling hand-in-hand with his new love and choral performer, Callista Bisek, unleashed curiosity. How do these middle-age guys do it? Newt, a dead ringer for Happy Day's Howard Cunningham, managed to spark interest from a woman 15 years his junior. And what is Callista, bless her blonde and naive heart, thinking as she dates a guy who hasn't burned his little black book? Does no one ever utter the adage "Never trust a man you've cheated with"? Mr. Gingrich has a fine mind and he changed America's course, but the notion of eternal love escapes this scallywag of a former Speaker. That he divorced his first wife during her battle with cancer was something conservatives tolerated based on assurances of reform, now proven wrong.

Newt still ranks above WJ Clinton for he had the good sense to take his hypocrisy and exit public life. Also, Newt never lied about his antics. In fact, he was conspicuously restrained when Monica and Bill reigned tabloid supreme. Most attributed Newt's waffling, "rule of law" mantra, and reticence to his own marital history, which, as noted, rivals Jean-Claude Van Damme's.

Perfection is not a requirement for leaders. Sins of weakness and sins of malice, or whatever Mrs. Clinton's categories are, afflict all. (Hillary does chart new theological territory. I come from a world of guilt-induced pot lucks and nursery work vs. eternal damnation with few sin gradations in between.) Because of Newt's infidelities and George W. Bush's youth, conservatives stand stuttering amidst accusations of inconsistent standards.

They should not.

While perfection is not a requirement for good leaders, adulthood is. The use of the oval office for smarmy drive-in hanky panky should have been grounds, with or without Paula and Susan Webber Wright, to remove our bomb-lofting juvenile. Likewise, until Mr. Gingrich finds his way past goo-goo-eyes into a mature relationship of commitment and dedication, he lacks leadership credibility. With the women getting younger and the time in between shorter, Mr. Gingrich journeys the wrong way.
Many lost hope for Newt when he pitched the fit on Air Force One. Show me a man who's cattin' around and I'll show you an egotist whose judgment is impaired.

And speaking of impaired judgment, there is the George W. Bush cocaine issue. The Republican front-runner for the presidency seemingly went beyond the traditional lab-coated politician's drug "experimentation" and entered the fully-inhaled stage. His parents and others have made it fairly clear that for quite some time, the "W" stood for "Whoo-EEEE!" A glance at the photos of his days of youthful indiscretion bring to mind Grateful Dead concerts, not Pablo Casals. Mr. Bush has been chided by Alan Dershowitz for boasting of his fidelity while basking in silence on drug use, the latter being illegal, something that now vexes the good professor despite his aversion to such during Monica cable appearances.

While W has handled the drug issue poorly, baby boomer presidential candidates have permanently lowered the stature of the office. There are far too many reformed druggies and ROTC brats from the sixties. While a lifetime of purity and integrity now seem beyond the reach of the culturally elite, Americans still demand assurance that candidates have grown up, that the coke-head days are over, and repentance has spawned warnings to the new generation. The continuing angst among friends and foes of Bill Clinton is that no one, not even his wife as she blames strong women for his problem (big apology to Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres), truly believes that the sophomoric behavior is behind him. Indeed, Patrick Anderson's new book, Bill and Hillary, reveals Clinton gloated with glee when Bob Livingston left office.

Herein lies the George W distinction. He has sewed his wild oats, but he ain't leaving the stable no more. Hence, his disclosure about his honorable marriage -- evidence he has grown up. His message should be human frailty overcome by acknowledgment and self-conquest. Gary Hart was ousted because he was engaged in monkey business as he campaigned. Newt has a way to go to adulthood and Mr. Clinton will not make it there in this life. George W is moving in the right direction. His acknowledgment needs work.

Privacy is a contrived baby boomer cop-out, in 60's jargon. The measure of character has never been as facile as "yea" or "nay," and it must include evolution. There are stages of character construction. George W is at the inspection stage the building is complete, and while there were mistakes during the project, the building seems sound and ready for public access.

Gingrich, Clinton, Hart and others are ousted for they languish at the foundation stage, confused about plans, directions and even the height to which they will grow.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments to her by clicking here.


08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

©1999, Marianne M. Jennings