The New Newt
Earl of Sandwich: “‘ ’Pon my honor, Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die on the gallows or of the pox.”
Wilkes: “That must depend, my Lord, upon whether I first embrace your Lordship’s principles, or your Lordship’s mistresses.”
—John Wilkes, Sir Charles Petrie, The Four Georges
Newt Gingrich is like a computer-there’s always a newer version. In the case of computers, others create it for them. Newt does it for himself. His proposed visit with John Hagee who is about to become Newt’s new best friend will surely involve a disavowal at some future time.
For many years Newt has been criticized by those who remember that to arrive at his present state of marital bliss to Catholic chorister, Callista Bistek, he had to jump over two other wives. Jackie Battley, his first, was his high school math teacher to whom he confided his plans for a divorce so he could marry Marianne (with whom he was sleeping), as Jackie lay in hospital recovering from cancer surgery. Some years later he came home to Marianne, after he had given a speech on family values in Erie Pennsylvania. Marianne, knowing of an affair he was then having with soon to be wife number three, Callista, asked him: “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?” “It doesn’t matter what I do,” he replied, “people need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” They were divorced and he married Callista. Now we are informed that his failed marriages were not due to design flaws in Newt but to an excessive love of country.
In an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network, he said: “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” That takes care of infidelity. And if it weren’t enough, he also converted to Catholicism in 2009, which is a bit like putting icing on the cake. In an interview with Dan Gilgoff in God and Country, Newt described a number of things that precipitated his conversion such as seeing how happy Pope Benedict looked when he visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, describing him as “a very loving, engaged, happy person.” Concluding his interview he said in further explanation for his conversion: “And part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern.” If it’s pre-modern he wants, he’s found it in John Hagee, (a preacher who has ideas that pass most understanding) with whom Newt plans to meet in order to burnish his credentials among religious conservatives.
The Catholic Church has historically been one of John Hagee’s targets. In his book, Jerusalem Countdown he says that “[M]ost readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.” (According to one report he has since apologized for that passage.) In 2008, when John McCain briefly courted Mr. Hagee, Catholic League President, Bill Donohue described Hagee as an “inveterate bigot” for calling the Catholic Church “the Great Whore, an apostate church” among other things. Mr. Donohue and Mr.Hagee have now made peace. Mr. Donohue said that “As far as I’m concerned, Hagee and I are on friendly terms today. . . . I’m convinced that he turned the corner.” Knowing that Mr. Donohue thinks Mr. Hagee has gone around the corner should give Newt comfort since as a newcomer to the church it would be unseemly for him to so quickly embrace someone who has consistently vilified it. The Church has not been Mr. Hagee’s only target.
After Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Hagee was interviewed by Terry Gross on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. In that interview he observed that Hurricane Katrina arrived on the very day that a group of homosexuals had planned to have a parade in New Orleans. He told Terry that: “I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are-were-recipients of the judgment of God for that. . . . And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”
Of course, Mr. Hagee is not without a whimsical side. In a fundraiser that his church conducted in 2006 to sponsor a trip for students, the fundraiser was announced as a “slave sale. The students were to auction off their services to parishioners. The announcement said: “Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone (Hagee’s church)” and concluded with a teaser saying: “Make plans to come and go home with a slave.” In an interview he apologized but attributed the commotion to pressure to be “politically correct.”
I’m sure Newt has an explanation for why he’d seek the blessing of someone who attacks his new spiritual home and otherwise seems to be devoid of common sense. It probably has to do with how “passionately he feels about this country” and how badly he wants to be its president. As with the rest of his life, principle won’t stand in his way.