This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
Who would have thought that Republican voters would prove so accepting of sin? At least when its committed by a white guy, like the serial philanderer Newt Gingrich, who betrayed not one but two wives while they were enduring serious medical difficulties.
In the latest New York Times/CBS poll of Iowa Republicans, alleged philanderer Herman Cain’s once impressive support shifts to the new front-runner, Gingrich, whose richer history of marital deceit is not a problem even for the self-described evangelical Christian voters who favor him over Mitt Romney by a ratio of 3-1.
It is the first time that I have felt sympathy for a candidate experiencing the prejudice directed at a practicing Mormon. Clearly, the ultimate of “squeaky clean” doesn’t cut it for a presidential contender of that faith among Republican Christian “values voters,” even when he is compared with a sexual roué of Gingrich’s considerable magnitude.
Or perhaps it is Newt’s peerless capacity to mask moral hypocrisy with the appearance of religious propriety, first as a Protestant and now as a Roman Catholic, that endears him to other Republicans who wear their religion on their sleeves. Many of those were willing to tear the country apart over the sexual wanderings of a Democrat in the White House, but now they are quite willing to send someone of Gingrich’s reputation to the Oval Office. We are speaking of a politician who was having an extramarital affair with a Congressional staff member twenty-seven years his junior, now more appropriately his third wife, during the very years when he was so energetically stoking the Clinton sex scandal.
But Newt did manage to cooperate closely with the Democratic president in passing the “welfare reform” legislation that in effect ended the main federal poverty program. Given that 70 percent of those covered by the gutted welfare program were children, it is at least consistent that the former House speaker now favors further aiding those children by wiping out the longstanding restraints on the exploitation of child labor.
Gingrich also cooperated successfully with President Clinton on the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, which legislated drastic cuts in the capital gains tax benefiting the wealthy. In addition, he was a great partner for Clinton in whipping up enthusiasm for a broader agenda of deregulation that set the stage for the housing mortgage bubble and resultant Great Recession. It is Gingrich’s hypocrisy concerning these economic matters that will prove more troubling as his chances of becoming president increase. Given that Gingrich was on the payroll of Freddie Mac to the tune of $1.6 million, how in the world will he be able, in a one-on-one debate with Barack Obama, to logically make what has become the standard Republican case: that it was liberal do-gooders at the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who forced the banks to make bad housing loans?