Theocrat of the Week
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun May 27, 2007 at 09:00:33 PM EST
The United States has never had a president named Newt. There has also never been a Theocrat of the Week named Newt; not that is, until this week when former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich was bestowed this honor by Our Panel of Distinguished Judges.

In the course of their deliberations, however, they recognized that Gingrich seemed an unlikely choice, given his apparent history of unseemly sexual escapades and two divorces.  They also struggled with confusion over James Dobson's having apparently excused Gingrich's various violations of the Ten Commandments -- but not those of his prospective  GOP presidential competitor, Rudy Guiliani for whom he has declared he will not vote.  

Here are some of the more infamous escapades they were compelled to consider before exhalting Gingrich's singular accomplishments as Our Theocrat of the Week:  

In the course of a wider profile of Mr. Gingrich, journalist David Osborn reported in Mother Jones magazine in 1984:  

Gingrich did, however, talk a great deal about ethics, traditional values, and the family. "America needs a return to moral values," his literature announced, showing photos of the young candidate and his family and describing his church activities as a deacon and as a Sunday school teacher. His wife, Jackie, campaigned hard for him, covering hundreds of miles, visiting country stores, handing out leaflets at high school football games. "Everyone saw Jackie and Newt as a unit," says Mary Kahn, who covered Gingrich as a reporter before marrying Chip. "He was always talking about the family being a team, about family values. It was a constant, and a big part of his campaign."

Meanwhile, Gingrich's own behavior was painting a different picture. During or soon after the 1974 campaign, several of his closest advisors realized he was having an affair. After the campaign, Gingrich seriously considered divorce. He and Jackie went to see a marriage counselor, however, and finally decided to work it out.

This was not an isolated incident, according to others who were close to Gingrich at the time. One former aide describes approaching a car with Gingrich's daughters in hand, only to find the candidate with a woman, her head buried in his lap. The aide quickly turned and led the girls away. Another former friend maintains that Gingrich repeatedly made sexual advances to her when her husband was out of town. On one occasion, he visited under the guise of comforting her after the death of a relative, and instead tried to seduce her. In certain circles in the mid-1970s, Gingrich was developing a reputation as a ladies' man

Stephen Talbot, recounted further reporting by Gail Sheehy in Salon in 1998:

Gingrich pioneered a denial of adultery that some observers would later christen "the Newt Defense": Oral sex doesn't count. In a revealing psychological portrait of the "inner" Gingrich that appeared in Vanity Fair (September 1995), Gail Sheehy uncovered a woman, Anne Manning, who had an affair in Washington in 1977 with a married Gingrich.

"We had oral sex," Manning revealed. "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'" She added that Gingrich threatened her: "If you ever tell anybody about this, I'll say you're lying."

Manning was then married to a professor at West Georgia, the backwater college where Gingrich taught. "I don't claim to be an angel," she told Sheehy, but "he's morally dishonest."
Gingrich refused to comment on Manning's charges, though he has admitted sexual indiscretions during his first marriage -- hey, it was the '70s, man! But Newt's oral sex denial proved embarrassing at a time when he was the secular leader of the "family values" crowd, appearing frequently at Christian Coalition gatherings.

Such material gave Our Distinguished Panel of Judges considerable pause. However, they determined that one need not live up to one's oft stated moral values,to earn the lofty designation of Theocrat of the Week. The key is to be politically effective in advancing a theocratic agenda -- an agenda that by defintion need not be mutually exclusive of one's personal ambitions. Indeed, hypocrisy -- if you can get away with it -- clearly stands as no barrier theocratic leadership.  By this standard, Gingrich rose to the ocasion when he took the stage to give the Commencement Address at Liberty University, just days after the death of university founder Jerry Falwell.    

The speech is rich in theocratic themes, but Our Distinguished Panel of Judges wish to highlight just a few that stand-out as emblematic of the theocratic movement of our time, and the notes which any aspiring theocratic eagele must hit to soar and set theocratic hearts a flutter.  

First, he invoked the Declaration of Independence, the revolutionary manifesto setting the colonies at war against the King of England. Along the way, the document vaguely invoked "the Creator" as necessarily on their side. Gingrich used this to conflate the meaning of the Declaration with the Bible and then proceeded to interpret what God and the Fathers Intended for Us All. You know, Creator, God, Declaration, Bible, Intentions of the Founding Fathers -- its all the same as long as there is a theocratic leader --perhaps Gingrich -- to explain to us what it all means.

All his life, Dr. Jerry Falwell bore witness to the Truth, secure in the promise that the Truth will make us free.
A man of deep wisdom, he understood something quite profound, something that too many people today would rather not acknowledge. What he understood was the deep resonance between the demands of his faith and the demands of his nation. He saw that as the Bible requires Christians to bear witness to the Truth, so too does the Declaration of Independence require Americans to bear witness to certain self-evident truths.

To be sure, the Truth of the Bible is not identical with the truths of the Declaration. But the two orders of truth do overlap, and where they overlap, they powerfully reinforce each other. Indeed, the Declaration assumes many of the central teachings of the Bible.

The most marvelous theocratic moment in his speech was when he conflated Naziism, Communism, decisions of the Supreme Court regarding the proper role of religion in the public schools -- and the just about everyone who thinks that principles of separation of church and state are a good thing. He was able to do this primarily by denouncing unnamed "secular absolutists" and "radical secularism."  To an audience of the the Falwellianly inclined, on the ocasion of the great man's passing, and in the presence of the first graduating class of Falwell's school of law, it was an address to propel the theocratic agenda into the future.

Just as with the Nazis and the Communists, darkness is again falling across the earth, and it is again the calling of America to light her moral lamps, and place them out, for all the nations to see.

Today, however, we face an additional difficulty. We are accustomed to having the truths of the Declaration challenged from without.

But what is new, is that for the first time in our history, those truths are now being challenged from within. A growing culture of radical secularism declares that the nation cannot publicly profess the truths on which it was founded. We are told that our public schools cannot invoke the Creator, nor proclaim the natural law, nor profess the God-given equality of human rights.

In hostility to American history, the radical secularist insists that religious belief is inherently divisive, and that public debate can only proceed on secular terms when religious belief is excluded.

In this contorted logic, the public square becomes more welcoming to the extent that it strips away and banishes all religious symbols and language.

Unfortunately, these false principles of secular absolutism have deeply penetrated the legal establishment...  

To his great credit, Rev. Falwell decided to step forward publicly and counter the outrageous intolerance of the secular absolutists.

All this was such a marvel, Our Distinguished Panel of Judges almost missed what may have been the greatest theocratic triumph in Gingrich's address.  While denouncing Islam as "evil" -- in so many words, he alsomanaged to work in a mention of "pluralism," as the occasion demanded. Rarely, maybe never in our experience, have we encountered such a craftily well-crafted theocratic two-step with the concept of pluralism. And he did so -- so adroitly -- that Our Esteemed and Learned Judges briefly forgot Gingrich's blowjobbian bent.

Implicit within this vision of the Founding Fathers is a pluralistic sensibility. Any true religion would be therefore deserving of the respect of the government, which would include the freedom to express in public the moral principles of such a true religion.

One of the great stumbling blocks for theocrats of all kinds is the Constitution of the United States.  Theocratic Christian nationalists, or those who seek their votes, need to milk the Declaration of Independence for all it is worth, since the Declaration at least mentions "the Creator" (a politically palatable bit of religious universalism at the time) while the Constitution does not mention a Creator, let alone the God of the Christian Bible. In fact the sole mention of religion in the Constitution is to proscribe religious tests for public office (see Article 6). What so struck Our Distingished Panel of Judges was the distinctive Gingrich Method of invoking the Declaration and dodging the Constitution: how he noted that pluralism is "implicit" in the "vision" of the Founding Fathers, which he has reduced to the Declaration.  He goes on to say, however, that only a "true religion" deserves the respect of government.  Even at this disance, we can  hear  the "Wink! Wink!"  behind the words of Our Theocrat of the Week when he uses the word "pluralism."  

Of course his audience knows there is only one "true religion;" and they've got it, and the Muslims, Jews, Mormons, atheists and those silly apostate so-called "mainline" Protestants and heretecal Roman Catholics, well, they don't.  So our Theocrat of the Week managed to sound all pluralistic to keep the liberals and those crazed secular absolutists at bay, without having to once mention the pesky Constitution and that even peskier First Amendment.  Gingrich was able to assure each beating theocratic heart, that they hold to the true religion -- just like the Founding Fathers, and that those assembled to hear Gingrich's homage to the fallen Falwell are carrying forward the vision of not only God, Jefferson and Falwell -- but of Newt Gingrich --  Our Theocrat of the Week.  




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The bloggers at Lawyers, Guns & Money made an excellent point about why Dobson endorses Gingrich, and that is because Gingrich opposes campaign finance reform. Dobson opposes campaign finance reform because it prohibits him from giving soft money to his favored candidates. Of course, the fact that Newt is eminently disliked has nothing to do with it.

by khughes1963 on Mon May 28, 2007 at 10:09:07 AM EST

that one does not have to be intelligent to obtain a PhD., somewhere, some kind of way.
I would credit him with a certain ratlike cunning, however.
But what a hypocrite!

by nogodsnomasters on Mon May 28, 2007 at 06:20:03 PM EST


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