Friday, January 27, 2012

Who do you trust?

Newt Gingrich has suggested that Mitt Romney is running a "fundamentally dishonest campaign".  That's a pretty spicy accusation, especially when people's trust in their leaders is at such a low point.  Gingrich prides himself on being a great speaker (no pun intended), so while "dishonest" may have been the intended operative word, his use of the word "fundamentally" is more interesting to me.  A fundamental is a basic part, an essential component, an underlying foundation of a larger entity.  In sports, the word "fundamentals" calls to mind the basic moves and strategies that support the overall gameplay.  In politics, having dishonesty as one of your fundamentals would seem to be quite a deficit.  Is it one of Romney's fundamentals?  Is it not one of Gingrich's?

You can't separate your campaign from your personal life.  As much as people say being a president isn't about your personal life but rather your policies, you cannot say that character doesn't matter.  We have several candidates for the presidency, each claiming that another is being dishonest.  We can't all meet these people individually, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell whether what we read about them online and see about them on TV is at all accurate.  So how do we know who is "fundamentally" trustworthy and who is "fundamentally" dishonest?

Well, we could go by the word of those who have met these candidates personally.  Endorsements, both positive and negative, have been pouring in for months now.  Many would like to ignore endorsements, or at least not lend them much weight.  On the other hand, endorsements do serve a purpose:  They are the word of those who, for the most part, have met these candidates, worked with them, and observed them in action without the filter of either the new or old media.  For the most part, Governor Romney has earned the lion's share of positive endorsements from Congressmen, Senators, state representatives and officials, judges, ambassadors, and even a fair number of prominent Tea Party activists.  Nearly every Republican governor in the country who has made an endorsement has endorsed Romney, including the governors of South Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Idaho, Nebraska, and New Jersey.  This is important because governors have a unique perspective on the job and responsibility of "chief executive", and they are virtually united in declaring Mitt Romney the best man for that particular job.

By contrast, Newt Gingrich has earned the negative endorsement of many Congressmen who served with him in public office.  They have said he was too erratic and undisciplined to effectively lead as Speaker of the House, and that he would similarly be a disaster as President of the United States.  They further warn that he is very likely to lose this election, and indeed would damage the chances of conservative candidates running down-ticket from him.  Some have chosen to read these warnings, many from the same people who practically drove Gingrich from his Speakership over a decade ago, as the desperate acts of the "establishment" to keep Gingrich from threatening their "status".  On the hand, we've seen no similar backlash from any of Romney's former associates, either in business, government, or while running the Olympics.  No ethics or corruption charges and no attempts to oust him, despite the fact that the world of business is (arguably) far more corrupt and cutthroat than the United States Congress.

But, even if you choose to ignore all the positive endorsements Romney has received and all the negative endorsements Gingrich has received, it is still possible to gauge, reasonably, who is the more "fundamentally" dishonest candidate.  Christians of all stripes, be they Mormon, Catholic, or Evangelical, should recognize the admonition found in the Sermon on the Mount:  "Ye shall know them by their fruits ... A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matthew 7:16, 18 KJV)  What have the fruits of these men's lives been?

Mitt Romney has been accused of being a flip-flopper, someone who will change any position as long as it suits his ambitions.  My problem with that accusation has always been "Well, why hasn't he left the LDS church, then?"  As a Mormon myself, I can tell you that being a Latter-day Saint is not conducive to having a large ego (which, incidentally, may also explain why Romney isn't as "bombastic" as Gingrich on the campaign trail).  Certainly, Romney has had great success in his life, as have many other Mormons whom we can probably all name; but wouldn't he have had a much easier time if he'd just cut the "anchor" that is Mormonism?  He might have actually won Iowa four years ago and been president already.

Romney has been a man of constancy.  Certainly his politics have trended more rightward (trended, not flipped) as his experience has deepened, but so did Ronald Reagan's; and so did Newt Gingrich's, for that matter.  Romney has been a member of the same church his entire life, been married to the same woman his entire adult life, never once been accused by a former associate or subordinate, in either the public or private sector, of inappropriate behavior, and since his conversion to conservatism while Governor of Massachusetts has not ceased to help conservative candidates get elected to offices in every state and at every level of government.

Compare that to Newt Gingrich who has been divorced twice because of adultery, changed religions, been rejected by his own caucus after only two terms as Speaker (and is still rejected by them), and recently claimed, rather bizarrely, that his transgressions are a strength because it means he's more in touch with normal people.  Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I don't want a "normal" person as president; I want an exceptional one.  While I'm in no position to cast any stones, I chose to place my trust in the good tree; because it has brought forth good fruit.

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