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Fidelity and the Presidency


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fidelity-and-presidency-victor-davis-hansonNational Review:






There have been plenty of unfaithful presidents, a few who could not even suppress their libidos upon entering the White House. Long before Bill Clinton’s dalliances, John Kennedy,Franklin Roosevelt, and Warren Harding allegedly had been unfaithful to their first ladies.





The news media seem obsessed with the serial affairs of a younger Newt Gingrich back in the last century. The anger of his second of three wives mysteriously became national news on ABC’sNightline on the eve of the South Carolina primary. Millions watched Mrs. Gingrich II complain that Newt and the present Mrs. Gingrich had done to her (while ill) just about the same thing that she and Newt had earlier done to Mrs. Gingrich I (while ill).




Do these marital dramas involving our leaders matter that much? At some point, does long-ago adultery earn a statute of limitations? Do we forgive a few, but not serial, transgressions? Do we really care to learn the back-and-forth, he said/she said details? And do leaders have to be exceptionally talented to atone for extremely poor marital behavior?


Given the value of stable marriages to society, it would be nice to think that such moral failure in our presidential candidates would be a telltale warning of later flawed governance — and that anyone who cheated on a spouse would also somehow cheat the country. But the truth unfortunately is more complex. The extracurricular Clinton proved a better president than the faithful Jimmy Carter. The reckless Kennedy served more honestly than did the seemingly devoted Richard Nixon. And the two-timing FDR was considered more successful than the monogamous Herbert Hoover.


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We all would like to think Gingrich’s long-ago adulteries must warn us that he would make a less reliable, more erratic president than the apparently faithful Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, or Barack Obama. But there seems little evidence from history that such a logical conclusion is always true — and none adduced so far by our biased media why it should be.


Maybe that’s why the voters of conservative South Carolina apparently did not think whom or how many times the mercurial Newt Gingrich has married mattered more than how he has so far debated and addressed the issues.

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