I have to say that I was surprised at the SC Renewal Project Pastors’ Policy Briefing. That surprise came courtesy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
I’ve had doubts about Gingrich’s electability, and I think they are legitimate concerns. He has some personal baggage, especially in regard to his three marriages. I think he was out-maneuvered during the government shutdown by President Clinton. He has an image problem, and a mainstream press happy to keep that the status quo. And occasionally, he has demonstrated what I would classify as a tin ear, simply striking the wrong chord on an issue (saying something with which I agreed but in a way or for a reason with which I disagreed), or striking the right chord but at the wrong time.
With all of that jaundice, I simply was not prepared to be blown away by his speech today, but blown away I was. Here’s why. I am looking for a specific menu of items in a presidential candidate. I want someone who is driven by principle (and, of course, I want those to be the same Biblical principles that drive me). Several of the candidates can fill that single criterion. So I want something more. I want someone with the intellectual heft, the gravitas, to formulate ideas based on those principles. And I want someone with the political wherewithal to actually implement the ideas that emerge.
These last areas are where I think Gingrich separates himself from other contenders. He has a world-class mind, with a command of history and dexterity with data that is simply impressive. No mere academic, he uses this depth and breadth creatively, offering specific proposals instead of stale platitudes or generic position statements. As for political deftness? Well, I don’t remember any other Speaker who forced a balanced budget, or initiated a Republican revolution, or authored a Contract with America.
I know his campaign is off to a shaky start, but I think Newt Gingrich helped himself today. He certainly did so in my eyes.