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Jack Zaleski, Published January 21 2012

Zaleski: Hypocrisy lurks in political shadows

Strange days this presidential primary season:

Strange days, indeed.

But that’s what happens to long-cherished beliefs and standards of behavior when the desire to boot a president out of office trumps all else. Republicans of all stripes are so obsessed with knocking off President Barack Obama that they apparently are willing to set aside their values – both personal and political – in order to win the White House. But when the end justifies the means, hypocrisy is never far behind.

Consider the groundswell for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the most intriguing political figures of the age. Here is a guy whose personal life would make Bill Clinton blush, whose political machinations make the Chicago political machine look like a ladies’ aid meeting, and whose ability to spin his insider/lobbying record is the envy of whirling dervishes everywhere.

Yet, slippery ol’ Newt is emerging as the only credible challenger to front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is savaged daily because he knows how to make money in the free-market capitalist system that is the nearest thing to Scripture in the Republican playbook.

To hear Gingrich and other survivors in the Republican presidential field tell it, Romney is a bad man because he’s successful. It’s like they are channeling Democrats and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. Republican populists? If ever there was an oxymoron, that’s it.

In scuttling his quest for the presidency last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Gingrich. Responding to a question about Gingrich’s less-than-pristine personal life, Perry said the core of his Christian faith is forgiveness, so he could forgive a repentant Gingrich. That’s nice, and Perry certainly is sincere.

But the “new” (and newly forgiven) Newt is the same old slash-and-burn manipulator who led the impeachment charge against President Clinton, who, Gingrich said, was morally unfit for office. No forgiveness there, eh what?

To forgive, as Perry did, surely is the right thing to do. But it does not necessarily follow (does it?) that Gingrich is fit to be president.

Strange days, indeed.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.