op-ed

We are not choosing a marriage-counselor-in-chief

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Presidential candidates frequently profess strong religious faith and many cite the Bible as the most influential book in their upbringing. Based on the manner in which most of the GOP candidates are savaging current front-runner Newt Gingrich, however, it is obvious that one of the Bible’s oldest and most well-known proverbs — “To err is human, to forgive divine” — is not among those verses these pundits were required to memorize in their Bible study classes.

In fact, the manner in which Gingrich is being verbally diced and sliced not only by his fellow Republicans but by many in the media as well would lead a casual observer to conclude the Republicans are nominating the nation’s marriage-counselor-in-chief rather than its commander-in-chief. This is unfortunate, because elevating one’s marital history to the level of an absolute disqualifier necessarily demotes to secondary status those qualities that our country so desperately needs in a president.

At a time when the U.S. is facing extremely complicated problems — especially in the financial sectors at home and abroad — the need for a president who understands the history and substance of economics, history and international affairs is more acute than ever. The current White House occupant’s deficiencies in these areas are painfully obvious.

No other candidate on the GOP stage left standing after the initial round of debates possesses both the theoretical and the practical knowledge of history, economics and military policy that Gingrich possesses. Yet Gingrich is repeatedly chastised for having too much “personal baggage” to be president or to even serve as the Republican standard-bearer. Never mind that he served as a representative for two decades, including four years as speaker of the House. Don’t mention the fact that he almost single-handedly orchestrated the Republican takeover of the majority in that body for the first time in 40 years. And certainly pay no heed to the fact that he worked with a diverse and raucous Republican House majority, a hesitant GOP majority in the Senate and a highly partisan president of the opposing party and achieved the first balanced budget since the 1960s, significant tax cuts and reform of a badly broken and hugely costly welfare system.

To Gingrich’s critics, all these accomplishments pale in comparison to the fact that he has had two less-than-amicable divorces and has in the past (and, to a lesser extent, still) come up with unusual or less-than-completely-practical ideas for solving some of the nation’s problems.

It seems that Newt Gingrich simply cannot win with his critics. Those on the left criticize him for being unwilling or unable to compromise, ignoring the significant and meaningful compromises he reached with Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Many of his detractors on the right, meanwhile, dislike him for the very reason that he has been able to forge alliances and consensus with Democrats over the years.

Is Newt Gingrich the perfect candidate? Hardly. Does such a candidate exist in either — or, for that matter, any — political party? No, never has and never will. But if we want a president with a record of having confronted major national and international problems and actually managed to solve some of them, then it’s time for the electorate and the media to remember we are choosing a commander-in-chief and not a marriage-counselor-in-chief.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.