12:28pm

Wed March 9, 2011
It's All Politics

Newt Gingrich Seems To Blame Past Personal Lapses On Patriotism

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich can't avoid the reality that his personal past is a problem in Republican primaries and caucuses where social conservative activists, including born-again Christians, will play a large role in choosing who eventually becomes the Republican nominee.

So his challenge is to arrive at a formulation that explains some of that controversial behavior, including the extramarital affair that led to his third and current marriage.

Gingrich, who hasn't officially announced for the White House but is exploring the level of voter interest in his potential candidacy, appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN, to attempt an explanation.

His explanation seems to be that he was so focused on doing the nation's work, that he didn't pay enough attention to his personal life.

GINGRICH: There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.

I found that I felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness. Not God's understanding, but God's forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there's a forgiving God.

Somebody once said that when we're young, we seek justice, but as we get older, we seek mercy. There's something to that, I think. I feel that I'm now 67 I'm a grandfather. I have two wonderful grandchildren. I have two wonderful daughters and two great sons in law.

Callista and I have a great marriage. I think that I've learned an immense amount. And I do feel, in that sense, that God has given me, has blessed me with an opportunity as a person. Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I've had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice.

So instead of "the devil made me do it," Gingrich is trying the more novel argument of "my country made me do it."

It may not work to win over enough voters in the target audience to make him the nominee if he actually decides runs.

But Gingrich should certainly get credit for offering one of the most creative explanations for past behavior that would keep many less confident politicians from attempting a similar comeback. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.