Much-Married Newt Gingrich Converts to Catholicism

Newt Gingrich is now a Catholic politician, just in time for Easter, and, perhaps more importantly, in time to weigh in on the commotion over Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame.

In one of his essential and always illuminating columns for Esquire, Stephen Marche wrote recently that, as he sees it, the departure of W signals that “the era of the douchebag is over.” Moreover, “we are seeing the return of a classic American type, the tough son of a bitch, to clean up the mess.”

In matters of character, family values and the heart, Gingrich has always been more douchebag than tough guy. As Max Blumenthal reports this week, in the late 1990s, after Gingrich political strategies failed dismally, he broke up with his second wife over the phone (just as he’d done with his first) as she lay immobilized in a hospital bed.

Blumenthal devotes a good bit of his article on Newt’s conversion to an interview with Deal Hudson, a key Catholic advisor to Team Bush. “From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told Blumenthal. “Newt’s sins no longer exist–they’ve been absolved. He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference.”

On Saturday, March 28, Gingrich sort of crested with the Religious Right. Never trusted by hardcore conservative evangelicals, Gingrich received an endorsement via a “personal note” from the AFA’s Wildmon to his supporters. “There is a way to lead America out of the recession, its moral decay and its fiscal irresponsibility,” Wildmon wrote.” “Our founding fathers knew how. Our former presidents had the right formula. Proven leadership has always been the way. Now you can reacquaint yourself and your family with the winning ways to a better America.” The Gingrich “winning ways to a better America?” Two Gingrich produced DVDs; “Rediscovering God in America” and “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny,” and joining with Gingrich’s American Solutions “at the great TEA Party Day on April 15th.”

“I’ve known Newt Gingrich for about 20 years now and I’ve always enjoyed him intellectually, but detested him politically,” Joe Klein recently wrote in his blog for Time. “The reason for the latter is his now-anachronistic first resort to anger; again and again, he cheapens public discourse through exaggeration and wild claims. One imagines that if John McCain were President and Paul Krugman had said, out of the box, that he wanted McCain to fail, Gingrich would be leading the charge, calling Krugman ‘unpatriotic’ and even, perhaps, traitorous.”

Gingrich’s “fresh start” as symbolized by his conversion to Catholicism – the faith of his third wife, Calista Bisek — hasn’t compromised his predilection for going for the jugular. Whether it’s insisting that “[T]here is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us” — as he told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly shortly after the passage of California’s anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment— or claiming that President Barack Obama was paving the road toward a new power-grabbing dictatorship, or feigning outrage that Obama would be invited to speak at the commencement ceremonies at Notre Dame University, it is apparent that Gingrich hasn’t gotten the kinder, gentler memo.

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