Newt Gingrich Makes Dumb Marriage Pledge

Newt Gingrich's promise to not cheat on his wife is the latest of irrelevant pledges signed by GOP candidates.

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Callista Gingrich can breathe a sigh of relief—Newt has pledged not to cheat on her. Sure he presumably made such a pledge before God when they exchanged marital vows, but now Newt is making his promise before a higher power, a social conservative group called The Family Leader.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Newt Gingrich]

Per Politico, Gingrich initially declined to sign Family Leader's pledge on marriage and abortion over the summer, but has, in his own Newt way, signed on by way of a lengthy letter supporting the various stipulations of the marriage pledge. He writes in part:

I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.

As a general matter, the proliferation of signed campaign pledges (including the godfather of them all, Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge) is generally pernicious. The only pledge an office-holder should be bound by is his or her vow to support and defend the Constitution. Other iron clad pledges only serve to circumscribe the options available when a pol leaves the campaign trail and has to actually govern.

[See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates]

But even in the spectrum of signed pledges, this one is dumb. Put aside for a moment the fact that a politician's personal life is frankly irrelevant and unrelated to actual policies.

Suppose for a moment that you believe the state of a politician's marriage is actually relevant to his or her fitness for office. Does anyone honestly believe that Gingrich (or any other politician) will pull himself back from the brink of cheating because it would mean breaking his vow … to The Family Leader?

  • See a slide show of Newt Gingrich's career
  • Read the U.S. News debate on whether Gingrich can beat Obama.
  • See a slide show of GOP spouses on the 2012 campaign trail