Congressman Newt Gingrich is one of those staunch Republican figures who has the courage to stand up for family values.

In a cynical age, we are often too willing to snicker at such men. We do so at our own peril. They are the backbone of the Republican party, which finally will have its way in running Washington, D.C.

The story that exemplifies Gingrich at his most determined is the one about the hospital visit he paid to his wife when she was being treated for uterine cancer.

Gingrich wasn't required to go to the hospital to deliver his message. A less courageous man would have sent some flowers and a note.

But a day after the operation, Gingrich came calling. They had already separated as a couple, and so Gingrich had the sensitivity to call and ask permission before entering her room.

He sat down and began hammering out the details of their divorce. His wife, despite suffering weakness from her operation and medication, ordered the congressman out of the room.

You can see that Gingrich is willing to pay any price to succeed.
As for divesting himself of his wife, Gingrich considered the step carefully before taking action. This is the kind of shrewd, patient calculation you hope to get from a legislator who is now going to hold the job of speaker of the House.

He will weigh the options. No matter how difficult the choice, he will make it based on his own self-interest. We can be sure of that.

Gingrich explained to a close friend and aide why he found it necessary to divorce his cancer-stricken wife.

"She's not young enough or pretty enough to be a president's wife," Gingrich reportedly said, "and besides, she has cancer."

Gingrich has since denied this story. But it keeps popping up in Time, Newsweek and the New York Times.

The interesting thing about Gingrich's decision to get a divorce is that he had run his campaign for Congress lambasting his opponent as someone who would not keep families together.

Gingrich ran for office in 1978 against state Senator Virginia Shapard, who had said she intended to commute between Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Gingrich took out television ads condemning her for admitting she intended to leave her children in the care of a nanny when out of town. Gingrich patted himself on the back as a man who would keep his family together.

But that was before he decided his wife looked too old, and before he learned she had developed cancer.

We shouldn't be too hard on Gingrich. Give him points because he married too young to understand the seriousness of the step he was taking.

Gingrich was only 19 years old and a college freshman when he married Jackie Battley. She was seven years older and had been his high school geometry teacher.

We know from the past that Gingrich will be a staunch supporter of the military. When Gingrich was 15, his adoptive father took him on a visit to the World War I battlefield at Verdun in France.

Young Gingrich was terribly impressed by all the bones that had been left as a result of the war's bloodiest battle. Gingrich says that moment shaped his life. He became a man who was proud to wave the American flag.

But Gingrich was not foolhardy enough to volunteer for service in Vietnam. He availed himself of deferments as both a student and a married man.

Finally, he is a man who is not afraid to grow. When Gingrich began his political career in Georgia, he ran his first two congressional races as a liberal. He lost both.

Gingrich took notice of the polls that indicated he must move his views to the right. Suddenly, he became an outspoken conservative, and won.

He's been growing more conservative ever since.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Fitzpatrick