When influential Iowa social conservative Bob Vander Plaats rolled out the Family Leader's "Marriage Vow" pledge, it was enough for most of the 2012 GOP field to just sign it (in the case of Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry) or not (Mitt Romney's campaign said the pledge "contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign," while Jon Huntsman isn't signing anybody's pledges).
But in the case of Newt Gingrich, these options weren't enough, and so today the Family Leader is sending out a press release that contains some sort of "signing statement" from Gingrich. The result? Newt has apparently met the organization a little more than halfway, and that is seemingly good enough for Vander Plaats.
I appreciate the opportunity to affirm my strong support of the mission of the FAMiLY LEADER by solemnly vowing to defend and strengthen the family through the following actions I would take as President of the United States.
Defending Marriage. As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military. I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts. I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification. I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman. I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy. I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.
Defending the Unborn. I believe that life begins at conception. On day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order reinstating Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions overseas. I will also work with Congress to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood so that no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions but rather transfer the money so it is used to promote adoption and other pro-family policies, and enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn.
Defending Religious Liberty. As President, I will vigorously defend the First Amendment’s rights of religious liberty and freedom of speech against anyone who would try to stifle the free expression of believers. I will also promote legislation that protects the right to conscience for healthcare workers so they are not compelled to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their religious teachings.
Defending Against Debt. As President, I will undertake vigorous policies to maximize capital investment and job creation, along with common sense entitlement reforms, to dramatically turn around the nation’s fiscal situation. Building upon the same principles I championed during my four years as Speaker, when we reduced the national debt by over $400 billion and dramatically reduced the national debt as a percentage of the GDP, we will reduce the enormous burden upon American families of the public debt and unfunded liabilities.
Defending the Right of the People to Rule Themselves. Today, as federal courts have intervened in sectors of American life never before imaginable, including the intervention in the definition of marriage as well as when unborn life can be protected under the Constitution, the public has increasingly come to view them as an usurpative device for unelected rulers. This abuse of power and loss of public confidence amounts to a constitutional crisis. I believe the executive and legislative branches each have an independent responsibility to interpret the Constitution, and in those rare circumstances when they believe the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have engaged in a serious constitutional error, they can choose among an array of constitutional powers to check and balance the courts. As President, I will nominate for federal judgeships, including justices of the Supreme Court, only those individuals who are committed to an originalist understanding of the Constitution. Judges with an originalist understanding will subordinate themselves to the meaning of the Constitution as it was intended by the framers, and not substitute their own judgments about its meaning. The inherent judicial self-restraint that comes from an originalist approach to the Constitution offers the best long-term assurance that federal judges will not exceed their powers and trample on individual liberties. I will also work with Congress to use the Constitutional means available to reassert the right of the elected branches of government to defend their understanding of the meaning of the Constitution, including limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts to decide on certain issues, when they believe the federal courts have engaged in a serious constitutional error.
Looking back over the original pledge, it seems that Gingrich has been somewhat conscientious in using its language in his response. "I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others" comes straight from the original. As many are pointing out, making a promise to Bob Vander Plaats to stay faithful to one's spouse is, in theory, redundant to the actual marriage vows that Gingrich has already ostensibly made. But Gingrich has, in the past, seen those vows as having a certain flexibility, so maybe it's helpful for him to subordinate himself to a higher power -- in this case, some guy in Iowa who lost the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary to Terry Branstad.
Gingrich more or less checks off the main requirements of the pledge. It asks candidates to appoint "faithful constitutionalists" to the Supreme Court, oppose any "redefinition" of marriage, defend the Defense Of Marriage Act, support a Constitutional amendment that defines "marriage" as being between "one man and one woman," and support anti-abortion policies in general -- and Gingrich pledges to do all of these things. He also accounts for the "Marriage Vow's" requirement that the candidate defend "First Amendment's rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech" -- which is redundant, as the Oath of Office makes the same requirement -- and promote family-friendly fiscal policies.
Gingrich doesn't account for everything that the pledge asks of a candidate in his letter. There's nothing about fighting sex-trafficking or pornography. Gingrich doesn't mention that he'll reject "Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control," though it seems evident that Gingrich has already cleared this bar to the satisfaction of The Family Leader. Here's the part of the pledge that seems the most pointedly omitted:
Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, andextended “second chance” or “cooling-off” periods for those seeking a “quickie divorce.”
Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more, right? At any rate, Gingrich's response is being touted at the Family Leader's website, and according to the organization's press release, Vander Plaats considers the pledge to have been "affirmed":
“We are pleased that Speaker Gingrich has affirmed our pledge and are thankful we have on record his statements regarding DOMA, support of a federal marriage amendment, defending the unborn, pledging fidelity to his spouse, defending religious liberty and freedom, supporting sound pro-family economic issues, and defending the right of the people to rule themselves.”
The upshot? If elected, Gingrich promises to, you know, "cool it" with the adultery.
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