One way of assessing judgment and character is the company we keep and the people we praise. Newt Gingrich already has shown us his penchant for bad judgment in this regard. He plunked down on the couch with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on global warming. He also hawked for Harriet Miers. (“Conservatives should feel confident with the selection of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court for a simple reason: George W. Bush selected her.”) He also backed Dede Scozzafava in a special congressional election and decried conservatives who opposed her. Notice his affection for establishment figures and for currying approval with the most moderate elements he can find.

But nothing comes close to his fawning over and travels with Al Sharpton. Phil Klein of the Washington Examiner recaps Sharpton’s history of race-baiting and role in the Crown Heights riots. Klein then provides a timely reminder:

In 2009, Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton went on a nationwide tour together, from the White House to multiple cities, to promote education reforms also being pushed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In one video from the tour, Gingrich said, “I really appreciate the leadership Rev. Sharpton is showing all across America.” Just last month, Gingrich called into Sharpton’s TV show to wish him a happy birthday and shower him with praise. “I had such a great time going around America with you” to push education reform, Gingrich told Sharpton. “I will never forget it for the rest of my life. You were tremendous on those trips. . . . I watched you speak up with courage and with toughness on behalf of children in a way that all my life I will remember and I will honor you for the way you were willing to take on interests on behalf of children.”

Klein and I don’t see eye to eye all the time, but I could not agree more with his conclusion that “Gingrich’s embrace of Sharpton is especially worthy of condemnation, because it perpetuates the idea that the vile anti-Semite who has a history of inciting violence, is a mainstream figure. . . . But it also is indicative of a serious lack of judgment. If Gingrich doesn’t know about Sharpton’s past — which is inconceivable — that’s bad enough. But if he intentionally ignored Sharpton’s history, it’s an absolute disgrace.”

It is bizarre that conservatives would find this to be no big deal, just as it is weird that they excuse Gingrich’s many other ethical, marital and political breaches. Perhaps they will think about whom a President Gingrich would select to advise him and invite to the White House. If they don’t fancy a list of eccentric and not very conservative figures — or someone downright vile, like Sharpton — they should look for another contender.