In any case, Newt Gingrich was a driven lad by the time he arrived at Baxter High School, and politics was his passion --as a junior, he passed out campaign literature for Nixon's 1960 campaign. His singular determination was perhaps best seen in his first successful romance, a schoolboy crush he developed on his high-school math teacher. Lots of boys get romantic notions about pretty young teachers, but Newt Gingrich didn't let go of his. After graduation, when she moved to Atlanta, he went to Atlanta too, enrolling at Emory University. Gingrich pursued his former math teacher, seven years his senior, until Jackie agreed to become his wife. They were married at the end of his freshman year, and soon they had their first child, Kathy. Gingrich then entered that hazy passage through ambiguity experienced by the majority of young American men during the 1960s. Like most of his generation, Gingrich was moderately anti-Establishment (he tried pot, and participated in a campus protest at Tulane University) and chose not to go to Vietnam, opting for deferments available to him as a father and a student. But unlike most young men his age, Gingrich would be haunted by his decision. Later, when, as a hawkish congressman, he would lash out against the "weak-on-defense left" and espouse universal military training, his opponents would investigate Gingrich's own military background.
Sure enough, he found himself listed among a sizable group of noted conservative hawks (including George Will and Richard Perle) who had managed to avoid the war-the "war wimps," as they came to be called. In 1985, he told Jane Mayer of The Wall Street Journal that he still believed that "Vietnam was the right battlefield at the right time." Why didn't he go? "Given everything I believe in, a large part of me thinks I should have gone over," he allowed. But, recovering, he added, "Part of the question I had to ask myself was what difference I would have made."