Pat Buchanan: Reagan White House saw Newt as ‘something of a political opportunist’
Joe Scarborough On Gingrich: ‘This Guy Is Not Fit To Be President Of The United States’
Winnowing the Field
ROOK: DECEMBER 14, 2011 6:00 P.M.
We must all love Mitt Romney.
Blah. Can’t stand Obama (mute the TV every time he appears), but if the alternative is Mitt, it’s not worth the effort even voting next year. Granted, Newt isn’t much to get excited about either, but the more the establishment attacks him, the better he seems (though intellectually I know his flaws are massive).
How did we get stuck with Mitt with all the talent we have in the GOP? I’m fully expecting Obama to get himself reelected at this point, albeit narrowly, say 51-49. There will be no passion with Mitt, none, outside Mormons and Karl Rove, our behind-the-scenes ruler.
Enter Gingrich, the current vessel for anti-Romney forces — and likely the final one. Gingrich’s obvious weakness is a history of flip-flops, zigzags and mind changes even more extensive than Romney’s — on climate change, the health-care mandate, cap-and-trade, Libya, the Ryan Medicare plan, etc.
…Gingrich has his own vulnerabilities. The first is often overlooked because it is characterological rather than ideological: his own unreliability. Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (1995-1999) personifies the culture of personality that pervades politics: “look at me.” Ego gratification instead of service and selfless interest is the politician’s common cause.
The purpose of government is to promote economic activity by establishing and maintaining infrastructure; suppress pirates and thieves; establish equal weights and measures; provide security; establish courts to resolve disputes without bloodshed — justice.
According to the Periclean ideal, democracy serves the interests of the many in contrast to the phew.
Gingrich’s money-making and spending habits have become a central issue in the presidential race since he has risen to the top of the Republican field ahead of Mitt Romney. Gingrich amassed a $150 million financial empire after leaving Congress and is still trying to dig out from under a mountain of debt from private charter planes and other pricey expenses in the early weeks of his campaign.
Some Democratic strategists worry about Gingrich’s potential appeal
Democratic strategist Jim Jordan says he and others in the party “passionately” want to face Gingrich. And from the right, conservative pundit Ann Coulter is warning fellow Republicans that the former House speaker’s past extramarital affairs and other baggage make him a far less formidable nominee than Mitt Romney.
Toxic, Newt Gingrich irritates partisans on both the Right and Left. Yet, the passion he evokes could knock out Romney, giving the election to President Obama. Romney may appeal to the donor Republican establishment but Gingrich will be perceived as a populist among Iowa and South Carolina primary voters, and especially conservative Floridians.
Romney and Gingrich, from bad to worse
By George F. Will, Published: December 2
Republicans are more conservative than at any time since their 1980 dismay about another floundering president. They are more ideologically homogenous than ever in 156 years of competing for the presidency. They anticipated choosing between Mitt Romney, a conservative of convenience, and a conviction politician to his right. The choice, however, could be between Romney and the least conservative candidate, Newt Gingrich.
Romney’s main objection to contemporary Washington seems to be that he is not administering it. God has 10 commandments, Woodrow Wilson had 14 points, Heinz had 57 varieties, but Romney’s economic platform has 59 planks — 56 more than necessary if you have low taxes, free trade and fewer regulatory burdens. Still, his conservatism-as-managerialism would be a marked improvement upon today’s bewildered liberalism.
Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.
Granted, his grandiose rhetoric celebrating his “transformative” self is entertaining: Recently he compared his revival of his campaign to Sam Walton’s and Ray Kroc’s creations of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, two of America’s largest private-sector employers. There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages. His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic allowed him, fresh from pocketing $1.6 million from Freddie Mac (for services as a “historian”), to say, “If you want to put people in jail,” look at “the politicians who profited from” Washington’s environment.
His temperament — intellectual hubris distilled — makes him blown about by gusts of enthusiasm for intellectual fads, from 1990s futurism to “Lean Six Sigma” today. On Election Eve 1994, he said a disturbed South Carolina mother drowning her children “vividly reminds” Americans “how sick the society is getting, and how much we need to change things.. . The only way you get change is to vote Republican.” Compare this grotesque opportunism — tarted up as sociology — with his devious recasting of it in a letter to the Nov. 18, 1994, Wall Street Journal (http://bit.ly/vFbjAk). And remember his recent swoon over the theory that Kenyan, anti-colonial” thinking explains Barack Obama.
Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist, believes everything is related to everything else and only he understands how. Conservatism, in contrast, is both cause and effect of modesty about understanding society’s complexities, controlling its trajectory and improving upon its spontaneous order. Conservatism inoculates against the hubristic volatility that Gingrich exemplifies and Genesis deplores: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.”
Obama is running as Harry Truman did in 1948, against Congress, but Republicans need not supply the real key to Truman’s success — Tom Dewey. Confident that Truman was unelectable, Republicans nominated New York’s chilly governor, whose virtues of experience and steadiness were vitiated by one fact: Voters disliked him. Before settling for Romney, conservatives should reconsider two candidates who stumbled early on.
Rick Perry (disclosure: my wife, Mari Will, advises him) has been disappointing in debates. They test nothing pertinent to presidential duties but have become absurdly important. Perry’s political assets remain his Texas record and Southwestern zest for disliking Washington and Wall Street simultaneously and equally.
Jon Huntsman inexplicably chose to debut as the Republican for people who rather dislike Republicans, but his program is the most conservative. He endorses Paul Ryan’s budget and entitlement reforms. (Gingrich denounced Ryan’s Medicare reform as “right-wing social engineering.”) Huntsman would privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Gingrich’s benefactor). Huntsman would end double taxation on investment by eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends. (Romney would eliminate them only for people earning less than $200,000, who currently pay just 9.3 percent of them.) Huntsman’s thorough opposition to corporate welfare includes farm subsidies. (Romney has justified them as national security measures — food security, somehow threatened. Gingrich says opponents of ethanol subsidies are “big-city” people hostile to farmers.) Huntsman considers No Child Left Behind, the semi-nationalization of primary and secondary education, “an unmitigated disaster.” (Romney and Gingrich support it. Gingrich has endorsed a national curriculum.) Between Ron Paul’s isolationism and the faintly variant bellicosities of the other six candidates stands Huntsman’s conservative foreign policy, skeptically nuanced about America’s need or ability to control many distant developments.
Romney might not be a Dewey. Gingrich might stop being (as Churchill said of John Foster Dulles) a bull who carries his own china shop around with him. But both are too risky to anoint today.
My Man Newt
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: November 29, 2011
In many ways, Newt is the perfect man.
He knows how to buy good jewelry. He puts his wife ahead of his campaign. He’s so in touch with his feelings that he would rather close the entire federal government than keep his emotions bottled up. He’s confident enough to include a steamy sex scene in a novel. He understands that Paul Revere was warning about the British.
Mitt Romney is a phony with gobs of hair gel. Newt Gingrich is a phony with gobs of historical grandiosity.
The 68-year-old has compared himself to Charles de Gaulle. He has noted nonchalantly: “People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz.” As speaker, he liked to tell reporters he was a World Historical Transformational Figure.
What does it say about the cuckoo G.O.P. primary that Gingrich is the hot new thing? Still, his moment is now. And therein lies the rub.
As one commentator astutely noted, Gingrich is a historian and a futurist who can’t seem to handle the present. He has more exploding cigars in his pocket than the president with whom he had the volatile bromance: Bill Clinton.
But next to Romney, Gingrich seems authentic. Next to Herman Cain, Gingrich seems faithful. Next to Jon Huntsman, Gingrich seems conservative. Next to Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, Gingrich actually does look like an intellectual. Unlike the governor of Texas, he surely knows the voting age. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, if brains were elastic, Perry wouldn’t have enough to make suspenders for a parakeet.
In presidential campaigns, it’s all relative.
Franker than ever as he announced plans to retire from Congress, Barney Frank told Abby Goodnough in The Times that Gingrich was “the single biggest factor” in destroying a Washington culture where the two parties respected each other’s differing views yet still worked together.
Newt is the progenitor of the modern politics of personal destruction.
“He got to Congress in ’78 and said, ‘We the Republicans are not going to be able to take over unless we demonize the Democrats,’ ” Frank said.
In the fiction he writes with William R. Forstchen, Gingrich specializes in alternative histories. What if America hadn’t gone to war with Germany in World War II? What if Gen. Robert E. Lee had won Gettysburg?
The Republican also weaves an alternative history of his own life, where he is saving civilization rather than ripping up the fabric of Congress, where he improves the moral climate of America rather than pollutes it.
Romney is a mundane opportunist who reverses himself on core issues. Gingrich is a megalomaniacal opportunist who brazenly indulges in the same sins that he rails about to tear down political rivals.
Republicans have a far greater talent for hypocrisy than easily cowed Democrats do — and no doubt appreciate that in a leader.
Gingrich led the putsch against Democratic Speaker Jim Wright in 1988, bludgeoning him for an ethically sketchy book deal. The following year, as he moved into the House Republican leadership, he himself got in trouble for an ethically sketchy book deal.
Gingrich was part of the House Republican mob trying to impeach Bill Clinton for hiding his affair with a young government staffer, even as Newt himself was hiding his affair with a young government staffer.
Gingrich has excoriated Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for dragging the country into a financial spiral and now demands that Freddie Mac be broken up. But it turns out that he was on contract with Freddie for six years and paid $1.6 million to $1.8 million (yacht trips and Tiffany’s bling for everyone!) to help the company strategize about how to soften up critical conservatives and stay alive.
At a Republican debate in New Hampshire last month before this lucrative deal became public, Gingrich suggested that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd should be put in jail. “All I’m saying is, everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who were at the heart of the sickness that is weakening this country,” he said.
Another transcendent moment in Gingrich hypocrisy. He risibly rationalized his deal, saying he was giving the mortgage company advice as a prestigious historian rather than a hired gun.
Gingrich boasts that he’s full of fresh ideas, but it always seems to essentially be the same old one: Let’s turn the clock back to the ’50s. Just as Newt, who dodged service in Vietnam, once cast the Clintons as hippie “McGovernicks,” now he limns the Occupy Wall Street protesters as hippies who need to take a bath and get a job.
Maybe the ideal man to fix Washington’s dysfunction is the one who made it dysfunctional. He broke it so he should own it. And Newt has the best reason to long for the presidency: He’d never be banished to the back of Air Force One again.
Insiders Not Sold on Gingrich
Ihe Gingrich Moment has yet to catch on with National Journal‘s Political Insiders. Despite former House Speaker Newt Gingrich‘s surge in the Republican presidential nomination contest, overwhelming majorities of both Democratic and Republican Insiders still say former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has the better shot at beating President Obama in 2012.