Friday, December 16, 2011


"I think when your ideology has become rigid, you have checked your brains at the door."

Newt Gingrich is a very polarizing, controversial figure. His past is clouded with ethical questions, his politics have been all over the map, enraging both sides of the political fence, and his experience has been limited to a few terms in congress and some lobbying work.

Yet once he became a front-runner for the Republican Party, then things got especially contentious. Its been strange for me, sitting outside the party and watching. I'm anti-Obama, so I'll vote for just about anything we're given just to stop the guy, but I don't have a dog in the race. If I was compelled to choose a single candidate right now it probably would be Perry, but I'm not a fan of the guy.

The Republican and right-leaning punditry has divided on Newt Gingrich in no uncertain terms. I've never in my life seen a candidate that has caused this kind of stark division before. It seems like half the pundits are totally against Gingrich in every conceivable way (such as Glenn Beck claiming he'll vote for Ron Paul if Gingrich gets the GOP nomination), and half praising Newt as a colossus astride the earth, a noble intellectual giant.

On the pro side, blogs like Right Wing News have helpfully gathered lots of different writers promoting Gingrich (since John Hawkins has prematurely come out backing him). Here are a few samples:

Newt's Past and Future Leadership by Tony Blankley, claining Newt is the only candidate who can really lead.
Gingrich Blasts it Out of the Park by Roger Simon at PJ News, Simon is a huge backer of Gingrich.
Explaining Newt by Simon also, who invents a lot of strawmen and attacks them.
Newtzilla to the Rescue by Jonah Goldberg, who asserts that conventional weapons are useless against Gingrich.
Newt vs the Ruling Class by Brent Bozell, who points out Newt enrages all the right people (which is true, I have to admit).
Adultery, Character, and Politics (parts 1 and 2) by Dennis Praeger about why integrity and ethics don't really matter as much as he's argued for decades.

All of these and other columns are an attempt to help Newt out and convince voters he's the one. But they're often presented in such absurdly positive tones and breathless rhetoric you have to wonder if Newt is going to bust out the Grecian columns for his convention speech, should he win.

Then there are the negative articles, which are just as strong in the opposite direction, such as these:

National Review has a whole issue about Newt as a loser, picturing him as Marvin the Martian.
Forbes portrays Gingrich as a "taker" and Romney as a "Maker"
Ann Coulter attacks Gingrich as someone who's never accomplished anything conservative in one of many anti-Newt columns
The Washington Examiner has come out with several anti-Newt pieces, finally endorsing Romney (again, I'd say prematurely).

The attacks are often bitter and angry, playing up the negatives and ignoring or pretending positives don't exist. The tone of these pieces sounds more like someone commenting on a political enemy rather than a disliked ally.

So why is Newt so polarizing, why the strong opinions on either side? What could cause the right to be so tightly divided like this?

Well on the pro-Newt side, I suspect the rhetoric is so glowing and soaring not out of any real allegiance to Gingrich (it often includes a lot of caveats and "even though" phrases), but due to fear. Its not enough for people to grudgingly vote for the GOP candidate to stop Obama. You can't win an election with voters just dragging themselves to the polls and grimacing as they pull the lever for Newt Gingrich.

If anyone learned anything, they saw that in 2008 with John McCain. Almost nobody voted for McCain, and most conservatives who chose him as their candidate did so because they hoped Palin would grow and become a major force through being VP - something that almost never happens, incidentally. The last VP to go on to President was George Bush in 1988, and before him it was LBJ because the president was assassinated by a nutball communist. It just doesn't happen very often.

So these writers know that people have to be motivated by more than just wanting Obama out of office. Nobody will donate, canvass, try to convince others, or push for a candidate if they can barely stand him. So they're trying to sell Newt in an effort to push people over the edge to actually like the guy and want to support him.

And its not like Gingrich is completely reprehensible. He does have his good points. He's brilliant, and when you hear him talk you forget all the bad stuff and say "damn he's right." No politician alive today is as good as Gingrich at selling conservative ideas. No candidate is as good as Gingrich as making their case in public. His instincts of attacking biased debate moderators and targeting President Obama have served him very well.

And when the Contract With America guys took over congress in 1994, Gingrich led them very well for years. He's responsible for the first balanced budget congress put out in my lifetime, and as far as I know ever in American history. I remember well watching Gingrich with his hammer ramming through change after change on C-Span, changes desperately needed to bring transparency and law to congress.

The modern internet and cellphone age was ushered in by Gingrich leading congress with telecommunications acts. Real welfare reform took place with President Clinton in office. Gingrich really did accomplish a stunning amount when he was speaker of the house, and his leadership was stellar.

The problem is, the negatives are all real too. When the anti-Newt crowd brings up problems with the guy, they're all accurate. Newt Gingrich fought hard for a single-payer government health insurance plan. Newt Gingrich sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi (I originally had Hillary Clinton there - he did a speech with her about health care), and did an ad all about how health care must be changed with government in charge. Newt Gingrich did speech after speech about how we have to have cap&trade and save the world from global warming.

Its all true, Newt was a jerk to his wife, dying of cancer. He's cheated on every one of his three wives as far as we know. He's arrogant, bombastic, and erratic. He clings to one idea after another, advocating them well and them moving on. I don't trust the guy, and I doubt he has a single real core conviction about anything, let alone conservatism.

But the real reason these guys are so strong in their opposition to Gingrich isn't, I suspect, disgust with his negatives, its fear. They fear Gingrich can't beat President Obama. They fear the Democratic Party has a big list of things they'll hit Gingrich with and beat him easily. They fear that Gingrich will be an embarrassment to the Republican Party when it should be an easy win for them. Frankly I think the whole damn GOP group is embarrassing, but then so is Obama, so that's not exactly unique to Republicans.

And lets be honest: the beltway GOP elites have chosen their candidate. They picked Romney before the first debate happened. He was their guy from years ago, the next in line. And if some other candidate gets in the way of that, well he's got to be destroyed no matter how much it hurts chances of beating President Obama.

But the problem is, Romney has a lot of negatives too - not the least of which he's the candidate the Democrats want to see win the nomination, too. A Romney candidacy deletes one of President Obama's biggest negatives: the health insurance takeover act which America fears and despises. And Romney would play nice in debates, like McCain did, letting Obama run rampant over him. A Romney Candidacy wouldn't actually be all that bad if he won from a Democrat's perspective, because he's not a conservative and would be fine with most of the Democrat ideas. So they're not concerned if Romney wins the nomination, its win/win for Democrats.

Perry they know would oppose them. Bachmann and Santorum frankly terrify the left. Paul has no shot whatsoever to win. And Newt, well... they can't figure him out any better than I can, and who knows what he'd do. He's just as likely to play nice with the Democrats and help them out as he is to tear them apart and run wildly to the right (as they see it). And frankly, Newt would tear Obama to tiny bits in a debate.

That's how I see it, anyway.

*UPDATE: A thought I meant to put down and forgot - Romney makes sense to the beltway crowd. He's comfortable, familiar, and can be trusted to be admirably squishy. The GOP elite can handle going to cocktail parties with their leftist colleagues and having Romney as their nominee. Newt, on the other hand, is hated with the burning heat of a thousand suns by the beltway left. He ruined their hero Clinton, he changed the whole ball game in Washington, he took away the 40 year dominance of the House by the Democrats. Those cocktail parties would be really tough with Newt as the GOP nominee.


Philip said...

I'm not affiliated with a party either. For my part, it'll be more of a not-Obama election season than anything.

Newt Gingrich sat on a couch with Hillary Clinton

Surely you mean Nancy Pelosi?

Christopher R Taylor said...

Yeah true it was Pelosi. He made a speech with Hillary. I'll correct that.