Newt: The Civil Warrior

Over the last couple of days, several well-regarded Republican pundits have taken it upon themselves to educate Republican primary voters about the many shortcomings of Newt Gingrich.  As I read them, I was reminded of Abraham Lincoln's reaction to the series of military and political experts who warned him that Ulysses S. Grant was an overly ambitious, incompetent drunk.  When these experts demanded Grant's removal after the then-unprecedented casualties at Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, Lincoln acknowledge Grant's shortcomings but responded, "I can't spare this man; he fights."

Many of Grant's critics were enamored of George B. McClellan, a parade ground general who consistently overstated the strength of his Confederate opposition and who had long fancied himself the presidential frontrunner for 1864.  The bottom line was that while McClellan considered himself the next Napoleon, it was apparent to Lincoln that it was Grant who actually had the rare 2 o'clock in the morning courage Napoleon himself so highly valued.  In 1863, during Grant's siege of Vicksburg and amid his own growing unhappiness with the series of generals rotated through the leadership of the Army of the Potomac following McClellan's dismissal, Lincoln's reply to the incessant complaints of Grant's critics was even more pointed.

"Well," returned Lincoln, with the faintest suspicion of a twinkle in his eye, "you needn't waste your time getting proof; you just find out, to oblige me, what brand of whiskey Grant drinks, because I want to send a barrel of it to each one of my generals."

May I humbly suggest that Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn, Jennifer Rubin, et al. take to heart a quaint old country expression about teaching your grandma to suck eggs before they again deign to inform Republican primary voters about Newt's many shortcomings?  The former speaker of the House has not attained that rarefied status of needing only a first name because voters are unaware of both his character and his convictions.  As with Lincoln's dismissal of the critics' scorn over Grant's purported taste for whiskey, Newt's supporters are already aware of his overweening ego, his willingness to offer sound bites off the top of his head, and his tendency to embrace ideas for the sheer novelty factor rather than soundness.  What is important to these voters in 2012 is Newt's insistence throughout the 1980s and early 1990s that control of Congress was within reach, and his optimism after the 2008 election debacle that the political pendulum would quickly turn against the Obama and the Democrats.

As Lincoln with Grant, and as with Britain's Labour Party's insistence that the bellicose imperialist Churchill become prime minister in May 1940, these supporters know that Newt is a fighter of rare courage, and they value his consistent focus on American exceptionalism.  Above all, these primary voters salute Newt's adherence to Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment.  During the now-seemingly endless string of Republican debates, Newt has consistently eschewed opportunities to take cheap shots at his Republican primary opponents in favor of keeping the focus on the real enemy of our values.

Barack Obama and an ever more left-leaning national Democratic Party have brought long-simmering political and cultural differences to a point where it can be aptly said that America is in the middle of a cold civil war.  For the conservative punditry to be bashing Newt at this point in the election cycle is akin to chiding the Labour Party in May 1940 to "Remember Tonypandy" and settle for a coalition led by the wishy-washy Lord Halifax because that imperialist reactionary apostate Churchill was such a loose cannon.

There are eras that call for competent managers and eras that call for warriors.  Newt seems to understand the true significance of the coming election, and if he sometimes comes across as both a grandiose self-promoter and as someone who can have the attention span of a grasshopper, his consistent affirmation of American virtues and his very obvious relish at the prospects of facing Obama one-on-one make him highly attractive to Republican primary voters.

Instead of bashing Newt, I suggest that the Republican pundits turn their efforts towards advising Mitt Romney to fully embrace the limited-government, free-market candidate he very much tried to be in 2008.  For some time now, the overly programmed, middle-of-the roadm "it's my turn now" Romney 2012 has been his own worst enemy.

Over the last couple of days, several well-regarded Republican pundits have taken it upon themselves to educate Republican primary voters about the many shortcomings of Newt Gingrich.  As I read them, I was reminded of Abraham Lincoln's reaction to the series of military and political experts who warned him that Ulysses S. Grant was an overly ambitious, incompetent drunk.  When these experts demanded Grant's removal after the then-unprecedented casualties at Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, Lincoln acknowledge Grant's shortcomings but responded, "I can't spare this man; he fights."

Many of Grant's critics were enamored of George B. McClellan, a parade ground general who consistently overstated the strength of his Confederate opposition and who had long fancied himself the presidential frontrunner for 1864.  The bottom line was that while McClellan considered himself the next Napoleon, it was apparent to Lincoln that it was Grant who actually had the rare 2 o'clock in the morning courage Napoleon himself so highly valued.  In 1863, during Grant's siege of Vicksburg and amid his own growing unhappiness with the series of generals rotated through the leadership of the Army of the Potomac following McClellan's dismissal, Lincoln's reply to the incessant complaints of Grant's critics was even more pointed.

"Well," returned Lincoln, with the faintest suspicion of a twinkle in his eye, "you needn't waste your time getting proof; you just find out, to oblige me, what brand of whiskey Grant drinks, because I want to send a barrel of it to each one of my generals."

May I humbly suggest that Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn, Jennifer Rubin, et al. take to heart a quaint old country expression about teaching your grandma to suck eggs before they again deign to inform Republican primary voters about Newt's many shortcomings?  The former speaker of the House has not attained that rarefied status of needing only a first name because voters are unaware of both his character and his convictions.  As with Lincoln's dismissal of the critics' scorn over Grant's purported taste for whiskey, Newt's supporters are already aware of his overweening ego, his willingness to offer sound bites off the top of his head, and his tendency to embrace ideas for the sheer novelty factor rather than soundness.  What is important to these voters in 2012 is Newt's insistence throughout the 1980s and early 1990s that control of Congress was within reach, and his optimism after the 2008 election debacle that the political pendulum would quickly turn against the Obama and the Democrats.

As Lincoln with Grant, and as with Britain's Labour Party's insistence that the bellicose imperialist Churchill become prime minister in May 1940, these supporters know that Newt is a fighter of rare courage, and they value his consistent focus on American exceptionalism.  Above all, these primary voters salute Newt's adherence to Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment.  During the now-seemingly endless string of Republican debates, Newt has consistently eschewed opportunities to take cheap shots at his Republican primary opponents in favor of keeping the focus on the real enemy of our values.

Barack Obama and an ever more left-leaning national Democratic Party have brought long-simmering political and cultural differences to a point where it can be aptly said that America is in the middle of a cold civil war.  For the conservative punditry to be bashing Newt at this point in the election cycle is akin to chiding the Labour Party in May 1940 to "Remember Tonypandy" and settle for a coalition led by the wishy-washy Lord Halifax because that imperialist reactionary apostate Churchill was such a loose cannon.

There are eras that call for competent managers and eras that call for warriors.  Newt seems to understand the true significance of the coming election, and if he sometimes comes across as both a grandiose self-promoter and as someone who can have the attention span of a grasshopper, his consistent affirmation of American virtues and his very obvious relish at the prospects of facing Obama one-on-one make him highly attractive to Republican primary voters.

Instead of bashing Newt, I suggest that the Republican pundits turn their efforts towards advising Mitt Romney to fully embrace the limited-government, free-market candidate he very much tried to be in 2008.  For some time now, the overly programmed, middle-of-the roadm "it's my turn now" Romney 2012 has been his own worst enemy.

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