Newt Gingrich Is Shameless
When the Democrats surfaced George W. Bush's 1976 DUI the week before the 2000 presidential election, it nearly tipped the election. A week before the revelation, Bush was comfortably ahead in the polls.
It was obvious, reading about Bush as he struggled through the last weekend of the campaign and failed to come up with a riposte, that Bush was ashamed. Who wouldn't be? It nearly cost him the election.
Not Newt Gingrich. When an embarrassing interview about his infidelities showed up on the mainstream media two days before the South Carolina presidential primary, Newt made the mainstream media the issue. And the audience at the Thursday televised debate loved him for it. Adultery? Schmadultery. What's despicable is the mainstream media, said Newt. And by the way, when are they going to stop covering for Barack Obama?
Newt Gingrich is shameless.
Is shamelessness the #1 skill you need to be a successful elected politician? Certainly Bill Clinton had it. Al Gore had it -- remember the Big Kiss at the 2000 Democratic National Convention? The convention delegates went wild. President Obama certainly has it. He can refer to Bill Ayers as just a friend in the neighborhood -- the guy who sat on foundation boards with him and maybe ghost-wrote his memoir. And he can brazenly rewrite American history in Osawatomie, Kansas without a blink of an eye.
Mitt Romney, obviously, is not shameless. He's embarrassed about his Bain Capital years, his taxes, and his wealth, and it shows.
You would think that voters would prefer leaders who showed an ounce of decency, and who actually seemed ashamed of their peccadilloes, but we obviously don't. Presumably that's because political leaders are, in fact, still tribal chieftains. A leader's job is to lead the tribe and defeat its enemies. We can worry about internal troubles later. A tribal chieftain with hesitancies and regrets is about as much use as an Italian cruise-ship captain. Anyway, tribal chieftains have always had lots of wives; it comes with the territory.
The hit on Newt Gingrich is that he has "baggage" and that he speaks before he thinks.
On the other hand, Gingrich has been fearlessly taking it to the Democrats since the mid-1980s, when he started making inflammatory speeches on the empty House floor. Democrats got so annoyed that they changed the camera rules to show the empty benches that Newt was speaking to, and they taught the mainstream media to call Gingrich a "bombthrower." Newt took the hint, and in 1994 bombed the Democrats out of the House leadership after 40 years in the majority. You'd think you'd been carpet-bombed too if that had happened to you.
There's a bigger issue here. What if the parties are changing their positions on shame? For decades the Democrats have been the naughty party and Republicans the uptight party; Democrats were for drugs in San Francisco, Republicans for cocktails at the country club. But things change. It used to be that the Republican Party was a Northern party and the Democrats the Southern party. Now the opposite is true. Used to be that Republicans balanced budgets and Democrats ran deficits. Not anymore, not since Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It used to be that liberals told us to let it all hang out. Now they want us to get permission for sex in writing.
Used to be that Democrats were shameless about everything and Republicans were embarrassed about everything. Suppose that is about to change? Here's Tim Stanley reporting from a party of religious conservatives in South Carolina:
"No, Newt's infidelities do not concern me," said one Southern gentleman. "On the contrary, I take heart that someone older and fatter than me can still have an affair."
This comes from a party that used to say, of Bill Clinton, that a man who cheats on his wife will cheat in the rest of his life. Next thing we know, social x-rays in Manhattan will preface their confidential luncheon put-downs with "bless her heart."
If Newt goes on to win the nomination and the presidency, liberals will only have themselves to blame. If liberals hadn't clamped down on free speech by making it a thoughtcrime to think badly of blacks, women, gays, native Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, abortionists -- anyone except greedy bankers, corporate CEOs, millionaires, and billionaires -- Republican voters wouldn't have built up this pent-up anger, this overpowering urge to give a standing ovation to anyone, anytime, who lands a haymaker on the mainstream media.
I tell you. It's not your father's Republican Party anymore. Things are getting to be shameless around here.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.