Newt Is No Gecko
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is an interesting candidate because he has been around so long and is only now topping a recent Gallup poll for the Republican nomination. And yet as a candidate, he comes pre-packaged with his own dirt. No need for investigative reporting here. Usually a candidate has to top a poll or two before some dirt comes out about him.
And some of the dirt is pretty ugly. When his first wife was recovering from surgery, he showed up to discuss terms of their divorce (an episode attempted to be revised by Newt's daughter Jackie). And during the late '90s Clinton-Lewinski scandals, Speaker Gingrich admitted to his own extramarital affair while married to his second wife. This affair and others may be included in the "moments of regret" he has confessed to in his personal life. Then, when he left the House in 1999, he faced a $300,000 fine from the House Ethics Committee for various ethics charges. There are other skeletons, but you get the picture. Nothing too huge, but generally pretty obnoxious.
But as the nomination process enters the critical next few months, the most talked-about skeletons will probably be the most recent ones, including the almost $2 million in consulting fees he got from Freddie Mac, which he says was for consulting, not lobbying, and the climate change commercial with Nancy Pelosi, which Newt now admits to be "one of the dumbest single things I have done in years." And my personal most loathsome recent Gingrich mistake was his criticism last May of Paul Ryan's proposal to rein in government spending. Incidentally, Ryan's plan is now incorporated into Newt's own 21st Century Contract With America, so maybe Newt was just kidding.
But there is a lot to say for the Gingrich candidacy. He has been around in Washington longer than any of the other Republican candidates, 1979 to 1999. He was part of the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, and as Speaker he worked with President Clinton to reform welfare, pass a balanced budget, and cut capital gains taxes. He has taught history classes, published both fictional and policy-oriented books, and served as president of GOPAC. Kind of like Dick Cheney without the Darth Vader music.
Whatever reptilian qualities he has, Newt is no gecko. Since the beginning of his career he has held steady positions on taxes, government spending, foreign policy, abortion, gun control, and social issues. You have to give him credit for not changing his colors.
Of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, it is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney who has been the chameleon. Romney has an ambivalence to tax-cutting and is late to the idea of entitlement reform. Romney has also had previous opposite positions on abortion, gun control, global warming, even ethanol subsidies. He recently wimped out on taking a position in the recent Ohio union benefits fight. And as governor of Massachusetts, Romney passed Romneycare, which has similar provisions to Obamacare, which Republicans can't wait to repeal.
Romney has been a good debater, but Newt has been the candidate who lectures or scoffs at the moderator's simplistic or gotcha questions. Recently he scoffed at a question from Maria Bartiromo when she asked him to spell out his philosophy on health care in 30 seconds. In a recent debate, Newt lectured moderator Scott Pelley on why an enemy combatant does not get the protections of the U.S. legal system when the citizen is at war with the U.S. As one of many conservative viewers who is tired of debate moderators and their snarky questions, I was gratified by his response. And it happened so quickly that I am not sure Pelley even knew he had been corrected.
And what Republican doesn't love Newt's recent comments about the Occupy movement: they "should go get a job right after they take a bath"? And arguing with reporters on lack of real economic perspective on the economy? Love it! It all took a bit of obnoxiousness, but obnoxiousness might be what the country needs right now.
See, we conservatives know the routine, whether it is a long-term discussion about budget priorities, a committee hearing on Medicaid or veteran's benefits, a debate about prescription drugs, farm subsidies, whatever. Here is how it works: first, a conservative makes a sensible proposal; second, one or more hard-luck cases are presented (cue the violins), pleading for more money to save someone's life or end their misery, or whatever; third, the conservative folds; and fourth, the budget remains hopelessly out of balance and getting worse, inevitably leading for calls of higher taxes. In the end, only a jerk would follow the ridiculous original conservative proposal. What was he/she thinking?
But we conservatives are getting really tired of this. We might be ready for that jerk who will make the proposals we need, get slammed by the media, ridiculed, but not fold and continue fighting. Newt may be that candidate.
In a recent debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer peppered candidate Ron Paul with questions of a hypothetical uninsured person who contracts a terminal disease, and eventually Blitzer interjected, "Should society just let him die?" Someone in the audience yelled out "yes!" and the crowd cheered. Translation: we are tired of having to pay these huge government bills to make sure that the 0.0001% of hard-luck stories never happen. Whoever proposes any kind of spending restraint, like Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan or Newt Gingrich, needs to stick to his guns and not slither from this kind of questioning and hard-luck stories.
Painted as obnoxious? For Newt Gingrich, been there, done that. Newt is no gecko, and we need a non-gecko for our next president.