No Newt Is Good Newt

He is the king of flip-flops, the emperor of hypocrisy, the czar of opinions a mile wide and an inch deep.  Mitt Romney?  Not by a long shot -- because when it comes to core values, conservative or otherwise, Romney tips the top of the belief-o-meter compared with Newt Gingrich.  And it is a lesson conservatives should learn now, before the actual primary voting begins.  For the Tea Party, for evangelicals, for the ordinary Joe and Jane who believe in American exceptionalism and hard work and God, for the like-minded concerned with the path of the Republic -- no Newt is good Newt.

Newt Gingrich is for Newt.  Period.  The end.  This consummate Beltway insider and lobbyist will say anything, do anything, and pander to any and all in his lifelong pursuit of...Newt.  He is a more facile and intelligent, an older and whiter and chunkier version of Barack Obama, whose single defining trait is overweening narcissism.  And just as Barack begins each day with an admiring look in the mirror, Gingrich is second to none in his appreciation of the glory that is Newt.

Welcome to Newt World.  This is the same world inhabited by the elites of both parties, a world where values are well-articulated but are, in the end, just talk.  Does that mean he won't seek to apply traditional American values to a government gone wild?  No, he may...or may not.  It depends upon who cheers the loudest, not worldview and values.

But he's conservative, you say -- he articulates so well our vision. Y es, he does -- and then just as easily voices the opposite, using a strategy of redefining words that Mark Krikorian of National Review Online pronounces "sleazy."  Newt is to policy what Bill Clinton is to sex: I do but I really don't because "do" really means "don't" -- except when I say it means "do."  This is why he can take the Tea Party line of opposing government energy subsidies while supporting green energy subsidies and ethanol, why he can attack Obamacare while promoting a government takeover of the health industry, and why he can appear "practically spooning" Nancy Pelosi in commercials about the need for government action on global warming while doing the same and opposite with the Tea Party.  In public and private, Newt is entirely Newt.  Policy Newt is, Business Insider summarizes, the same as Married Newt, who "was leading the impeachment of [Bill] Clinton while diddling his Congressional aide."

The best explanation for Newt policy and values comes in the 1951 Disney classic Alice in Wonderland: Alice could have been talking about Newt World when she said of her ideal world, "[E]verything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"  Yes, says American Thinker blogger Selwyn Duke, I see...I see a man whose flip-flops make me wonder "what kind of core the man has."  Well put.  The answer, of course, is that Newt's core is straight from the low end of the window and door aisle at Lowes: hollow molded composite.  Nothing real about it.  But in Washington, it works.

Newt Gingrich is not the Great Man-Linked-to-Past-Great Men the conservative elites have been so fond of painting.  One writer for the American Spectator, for example, compares him to Winston Churchill.  Conservative insiders generally view Gingrich with the same love and affection with which he views himself, possessing an "intellectuality" that quite takes the Beltway Breath away.  The Beltway Breath, of course, is similar to the Beltway Brain in that it is extraordinarily light and consists mostly of equal parts hot air and alcohol.  This is not to be confused with the Beltway Character, which acts much like the market as it establishes the trading price of values and integrity.  And Newt has Beltway Character in spades, which allows him to lambaste the role of lobbyists and government in creating the financial crisis, all the while being paid by those same government institutions.

In Newt World -- which is but a Beltway Breath away from Clinton Kingdom, Kerry Country, and John Edwards Cellblock -- contradictions are simply evidence of depth and ideas.  So when true conservatives shake their heads in dismay and say about him that "[i]deas come to you easily when you have no principles to get in the way of your roaming untrained intellect," they are missing the point.  His rise to the top of the Republican heap impresses the conservative and progressive elites for whom hypocrisy is mother's milk and character is what you have when you don't have taxpayer dollars lining your pockets and live in flyover country.

On the other hand: Newt, as flawed as he is, is preferable to Barack Obama or any other candidate offered by the Democrat Party.  Yes, Newt is Washington and power lunches and lobbying money and taxpayer dollars, a talking-not-doing denizen of a class that considers talking to be doing.  And he is deeply flawed.  But -- aren't we all?  So, when all is said and done, he is sorta, kinda conservative.  And that, in the age of Obama, is a blessing...and, perhaps, a new beginning.

Stuart Schwartz, formerly a media and retail executive, is on the faculty of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.